One of the Exchange Out of the Box Training Kits is called “Block Play: It’s Not Just for Boys Anymore,” based on an article by Barb Tokarz. We at Exchange asked ourselves if this Training Kit was still needed, or do all genders now use the Block Area equally? Recent comments here on ExchangeEveryDay, however, made it clear that in many programs the scenario Tokarz outlines in her article is still the norm:
“It is center time in the four-year-old class. Groups of boys and girls are busily engaged in play in the dramatic play, the art center, the library, discovery center, and with table games. The teacher notes that since she has changed the dramatic play area to an ice cream parlor, boys as well as girls are enjoying creating and serving ‘frozen treats’ for their friends. However, an area of ongoing concern is that the block center has only boys playing in it once again. Two girls stand on the perimeter, looking at the skyscraper that the boys are building and appearing as if they would like to join in. However, the boys are using most of the blocks and are so involved in their building that they don‘t acknowledge the girls, so the girls move on to the art center where they begin painting at the easels.
As teachers of young children, most of us have seen this situation, with some variation, played out in our classrooms. The absence of girls in the block center concerns early childhood educators because block play provides valuable opportunities for expanding language, social, cognitive, and motor skills.”
We’d love to hear from you, readers, about what your observations have been around blocks and gender. Please share in the comments. Thanks!
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Ursula and Anne, thank you for sharing how you and the children use the blocks in your classroom. I was able to really visualize them being used.
Carole, thank you for pointing how teacher behaviors' will affect what children might choose to engage in.
Amber, I definitely agree with you. It's important for many aspects of early childhood to not be put in a single box. I love your thought-provoking comment!
-Tiffany at Exchange
Blocks are at the core of our work in my 3s classroom. One way we make sure that no one is excluded from ANY area of the classroom is to keep a list of who populated each area during work time. This serves multiple purposes, including support of the children's social-emotional skill development - taking turns, sharing, building empathy. They also work together to plan a structure, and negotiate blocks usage. Unit blocks are an open-ended material and can 'be' anything. A pillar can become a car, person, horse or rocket ship as well as support or decorate a tower.
We also use blocks in Morning Meeting to take attendance, working with complex math concepts rarely explored in preschool. The children can see 'one more/less', fractional parts of the total group and other attributes.
Given regular access, blocks work becomes a favorite activity for EVERYONE and is a critical part of an early childhood classroom.
Francis, yes, and what a wonderful book it is :).
Jennifer, I'm curious if there are any correlations on why this doesn't happen at your center. That's great to hear!
-Tiffany at Exchange
We do not have this problem at our center. Both the boys and girls spend lots of time in all of the 'block' type centers, using unit blocks, magnetic shapes, Legos, etc.
I address this issue in my book, Oh Boy! (published by Exchange). While the book is targeted for teaching young boys, issues that prevent boys from fully engaging in certain activities are exactly the same as those that limit the engagement of girls. Block play is one such activity.