The Importance of Play Series - Part 3
by Laura Venezia, Head of School at Woodland Montessori Academy
In this next part of the Importance of Play series, we will look at a play experience that is likely the most common in any childhood--block play. In nearly every early years setting across the globe you will no doubt find a basket, shelf or floor full of blocks. We may think that returning to the same blocks day after day becomes repetitive and boring, but we could not be further from the truth.
This time, we imagine walking into a setting and seeing a group of children huddled together with a mound of blocks between them. A storm of chatter fills the air. There are plans being made, conflicts arising, and solutions being shared. Children can be seen banging block together, dropping them from a height, balancing them in precarious arrangements or just picking them up and taking them to another location. Through all of these actions, a wealth of learning opportunities is happening.
It is likely that construction begins independently while each child begins working out details in their own minds. There is an argument over a few blocks, but after some negotiating a deal is made. Each child using blocks to execute an image in their mind, but then there is a chance a shift occurs. Suddenly two structures have joined together and have become one project with two leaders. There’s a discussion on how one structure could seamlessly become part of another and just like that, a partnership is made.
In another group, there may be group discussion to create on structure together. Each member adding their own input in order for the group to reach the same outcome. While blocks are being stacked, one falls, and the rest come tumbling down. Without any discussion needed, everyone springs to action, and the building continues.
These groups of children are not only developing social skills through conversations, teamwork, planning, sharing and taking turns, but they are also investigating mathematical and scientific concepts, such as weight, height, balance, symmetry, dimensions, and gravity. They are engaging their creative minds and using their imagination to plan and create a structure. There is a newfound sense of negotiating and sharing space.
The learning is not planned by a teacher to reach a specific outcome but naturally developed through the power of play. Teamwork and collaboration, a much-needed skill in the 21st century, develops when children are given the choice and ownership of their own learning. Yes, an adult may need to step in to help build the skills of conflict resolution but working though conflicts independently provide skills children will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
We cannot overlook the benefits of block play and the abundance of skills it develops.