The images below are from my workshop, “Blocks as a Learning Tool in the Early Childhood Classroom: Literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)” held last Saturday at the Early Childhood Lab School of the University of the District of Columbia. I had just come down to Washington DC after walking past thousands of booths at the Toy Fair in NYC to see the latest products. It is always curious to view toys through a commercial lens in contrast to an educational lens. The glittery Toy Fair screams, BUY! BUY! BUY!, without much thought about how or why children would be using the toy over time. More is More. At the workshop, in contrast, we focused on children’s and teacher’s interaction with a variety of building materials – modular blocks, recycled and natural materials. What kinds of materials provoke and expand children’s thinking and how teacher’s observations, questions, and conversations with children can further enrich their ideas.
I am always struck by the quantities of toys that are being produced each year. Who needs them? I realize that this is a peculiar question to be asked by a toy designer but I have always favored the idea that less is more.
The images below show educators constructing a series of buildings of equal height during an exploration of non-standard measurement.