just playing? climbing a block tower

Just Playing.
We have all heard this before, and maybe even said it ourselves:
The children are "just playing".   [gasp!]

However, as early childhood educators,we really do know better than that.
Research knows better than that, too. Play is the healthiest and most authentic way children learn about themselves, about others and about the world they live in. A great Play resource is The National Institue for Play led by founder Dr. Stuart Brown.

Thanks to Amy from Child Central Station for starting this series "Just Playing?" which will be a weekly blog hop. Bloggers will be sharing photos - usually without supporting text - to allow readers to think about Just Playing in a thoughtful, reflective way.

Questions for consideration:
What is happening in the photos?
Who are the players?
What materials are present?
What are the developmental values embedded - possibly - in the scenarios?
Why is any of this play important?

This premiere week of Just Playing, I am sharing a sequence of three children working collaboratively with wood blocks. I was intrigued by their group work, yet I was also intrigued by one member's physical engagement with the structure.

What do you see? What do you think is inside of this play?



just playing  
This post is part of the "Just Playing?" Blog Hop!


  1. I love the intricate little details like the little balls on the blocks lining the walkway. They are making physical representations of things they either imagine or things that exist in their world. My kids build like this, as well, and I always really enjoy hearing the "stories" about what they are building and their vision of what each item or block symbolizes. The blocks near the top of the structure are great---they make a great viewing area!!!! :)

    1. Ayn
      Thank you for thoughtful commentary on the Play. FYI, the 'little balls lining the walkway' are the round heads of wooden figures sitting in cars! Yes, the physical representation of their work is extraordinary in complexity and collaboration. The window blocks were used to "spy" through when the children stood up!

  2. I see lots of engineering and construction going on as the children work together as a team to build this tall structure. I also see that at least one child is attempting to climb the structure but it seems he is testing his footing as well as the stability of the structure before taking each step. I also see a beautiful set of blocks I would love to own in my classroom! LOL!

    From their play, it appears that the children are building their skills to problems solve, collaborate, make decisions, take risks, constructively test limits, design with building materials, and all of these skills are a part of thinking mathematically!

    1. Deborah
      Thank you for your refection.
      One of the aspects that is most fascinating is that this particular tri-team has never worked together before, yet they came together rather seamlessly as they happened to begin block formations around the same time. Thus, their collaborative engineering and construction is even more appreciated.
      The "risk taking" of the one boy carefully attempting to climb the tower was a surprise both in his efforts to navigate the wobbly blocks as well as the acceptance by his team to allow the risk after so much work to build the structure.

  3. Wow! You have a great block set up there! What fun! I see children engaged in teamwork and some great engineering & physics skills at work with their blocks! I also see they have a great imagination- it looks like they built a parking garage and cityscape. And I love how the little boy is carefully looking down into their creation. What a perspective that must be!

    1. Samantha
      Thank you for your reflection. Yes, the teamwork was tremendous as they each carries armfuls of block to contribute to the roadway and tower. The climber child often engages from a creative and experimental lens yet with care to not disrupt.

  4. So much learning with block play. I love seeing these types of constructions! They don't even know they using spatial awareness, balancing skills, and symmetry. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jessica
      You hit it on the head, right, when you said "they don't even know they are using" a specific skill. Play is such a gift for children to USE these skills in their own contexts instead of being "taught" by an adult. Glad you are joining the blog hop!

  5. I love your blocks! It looks like the blocks were sorted, and the children started with one type of block placed in many different orientations. It is interesting to me that the bottom is more abstract and the top appears to be more and more symmetrical. I notice that one child is even diligent in aligning one of the blocks. They are working on fine motor and gross motor skills. They are observing each other and working together. I love that after they were building up, they are now building out..... they are aware that creating happens on more than one plane. The trust in themselves and those around them make it easy to take calculated risks and to explore their building through climbing. What a balancing act! Thanks for sharing and linking up!

    1. Amy
      Thanks for the detailed interpretation of this dedicated play by this team of children. Yes, they did have some abstract work as a foundation yet seemed to have a general framework in mind as they worked. Ironically, this tower building of mostly small motor and math planning also ended up incorporating an attempt at gross motor with the climbing!


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