Block center is one of the most popular and most important centers in the preschool classroom. When children build with blocks, they are doing more than just stacking. They are experimenting, exploring math concepts and learning how to work together. A block center facilitates teamwork and creative play while giving children the opportunity to be creative and experiment.
When children play and build in a block center, they are learning math concepts in a concrete way. A child figures out very quickly that a round shape is different than a shape with straight edges, and that round shapes stack differently than straight ones. Children also learn that triangles stack differently than squares or rectangles. They often naturally begin block play by sorting the blocks by size or shape and will sometimes lay out blocks end to end to practice "measuring" larger objects.
When children build with blocks in a block center, they are actually being little scientists. They work at figuring out how to balance their stack so that it stays the way they want it to. Blocks also provide instant feedback. When a child overbalances a stack of blocks they come crashing down and she has the opportunity to try again in a different way. This trying and experimenting helps children to learn to try different techniques and stick with a challenge until they find a solution.
In a block center, two or three children typically work together with a set of blocks. This encourages the children to cooperate so that they can achieve their overall goal. One child may stack blocks while another chooses the next block. Teamwork may mean that a taller child places the top block on the stack while a smaller one holds the bottom of the tower steady. This opportunity to work together and negotiate is one of the reasons why blocks are so important in the primary classroom.
Since a block center is such a creative place in the classroom, children naturally have the opportunity to refine their language skills. Many children build something in a block center then make up a scenario to go along with their building. The language involved in playing out this imaginary scenario can be complex as children work and talk through their ideas together. Even if a child is playing with blocks alone, he often talks to himself as he works.
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