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Blocks in Our Classrooms

Monday, November 25, 2013

Here at Children's Day School, our preschool students play with blocks daily. Block building provides young children with a play-based opportunity to develop physical, mathematical, scientific, linguistic and social-emotional skills. Unit blocks are an adaptable and open-ended material, which allows children at every developmental stage to achieve true mastery with them, and affords children an autonomous and active role in their learning. Here are some examples of the ways that our preschoolers develop a variety of competencies through block building:


  • Develop fine motor skills (eye-hand coordination, finger control, hand manipulation, etc.)

  • Develop gross motor skills (lifting and carrying stacks of blocks, reaching to place blocks high up, walking carefully around structures, etc.)


  • Classify and group (triangles, squares, cylinders etc.)

  • Measure (“This structure is as tall as/shorter than/taller than me.” “This structure is __ blocks high.”)

  • Order (smallest to largest, shortest to longest, etc.)

  • Count individual blocks, as well as stacks and rows of blocks

  • Construct symmetrically

  • Estimate the number of blocks needed and the amount of space the structure will occupy

  • Discover and make patterns

  • Identify shapes and construct new shapes (two triangles become a larger square, two rectangles become a larger square, etc.)

  • Discover dimensionality (blocks are on top of, under, around, etc.)

  • Discover part-whole/fractional relationships (recognize blocks as sub-units of other blocks)


  • Learn about gravity, stability and balance

  • Learn through trial and error, discovery and inductive thinking

Language & Literacy

  • Ask and tell each other and teachers about their structures

  • Exchange ideas about what and how to build

  • Make signs and labels for structures, using invented spelling and/or asking teachers for spelling

  • Name the structures

  • Describe the function of the structures

  • Tell stories about the structures


  • Achieve feelings of competence, self-confidence and autonomy

  • Cooperate with each other when building, playing with and cleaning up structures (“stackers” make “deliveries” to  “shelvers”)

  • Respect each other’s work (are careful with their bodies)

To read more about how educators all over the country are using blocks in their classrooms, and their reasons for doing so, check out this New York Times article