Block Party: The Importance of Play

[music] [child giggling] Blocks have infinite interesting possibilities for children to just keep learning and learning. It’s fun to watch the kids. Usually they run to the great big blocks. They start there first and then gradually they start seeing the colorful smaller blocks, or the different shapes of different blocks or textures. And then they’ll move from station to station. [children and adults talking as they play] I heard about the block party at a national conference from the University of Wisconsin. I had the opportunity to go up and visit and watch her do a block party. I thought this would be a great thing for our Indiana families. So we tried to set it up and let a lot of families have an opportunity to participate. We’ll set up information in the background that gives them the ideas of things that they can do with blocks. It’s such a fundamental toy with infinite possibilities. It’s just a block. You know, we played with them when we were little. And it was just a block. I just had no idea the things that they got out of it besides just building; me thinking they’re just building a tower or something. You know how much they really can they can get out of it? For the block party we evaluated what both childcare teachers and parents learned from participating in those evenings We found that parents kind of came into the block parties not really knowing or perhaps not remembering all the neat things kids can do with blocks. Didn’t really know how it connects to academic learning in the future. So the block party’s really good at transferring information to parents about how building with blocks really develops math skills, like measuring and counting and estimating. Count how many square blocks you used and how many rectangle blocks you’ve got. We have children who will sort them before they start to build, So you’ll see them all arranged in a particular size or order. You know that in of itself, sorting by attribute that is very mathematical thinking. Science skills where children are experimenting and testing their hypothesis. And these engineering skills, kids are actually doing what engineers do. They’re conceiving of a problem or something that they want, a product they want to make. They’re sometimes making drawings or just talking out what it should look like. Then they are trying construction, they’re constructing a prototype and seeing if it works the way they want it to work and if it doesn’t they are modifying it. As they start to develop more of a sense of testing with blocks and experiencing and experimenting with the blocks, you’ll see things start to build higher and higher and taller and taller because they’re starting to measure out weight and starting to think about if I put this particular type of block in this spot and then I put another shape with it, what’s that going to do? And it becomes successful or unsuccessful depending on that experience that they have. So you get to see more details in block building as they get more experience with them and as they get older in them. So there are social skills involved playing with blocks with other kids, when you’re sharing materials and planning things and exploring ideas, that you need help to build your block building or whatever it is, then that really gives kids the opportunity to learn how to communicate with other kids. It gives them leadership opportunities and come up with a product that everybody is happy with. For the physical skills, if they’re small blocks, they’re really good for helping kids develop their strength in their hands and their coordination. If they’re large blocks they’re good for whole body movements because kids are bending and stooping and dragging and carrying and stepping up and stepping down. So there’s a lot of opportunities for physical development as well. All those things are presented to parents in the block party workshops in kind of a concise and fun manner in different displays that show and that have different kinds of blocks available for parents and kids to play together. So the parents are kind of learning while having fun with their children. Our hope is that they’ll take this home and get some inexpensive blocks that they can use at home. And use some of the techniques that are demonstrated in the block party for how to play with your child in a way that allows a child to be creative and use all these skills. We all have our own computer, we all have our own set of dishes that we use, so blocks for me are that very same component for children in development. It’s just something that you have as an everyday component or feature in your life. Anybody can make blocks. Out of cardboard boxes, out of scrapes of wood, out of measuring cups and build things. We do use blocks more now than what we did before. We actually got out some scrap pieces of wood that my grandpa used to use in his woodshop. The girls, that’s one of their favorite things to do, is to go – especially when they go to grammas- they’ll go grab those scrap pieces of wood and see what all they can build with them. Play is important and play is an appropriate learning activity for young children. So let’s make sure we keep play in children’s lives. Block play is one kind of important play that kids love to do and they learn a lot from. Increasingly I see structured activities taking over childrens lives so that kids days are pretty scheduled. They do need time to play. That’s something, I think children have a need to play and they have a right to play. One of the messages that the block party and other kinds of block activities send out to the adult world is that play is important. [music]

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