Blocks and Literacy in the Outdoor Classroom
By Candace Kastrup, Infant/Toddler Teacher, Dimensions Education Programs
Storytelling has a big impact on children. Often times we find children in our care requesting to hear favorite stories repeatedly. My class of toddlers is no exception, one of their favorites being The Three Little Pigs. After reading the story I presented an idea to the children as we got ready to go outside, “What if we make houses for our own pigs?” The children became excited and we came up with a list of things we would need: bricks, sticks and straw. I suggested we look outside for our sticks and straw and we remembered we had a basket of Mini-bricks in the classroom.
While gathering sticks we noticed our bag was not very large so our sticks would need to be smaller to fit inside. One child said, “We need to break the big ones.” In our Nature Explore Classroom we did not have straw but discovered pine needles looked similar and would make a good substitution.
As I set the materials out for children they quickly began building and I was surprised to see children not usually partaking in block building actively engaged with these building materials. Some children acted out the story, pretending to be the wolf as they blew their houses down. I observed children making enclosures with bricks, something I had never seen before in the block area. One child used all three materials to build her pigs house, using bricks around it and straw inside for the food.
By bringing literacy into the block area I saw much more than construction unfolding. Math skills were being used as children compared sizes of sticks. Dramatic play unfolded as toddlers acted out their favorite story. Problem solving skills were developing as they determined how to enclose the pigs and worked with different construction materials. As a teacher I was amazed that a favorite story could lead to such creativity and engagement in the block area.