Children love boxes and blocks. They come in every size and shape. You can put things in them or put them together to build things. A box or block structure can be a castle, a machine, a boat, or a car. Boxes and blocks are also the raw materials of critical thinking.
The activities in this section invite children to use both boxes and blocks to explore concepts including sorting and classifying, volume, estimating, problem solving, and creative thinking. And children will be amazed to see what can happen when the two materials are combined!
To prepare children for the blocks and boxes activities, try these ideas:
- Start off with a giant pile of boxes in the center of your group-time circle. Invite children to brainstorm how they might use the boxes outside. Make an experience chart of all their ideas.
- Show children one box at a time. Invite them to suggest ways to use the box. As you add each new box to the pile, watch and listen to how children's suggestions shift and change with the new sizes and shapes of boxes.
- Teach children "The Little Red Box Song":
Oh I wish I had a little red box
To put my favorite teddy in
I'd take him out and XXX (kissing sounds)
And put him back again!
- Introduce blocks by inviting children to compare boxes and blocks. How are blocks like boxes? How are blocks different from boxes? What can you do with blocks that you can't do with boxes? What can you do with boxes that you can't do with blocks?
Using the Activities
The following activities are a springboard for weeks of fun and learning with boxes and blocks. Be sure to spend plenty of time on each activity for in-depth exploration. Present them as they are written and over time add your own embellishments to them. Also:
- Add one of the Using Boxes and Blocks to Explore ideas to expand the activities. For example, as children are making their box vehicles or machines, invite them to consider using the remaining boxes to make hats, masks, and other costumes.
- Take the boxes outside to create apparatus for a "Box Olympics!"
As children participate in box and block activities, observe the following:
- Which type of interaction do children have when exploring boxes and blocks? Do they tend to explore them first for dramatic play and building? Do they explore the scientific and mathematical nature of the materials only after you inspire them to think that way?
- How do children share the roles of leader and follower in their play interactions with boxes and blocks? Do some children naturally want to take over while others enjoy being directed?
- How do children respond to your questions and conversation starters? Do they want to converse or do they want to work totally independently?
- How do children demonstrate their understanding of the process skills they have learned in the activities when they are asked to apply them.
Conversations and Questions
All it takes is one good question to set in motion a conversation with children. Watch as children work with the boxes and blocks. Resist the urge to ask a question or to compliment children right away. Watch carefully to see what children are doing so that you know your conversation starter is appropriate for the particular children and the situation. Here are a few you might use to get you started:
- What would toys and other objects come in if they didn't come in boxes?
- How can you use a box to help wildlife?
- How many ways can you organize (group) these boxes?
- How big is biggest? (Show a series of blocks one at a time for children to see that size is relative.)
- How many ways can you use a box to be a hat? a mask?
- Can you build a box with your body? Can you and some friends build a "body" box for someone to sit in?
- How can we use blocks to create a "Block Olympics"?
- How many boxes tall are you?
- How many blocks long is the room? The playground? What if we used boxes? How would the measurements be different?
Building Skills With Boxes & Blocks
In addition to the activities provided in this section, add some of your own to help children build skills in:
Sorting and Classifying
Using Boxes & Blocks to Explore.
- Size comparisons (big, bigger, biggest)
- Costuming and Sets