What Would You Do With The Blocks?

I’ll admit it: I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the blocks. Students build amazing things with the various blocks in our classroom. They use the blocks in ways that I would have never considered. While at times the loudness of the block area can bother me, my biggest problem right now is that students use this space and these materials in the same way every single day

My teaching partner, Paula, and I spoke about this briefly on the last day of school before March Break. We also noticed this same problem earlier in the year. Students regularly built dinosaur hotels or museums. While their structures were great and often led to exploring math concepts and engaging in writing, the structures themselves rarely changed.

Even when we had children tidy up what they made, they often packed the structures up on the shelves, and then resurrected them the next day. 

While I do love the math thinking that goes into these shelf structures, when the block buildings continue to look the same day after day, I wonder how much thinking and learning is going into their design. Before Christmas holidays, Paula and I chatted about this, and we decided to add some new materials to the block area to see if that would interrupt the playIt did! 

We added the Q-BA Maze 2.0 marble run that students initially used independently from the blocks to make marble runs. Then they used the pieces in conjunction with the blocks to create some block marble runs.

It didn’t take long for a group of students to realize that they could use these marble run pieces to make robots, and now they have included them in their block structures.

But now the dinosaur hotels/museums from September are being replaced with robot structures that tend to resemble each other day after day. Now what?

I was doing some thinking over the March Break, and that’s when I thought back to this Rube Goldberg Machine that Darla Myers shared on Instagram. 

I asked her today if she had a video to share of the process, and she generously shared this one.

Even though this Rube Goldberg Machine isn’t working, seeing what other Kindergarten children have tried and maybe having our students engage in some problem solving of their own, could lead to a new use of old materials (i.e., blocks, Lego, dominoes, ramps, and marbles)Could this be the intentional interruption that our students need? 

Paula and I have not had a chance to talk about this idea or brainstorm other ones yet. As the March Break comes to an end, my brain is busy thinking about possibilities, so I thought that I would bring this question to my blogging community. What have you tried before or what might you try in this case? We know the children love to build. We want to explore different ways to use some favourite materials that will hopefully lead to increased problem solving and innovation. All ideas are welcome!


6 thoughts on “What Would You Do With The Blocks?

  1. Sometimes I create a challenge in the block area that changes how they play in blocks. An example this year was “Can you make a superhero fly without throwing or touching the superhero?” This started some exploration in creating catapults and levers! It took them a while to figure out the types of designs that would work. They then tried to figure out which designs made the superheroes go up the highest. My reasoning for the challenges is to get them thinking about the materials available in the building area in different ways.

    • Thanks for the comment, Darla! I’ll admit that we’ve been reluctant to offer these challenges to the full group for fear that it might limit their creativity with the materials. We do often offer individual challenges to different students to try and switch up how they use the materials. This does change how they use them at the time, but is not making a long-term change. Maybe these other kinds of challenges would help. Thanks for giving us more to consider.


  2. I would highly recommend the resource “building structures with young children” It has great ideas and strategies that might create some change in the block area. Thanks for such reflective posts. I always enjoy reading and learning from them.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jen! This is an excellent block resource. I read it a couple of years ago when I was teaching Grade 1 and wanted some new options for a structures unit. We already use some of the ideas in it (especially those around discussing the structures and printing pictures to inspire different structures), but can maybe re-examine some other options. I will have another look at it now.


    • Thanks for the comment, Sarah! I have heard of this resource before, but never really explored it. I’m going to check it out now. Glad you like the sticky note idea. This continues to work well in the blocks. Some children also like the use of masking tape with Sharpie markers. Then they can write right on the blocks. Sometimes I think it’s various writing materials in the block area that work best. We still have some students that like clipboards and paper best of all. Hope one of these ideas work well for your students.


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