A group of Early Head Start teachers explored the use of blocks as a learning tool at a workshop I conducted last week for the SCO Family of Services  Program in Brooklyn, New York. We discussed how young children’s play experience with open-ended, three-dimensional materials (blocks) is essential for the growth of language and for the development of mathematical and scientific concepts (STEM) from infancy up through age three.

Creating a simple ABABAB pattern with the blocks:

 

Constructing an incline plane and experimenting with variations of weight, speed, and friction

Using blocks to retell a story: "Goodnight Moon."

I know that most teachers are not given time to play, on their own, with the same materials that are used by the children in their classrooms. It is difficult to understand some of the complex problems and often joyous solutions that children have when building with blocks unless one experiences it firsthand. Wood, plastic, foam, and cardboard blocks vary in size, weight, color, texture, and in the way they sound when they are banged together or fall down. This is a visceral experience that cannot come from just observing.