Dramatic play with Building Blocks!

Colourful Building Blocks

What is Block Play and what are the benefits?

Playing with single unit building blocks is a valuable learning activity for all ages with so much scope for creativity. They are available in different materials, shapes, sizes and colours to best suit different age groups.

Using blocks is a fun, imaginative and engaging way that enables cognitive development to take off. It develops fine motor skills, hand - eye coordination along with planning and organisational skills.

It enables children to develop emotional and social skills (respect, turn taking, and cooperation) when working with others.

Building with blocks develops concentration, persistence and patience as children work through the process of overcoming challenges and finding solutions.

It teaches children that we all have different perspectives as they share their ideas and listen to others and it of course brings a great sense of satisfaction to share in the happiness of completed projects!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Albert Einstein

What can block play tell us about our children?

We can learn a great deal about children by observing their approach to block play. Here are some reflective points:
  • What is their consistency in application / level of concentration? 
  • Method of construction - any planning? 
  • How do they overcome challenges? 
  • Do they take take risks? 
  • Are they forming Independent work habits? 
  • How do they verbalise their process? (describing how and what they have made) 
  • Do they prefer to work alone or collaboratively with their peers? 
  • Is the child a leader, follower or a collaborator?

Rather than asking "What is it? or saying "fix it like this" some suggestions are:
  • Tell me all about your building? 
  • I wonder why your structure is falling down? 
  • I've noticed you keep using that blue block, could you try an different one? 
  • Tell me about your jungle? 
  • How will the monkey's swing from tree to tree? 
  • How did you start? What did you do next? 
  • This part is awesome, can you tell me why you built the tunnel like this? 
  • Who might live here? Where would they eat dinner? etc 
  • What is your favourite part of your construction? 
  • Is their anything you would like to or could add?

How blocks can be used for dramatic play?

Use picture books to fuel imagination. Build a scene from a story. You could display the book as an inspiration point. For example, build the forest from The Gruffalo.

Using a story such as the Three Billy Goats Gruff, build a bridge with blocks and act out the story using popsicle stick goat puppets or change the story up and choose different animals.

Stick a full sized photo of a child onto a block and cover with wide tape or clear book cover. The children can then put themselves and their friends into the construction. For example if the children have made a town, the block people can go shopping. Great for role play!

Use plastic animals, dinosaurs or toys, stuffed animals, action figures to play in the block constructions. Build a zoo, jungle or park etc to suit the toy. Model creating a story line with the toys and play alongside children to develop their understanding of plot development.

Make roads in all sorts of shapes and patterns. Drive the cars down the road! Create a story around this. Where are the people in the cars going? Are their any stops on the way?

Provide pictures of constructions such as towers, bridges, sky scrapers, castles etc and let this be the start of where the imagination goes!

Throw fabric over a block construction and create a scene. Maybe its a dark gloomy forest or tall castle nestled in the hills. Who lives there? What is the characters problem? How will they solve it? All great oral narrative story telling development.

You don't just have to use wooden blocks to build. Here are some things that you might like to add to your collection: DVD covers, CDs, tins, paper towel rolls, cracker boxes, yogurt pottles.

Wrap blocks in tin foil or paper and role play birthdays or Christmas! This is one of my little one's favorite things to do!

Use diggers and the like to move the rubble (blocks) at the construction site! Some kids are big transporters and love to move blocks and make piles!

Some other fun ideas!

Make towers outside to form a shadow and draw around the outline with chalk.

Using a large shallow tray, shaving foam, and blocks (along with supervision!!) let the kids have fun using the foam like cement to build, build build!!

Draw a shape and get the children to fill the shape with blocks (can make it into a challenge, racing against the clock or other friends) Get children to draw their own shapes and fill them.

Use blocks to develop maths' concepts: make patterns, sort and classify blocks by shape and or colour. Lie a mirror on the floor, add blocks and check out the reflections!

Take pictures of all of the magical and intricate structures and scenes that grace your lounge or classroom floors - capture the success, creativity, learning and fun!

Creative Commons image used courtesy stevendepolo on Flickr.