Q: What are some block play activities that teach children about the important (and timely) topics of sharing and giving?

A: According to Pamela C. Phelps, author of Let's Build, there are many ways to use blocks that explore what it means to give and share while also incorporating basic math concepts into the fun! Here are a few ideas:

  • First, engage the children in a discussion about Thanksgiving, what it is, as well as the harvest and the changes of autumn.
  • During circle time, use 12 medium and tall cylinders, two double units, two quadruple units, and one floorboard to demonstrate an orchard. The floorboard is the ground; the double and quadruple units, the fencing; and the cylinders, the apple trees.
  • Engage the children in a discussion about creating an orchard. Use rectangular-shaped blocks to show the children how they can use pieces of red, green, yellow, brown, and orange paper (represented by the blocks) to create a tree or an orchard of many trees.
  • At the close of the circle, dismiss the children in sets of one and two to play in the different centers of the classroom environment. Allow four children (or the number that your block/construction area easily accommodates) stay to play in the block area. Encourage the children to work together as they build their creations.
  • Cut out a tree (or trees) from cardboard. Use paper and tape or Velcro to make and hang apples and leaves on the tree (or trees). Discuss the differences between this tree and the ones made from blocks.
  • Near the block area, provide colored paper pieces (red, green, yellow, brown, and orange), markers, scissors, and tape. Tell the children that they can build anything they want to build with the blocks and that the paper and tape can be used to create trees with leaves and/or apples to decorate their structure.
  • After working in the block area for a while, two children might begin to build a farm and to cut paper leaves and apples and tape them onto cylinders.
  • Other children might build random structures after talking about these constructions with their teacher. Then, put their blocks away and leave the area to engage in other play experiences.

This block play experience will teach children the importance of sharing and giving when it comes to creating a structure. These ideas can also be easily incorporated into more expansive Thanksgiving-themed lesson plans.

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For more strategies to create and scaffold block-play experiences for young children, check out Let's Build by Pamela C. Phelps.