Cubes, Bobbins, Beams Suggestions for Use

To understand children’s learning with open-ended materials, it is often useful to step back and observe their spontaneous play and problem solving. Children use blocks in a variety of ways:

  • To create designs – arrangements with no particular function.
  • To build functional structures – things that move, shelters, and enclosures.
  • To build representations of real objects – sailboats, animals, and people.
  • To rearrange patterns – recombining a given set of blocks into different arrangements.
  • To act out narratives – using the blocks to tell a story.
  • To encounter and solve problems

Children will almost always start building on their own and may often build for long periods of time with great concentration. We have included some suggestions for use to further stimulate their ideas. However, we encourage parents and teachers to let children take the lead.

  • Language Development
    • Can you tell me about the structure you are building? Is it a machine? What does it do? What is it used for? Can you tell me the name of all the parts? What is the name of your machine?
    • Turn over the cubes so the color is on the bottom. Mix them up. Can you guess what color is on the bottom of each cube?
    • It looks like you made a boy with a big hat. Where is he going?
  • Mathematical Thinking
    • How can you get to the top of your building? Can you make stairs? How many stairs do you need to get to the top?
    • Are there more wood blocks than dowels? How many pieces are there altogether? How many holes can you find in one cube? Do you think there are enough dowels to fit into all the holes?
    • What shapes can you make with the blocks? Can you make a circle? A square? A rectangle? A pentagon?
  • Physical Knowledge
    • How can you make the bobbin roll faster? Can you build a structure that would make it roll faster or go a longer distance?
    • Can you make a seesaw? What happens if you put a bobbin on one end and two cubes on the other? Do you think it will balance?
    • Can you make a machine with moving parts? Can you make a car that rolls?
  • Aesthetic Ideas
    • Can you design a floor with the cubes so all the colors are on top? Are there many different patterns you can make with the colors?
    • Which of your houses do you like more, the house with the flat, colored roof or the one with the slanted, plain wood roof? Why?
  • Imaginative Play
    • Look at my whirling machine. When you push the dowel into the hole, the machine turns round and round. You can ride on top of it but it doesn’t fly.
    • I made a robot. His head can turn all the way around but he is friendly.
    • Here is my super-fast car that can go to Florida.

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