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7.4: Relationship to Geometry

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    Course Competency 7. Examine strategies that teach engineering skills.

    CRITERIA 7.4. identify the relationship of block play to geometry

    Block Play and MathUnit blocks openart-image_9YkCMtjp_1715485142154_raw.png

    When children play with blocks they are practicing:

    • Classification and seriation when they select blocks of differing sizes, shapes, and volumes
    • Sorting similar and dissimilar shapes when tidying up
    • Counting and measuring
    • Estimating and predicting
    • Spatial configurations

    Educators can enhance exposure to mathematical concepts by asking the child questions about:

    Size: How many blocks do we need to make the tower as tall as you? Will there be enough room in the garage you are building for all your cars to fit?

    Shape: What is the shape of the house you are building? How many sides will it have? These two triangular blocks you put together are the same size as this square block. How come?

    Orientation: I see you are trying to fit the blocks together. How do we turn the blocks so they will fit together? How can we connect pieces together to make it so your bridge doesn’t fall?

    Location: On what side will you build the door to your house

    (Adapted from Expand Mathematical Thinking During Block and Pretend Play)

    Block Play and Science

    Block play provides opportunities to explore a wide variety of scientific concepts and skills.

    • Comparisons: Which block is smaller? Bigger? Taller? Longest?
    • Gravity: What will happen if we take this block in the middle away?
    • Balance: What will happen if we put this large block on top of this smaller block?
    • Weight: Which block is the heaviest?
    • Observation: Show me the curved blocks.
    • Estimation: Which block do you think will fit here?

    Adapted from Questions in Block Play Can Support Scientific Learning)

    Block Plan and Prosocial Development

    Block play is an excellent opportunity to help children learn and build prosocial skills, including:

    • Sharing: Let’s build together.
    • Feelings: How did you feel when your tower fell over?
    • Taking Turns: I’ll put my block here and then you can put your block on top.
    • Cooperating: Would you like to build the tower or hand me the blocks?
    • Problem-solving: How can both of us build using the square blocks?

    (Adapted from Questions in Block Play Can Support Social Skill Development)

    Block Play and Literacy

    Block play is a literacy-rich learning opportunity.

    • Imagination: Tell me about what you made with your blocks.
    • Letters and print: Can you use the blocks to spell your name?
    • Same and different: What is different about these two blocks? What is the same?
    • Listening: Paige is going to tell us about what she built.
    • New vocabulary: This shape is called a cube.

    (Adapted from Questions in Block Play Can Increase Your Child’s Vocabulary)

    Block Play and Self-Regulation

    Dr. Stuart Shanker (1952 -) defines self-regulation as “the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” (Self-Regulation by Dr. Stuart Shanker). Dr, Shanker makes a key distinction between the concepts of self-control and self-regulation. Self-control is the ability to inhibit impulses whereas self-regulation is the ability to manage stressors. For example, a preschooler may be able to resist the urge to knock over his friend’s tower of blocks. This is evidence of self-control. But why did the child feel the urge to knock over his friend’s tower of blocks? Perhaps the children playing in the block area were making a lot of noise, which the child found stressful. A child who can recognize environmental factors that cause them stress can respond in a more socially acceptable way by, for example, reducing exposure to the stressor by moving to a quieter area of the room.

    Supporting Block Play

    Educators can support block play with the following:

    • Ensure the physical environment and the classroom schedule enable uninterrupted play
    • Expand on children’s planning and problem-solving by asking questions
    • Make suggestions when play seems to have stalled
    • Comment on structures to show interest
    • Protect unfinished structures so a child can return to finish
    • Use mathematical and spatial terms to describe structures
    • Introduce new vocabulary to describe structures
    • Post photos of children’s structures
    • Pair a child who seems reluctant to engage in block play with a child who enjoys block play
    • Encourage respectful relationships (e.g., no hoarding of blocks, no knocking down other structures, etc.)

    Suggested Materials for Block Play

    Table 7.2 Suggested Materials for Block Play

    Type of Materials

    Examples of Materials

    Found or Recycled Materials

    Boxes and plastic containers of varying shapes and sizes, tin cans.


    Various stores purchased plastic and wooden blocks- lego, duplo, magnetic.


    Full set of unit blocks, set of hollow blocks, additional accessories such as PVC tubes, animals, cars, coloured, and liquid-filled blocks. Storage for everyday use.

    Natural Environment

    Cut and sanded logs and sections. Rocks, shells, planks.

    Adaptive Materials

    Space is conducive to needs and educators to support- perhaps some blocks on tables and various heights. Baskets to carry blocks easily.

    Pause to Reflect

    Do you see females accessing the block area regularly? Is there a different way to present blocks so all will benefit from the skills block play offers?

    Important Things to Remember
    • Blocks provide opportunities for development in all developmental domains for all ages of children.
    • The seven stages of block play are: carrying, stacking, bridging, enclosures, patterns, and representation 1 and 2.
    • Block play can enhance exposure to mathematical and science concepts.
    • Block play is an excellent opportunity to help children learn and build prosocial skills.
    • Block play is a literacy-rich learning opportunity.

    7.4: Relationship to Geometry is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.