Sunday, 6 April 2014

Master of Block Play!

Last week, 24.5 years of working with children all came to a head, when I attended a course and became a 'Master of Block Play'. My setting even has a certificate to prove it!

The short course was good fun and confirmed my belief that basic play is what children need. Toys that beep, buzz, move & shimmer have their place (a very small place in my view!) but basic wooden bricks are an essential for every modern child.

In a world of touch screens, talking books, continuous access to children's tv channels and other things that wreck a child's imagination, things are turning a corner and people are beginning to realise that boring is good.

My boy Ted, is 6. What he plays with more than anything these days is Lego, which really is an advanced version of block play. But he also still plays with good old fashioned wooden bricks. This is his selection of blocks (some from a lovely set, some very old, some random Jenga bricks)

The advantage of bricks is they can be anything. Give a child a car, it is a car, give them a piece of plastic pizza, it is a piece of plastic pizza, give them a.... you've got the idea. Give a child a wooden brick and it can be anything they want it to be.

Block play can be inside, outside, with large bricks, enormous blocks (think milk crates, supermarket boxes), freeplay, structured play. Most of the time Ted uses his imagination to play with bricks - yesterday I gave him my weighing scales to see what he would like to weigh. Straight away his bricks came out, and he was soon busy learning about kgs - (whilst thinking he was playing).

After a suggestion from the lady running the course ( the preschool setting where I work are going to introduce a 'block Wednesday'. On Wednesdays (obviously) we will concentrate more on blocks, and less on other things. A bigger space will be made on the floor, less tables will be put out and all things blockish will happen. I hope the children will look forward to these days and begin to give us input on how to make them progress. Meanwhile, my garage is full of Easter egg trays ready for them to build with!

So, these holidays how about getting those bricks back out? Children are never too old to play with bricks. Props can be added - Ted likes to put his 'compare bears' with the bricks, sometimes Sylvanian families appear, sometimes plastic soldiers.

To finish I leave you with 2 fantastic brick structures. The first Ted & Sarah made sometime ago - in fact before the 2012 Olympics, as this was their version of the London Olympic Stadium. Not bad for a then 4 yr old and a 9yr old helper. (these blocks are actually a marble run)

Secondly a structure I discovered in my living room a few weeks ago. A house and garden for some Sylvanians. (made by a tv deprived, not often bored 6 yr old).

'When free to experiment with the simplest materials, children find ways to express and develop their thoughts in imaginative play.' (I made a Unicorn - Community Playthings)

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