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Blocks, Blocks and More Blocks! Blocks are accepted objects of play for children, but why are they so very important to early childhood? What goes on in the block corner or center in our classrooms? Play and work involve the same actions for children. Play is their work or job. Play is a crucial part of a child’s social, emotional, physical, social and emotional development. Our block centers offer children maple unit blocks, hollow blocks and small building blocks. There are block accessories and props for building which include toy vehicles, animals and people. Children create imaginary worlds they can manage. Blocks provide opportunities for mathematical and spatial learning. As children pick up and feel the rigid angles and smooth curves of wood squares, circles and triangles, they are learning the fundamentals of shape and proportion. When children distinguish the red block from the green block, they refine their ability to note patterns and compare features. When they build towers by masterfully balancing one block atop another, they are learning principles of physics and support. As children play with blocks they are learning to share, talk with each other and practice scientific trial and error. They are making decisions, making comparisons, recognizing shapes, classifying objects, matching and sorting, experimenting with balance and size and developing their creativity. And you thought they were just playing!!!!! Stages of Block Building (Johnson, 1996.) All children progress through specific stages as they use blocks in play. This is also true for older children who have not previously experienced block play (except for stage one, which is omitted by older children), although older children progress through the stages much more quickly. Knowledge of these stages will help teacher’s better support children's block play. Stage 1 Blocks are carried around but are not used for construction (very young children). Stage 2 Building Begins. Children mostly make rows, either horizontal (on the floor) or vertical (stacked). There is much repetition in this early building pattern, which is basic functional play with blocks. Stage 3 Bridging: children create a bridge (or portal) by using two blocks to support a third. In architecture this is known as the post-and- lintel system. Stage 4 Enclosures: children place blocks in such a way that they enclose a space. Bridging and enclosures are among the earliest technical problems children have to solve when playing with blocks, and they occur soon after a child begins to use blocks regularly. Stage 5 With age, children become steadily more imaginative in their block building. They use more blocks and create more elaborate designs, incorporating patterns and balance into their constructions. Stage 6 Naming of structures for dramatic play begins. Before this stage, children may have named their structures, but not necessarily based on the function of the building. This stage of block building corresponds to the "realistic" stage in art development. Stage 7 Children use blocks to represent things they know, like cities, cars, airplanes, and houses. They also use blocks to stimulate dramatic play activities: zoo, farm, shopping center, and other locations.
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