Thursday, January 11, 2018

Making Space For Blocks

I’ve written before about the mixed feelings some teachers have about block play – especially “big blocks.” They worry about safety, or about the play “getting out of control.” They aren’t comfortable with active play indoors, or with the themes that large block building evokes, like spaceships and superhero hideaways. They want to avoid the inevitable social conflict that comes as children discuss, collaborate, and sometimes argue about what they’re going to build. 

Block play is messy and complicated - but it needs to be. Children need the experience of lifting, moving, stacking and arranging these heavy objects into something that they've planned and designed. They need to plan, discuss, argue and negoiate their ideas with each other. They need the freedom to carry out their ideas and enact pretend themes - including superheroes and alients. And they need to feel the power, self-fulfillment, and personal efficacy of the simple grandness of block construction - the power of building something bigger than themselves.. The same innate drive that led ancient humans to build towers of rocks and stone draws children to build - higher, wider, and bigger, to create something that in its sheer scope, suggests power and a feeling of "wow, look what I made!"

And, this grandness takes space.

When we make decisions about how to use the space we have, we can make a decision to create space that will allow these block constructions to happen.

It might be a large space, big enough for several groups of children to each build their own structure.

 It might be a small space, where children are given the freedom to fill that space with their block creation.

It might not be a particular space at all, but a flexibility on the part of the teacher to allow block building to happen wherever it is that the children find a way to make room.

 And wherever it happens, when we make space for blocks, we’ve made space for children to express their competency, their power, their imagination, and all of the skills and development that comes with.

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