More Than Just A Set Of Wooden Blocks – Adding A Block Center To Your Daycare Or Preschool
Do you own a daycare or preschool, or are you considering opening one? If the answer is yes, then you should think about adding a block center to your play area. Why is a block center important? Isn’t it just something with a lot of pieces to pick up? Playing with wooden blocks or other building materials can help the child learn in many different ways while they are having lots of fun. Playing with any type of blocks involves physical movements, both gross and fine motor. They have to physically move around picking up and moving blocks. They develop fine motor skills as they learn to put small parts together as with a set of “LEGOs” or work on those fine motor skills as they balance wooden building blocks in a big tower. They also develop hand-eye coordination when they work to figure out how to make a tower stand.
Any type of building blocks for kids promotes mental activity. They learn about size and shape, balance and cause and effect. A child can learn to use logic and predict. He or she may wonder “Can I put this block here without my structure falling?”. Building blocks are a great way to teach many math and science concepts. A set of unit wooden blocks can build the basis for learning addition, multiplication, and fractions. They can certainly learn about gravity as the toys topple to the ground. When playing with these toys they learn in an intuitive way. No one needs to tell them how to build a bridge. They just try something and if it falls they try another way. Blocks for kids are a great way to exercise and improve their minds too.Blocks for daycare is a great way to help spark their already fantastic imaginations.
A blocks center is a great way to promote socialization in children too. Several children in a block center learn to share and cooperate. A shy child can quietly play along side others. Because of the cooperative nature of block building you may find they are soon joining in with the others. They learn to build upon each others ideas. They will say things like “We need a fence around that farm you built” and then they will joyfully proceed to build it.
A successful block area should be a defined space. It should be organized and be varied from time to time. You should set aside a certain area for your block play space. It should be about 5 feet square. Define the area with a border of some type, such as tape on the floor or carpet, or bordered by shelving on 2 or 3 sides. This should help to keep the blocks contained. Since kids are on the floor, a good flat, tight weaved carpet is great. This also helps with the noise when the blocks fall. Be sure your block area is not in the main traffic area where creations may get knocked down. Also keep it away from the rest area.
Blocks for daycare should be organized in containers or shelving. This also helps the kids to clean them up easily. They even practice sorting while picking up. You can use different containers for different shapes. Label them on the outside with a picture of the shape or type of block. Young children may get frustrated if your blocks have to be stacked in a crate where they only fit in a certain way. Find a solution that is neat but simple.
Make your block area interesting by varying the toys there occasionally. This can mean more than just rotating the types of blocks available. Add other toys such as small animals or cars, knights and horses and watch the kids creativity blossom. If you want to encourage the girls to play there, add dolls or small flower pots, doll furniture, dishes or pieces of fabric. You could have rulers or measuring tapes, play tools and hard hats available. Put small flags in the block center to top off a fort or castle. Do they tend to build different things when certain toys are available?
There are lots of activities you can promote in your block center. Many of these would require little or no cost. Here are a few ideas-
1- Add pieces of rain gutter, pieces of piping or cardboard tubes and small balls in your block center. The kids can have fun making ramps and rolling the balls down. They could also put small cars down the ramps.
2- Put up pictures of building or architecture books nearby and see if the children will try to copy them.
3- Change the texture of some blocks. Add sandpaper or vinyl, fabric or carpet on a few blocks. Maybe even put some outdoor carpet (the kind like grass) on a few.
4- Have a camera nearby to take pictures of their projects. Make a special “Wall of Fame” to highlight each child’s special creation. This way they also take it home to show mom and dad.
5- Put tape on the floor in a design and see what the kids can build along the line.
6- Paint some blocks white or cover them with white paper. Add some gloves and mittens and animals like penguins and seals. Have an arctic day and have them build igloos.
7- Put a long strip of paper on the wall near the block center. Mark the height of their creations and add their name and date on the side of the mark. They will love seeing their accomplishment. Watch as they try to beat their own or their friends highest mark.
8- Put a board and a fulcrum in the block center. Help them experiment with balance. What happens if they move a block closer to the fulcrum? How many small blocks does it take to balance a large block?
Adding a well-organized block center to your daycare or preschool will become a favorite area for your children. It will be the area that they remember fondly many years from now.