5 Ideas for Learning in the Block Center During Choice Time

Friday, 5 July 2019

The hands-down favorite choice time discovery center in my kindergarten classroom is the block area.

block area ideas for set up

Every single year!

And while it's a big classroom management win that my kids love it and are truly engaged, this post is about unpacking the learning that happens through the activities and invitations offered at this fun, hands-on center.

So here we go!

1. Unit Blocks

If there was one must-have for your block center set up, it would be a set of basic unit blocks.  When I first began teaching kindergarten, it was ALL I had in my block center and the children never tired of them. 

These blocks were designed for teaching mathematics.  The standard rectangular prism block is the base of the unit block system, and smaller 1/2 unit blocks were designed so children can put them together to equal a whole unit.

block center material and learning set up ideas

Children will discover this as they work with these blocks to build various structures.  Teachers can use photos of their children's work to expand on mathematical relationships and teach about concepts such as part, part, whole and the beginning concepts of addition.

2.  Block Props

Toy vehicles, animals, mini trees, and natural items, such as stones and sticks, fall into this category and children love incorporating them into their block play.  

While studying animals in science, invite children to use these props to build habitats based on their animal research.  

eagle habitat inquiry based learning

Children will need to do some good thinking about what elements need to go into that habitat and which props can best represent those elements. 

This child knew that eagles live in tall trees to serve as a lookout for prey.    

Once children have created theses habitats, ask them give you a "tour" and explain their thinking behind each of the items used. 

3.  Signs

Incorporate literacy into the block center through the use of signs. Both those with pictures of environmental print and blank signs, invite opportunities for children to apply what they have been learning about reading and writing to their work in the block center.

signs as props for block play

writing letters and numbers in the block center

Include an alphabet chart to support children in reading and writing signs and don't be surprised if they soon want to write signs in all of the discovery centers!

4.  Ramps

The block center is a great place to explore physical science.  My force and motion unit draws from the experiences children have in this center as they incorporate inclined planes into their play.  Foam boards, rain gutters, and pool noodles (cut in half) can all be used for these purposes.

physical science in kindergarten using inclined planes through block play

Try placing some of these props in your center without any introduction.  Watch and take note of how children use them and what physical science experiments they are conducting.  Document their discoveries and invite them to share with the class to grow everyone's thinking.  

5.  Kids

Surprised by this last one? Where is the learning in just adding kids to the block center?

Not all the learning that takes place here is academic.  There's a whole lot more going on that falls into the category of social-emotional skills.

Look at this photo.  Can you see how children are collaborating to create one structure?

21st century future ready skills through block play

This happens ALL the time in the block center as children negotiate ideas and share materials.

The value in this type of 21st century learning cannot be underestimated as teachers work to prepare kids for the future.

What I hear over and over again, is that employers want to hire workers who are creative and can work together.

I'd say it all begins in the block center!  What do you think?

Block Center Start-Up Guide

Are you looking to add a block center to your preschool or kindergarten learning space?

I've written this START-UP GUIDE to assist you in the sometimes overwhelming set up, organization, and storage process of choice time discovery centers.

learning how to set up a block area in kindergarten or preschool classroom

I'll also be providing more support via this blog (look for other posts on more centers) and on Instagram and Facebook throughout the summer.

This is because I LOVE and value these centers and am excited to share all that I have learned (and am still learning) during choice time with children!

Thanks for stopping by!

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