When thinking about your classroom centers or areas most have a block or construction area. I used to put out the typical cubes, Legos, people and animals, but I think if we as teachers can think outside the normal items we can instill more creative and imaginative play among our children. In my own past experience with this, at first the children are not sure what to do with the materials you display and allow them to use because “these are not blocks”. But once you encourage them to explore and see what they can do and build, they use the items in more ways than I had even thought of. Below are a few I have tried in my own toddler and preschool classes.
Some Block Area Materials to consider:
~ Real pieces of wood, tree logs cut into flatter circles or as logs
~ Natural items such as pinecones, seashells, acorns, leaves, rocks, etc
~ Tops of plastic drink bottles and can also be cut to look like flowers, etc
~ Seasonal items such as garland, cotton balls or Styrofoam balls in winter, ornaments, fake spider webs, etc
~Household items such as cardboard tubes, items used in packages for shipping, various boxes, thread spools, tiles, cut sponges, pool noodles cut, etc
I still like to provide some blocks but try using wooden rather than plastic ones. Here are some ideas to alter even the wooden block sets you can purchase:
~ Try attaching some mirror paper or foils to blocks to give different illusions while building with them. Add mirrors themselves to area along floors or walls makes for a great look at their creations too.
~ Tape photos of the children dressed up to blocks rather than play people. We have also taped photos of the children’s own homes, places in our community or road signs to blocks too; it makes the area more relative to the children and got out girls loving the block area!
~Try adding sticky Velcro to blocks so they can stick them together as they build. Most craft stores sell Velcro in colors too. We have even added Velcro hair rollers too, it adds different shape and texture.
~ Print a photo and cut into squares the size of your blocks and tape to different ones, creating a photo puzzle with the blocks