Wooden unit blocks and representing their use in early childhood education

Working with and reading about the work of other educators is inspiring. While observing or mentoring in different programs I am given an education and opportunity to reflect on my own practice.

The teachers in the Clarendon Child Care Center had been closely observing children’s block play and discussing it. The director introduced the Thinking Lens tool from Margie Carter and Deb Curtis’s The Visionary Director: A Handbook for Dreaming, Organizing, and Improvising in Your Center (Redleaf, 2009), and shared resources on fostering reflection and analysis. (See additional resources in TYC, and a single page resource from the ChildCareExchange.) The staff had also been reading about the use of blocks in The Block Book edited by Elisabeth S. Hirsch (NAEYC 1996) and about the early invention of wooden unit blocks and work on children’s play by Caroline Pratt. 

(You can learn more about Pratt’s work in the article, “Learning From Caroline Pratt” by Petra Munro of Hendry Louisiana State University, discussing Caroline Pratt’s life and work through a review of Mary Hauser’s Learning from Children: The Life and Legacy of Caroline Pratt in the Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum, Volume 4 February 2008.)

A "web" of block play's role in early childhood education.


The staff synthesized their discussion and created a poster, based on the example by Charlotte Brody in The Block Book, to share with families: filling in their goals for using blocks and what children get out of block play, guided by the understanding they gained from reading Hirsch’s and Pratt’s work. Their work displayed in the poster was a powerful reminder to me to take children’s block play seriously while maintaining the joyful experience.

Some of my “visits” to other programs are through the shared internet. Mr. Peter of Mr. Noah’s Nursery School writes about his class’ experience of block play in “The Bliss of Blocks” on the blog, Gopher Ark – the art of early education.

What are your “ah ha!” moments of observing and fostering block play in your early childhood program?

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