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Build it - build it higher

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Explore/experiment

Duration/age

Duration: 
Suitable for children: 
Location: 
Mother and son playing with toys

Let’s build.

What shall we create? Will it be a zoo for the wild animals or a house for the snails from the garden to hide in? Maybe we can stack and stack and stack the blocks until they reach the sky!

Talk with your child about what they want to make. What resources will they need? Can your child use the blocks and toys they have or do they need different things?

Let’s build a cave for the bear to sleep in. We will need to collect sticks and stones to make the cave.

Sometimes your child might not have a plan about what they want to make. They may just want to see how many blocks they can stack before the tower crashes over.

As your child experiments with building, stacking or packing, talk about the different sizes and shapes of the blocks. Are they all the same size and fit neatly on top of each other? Are they different shapes, some with curves and points?

Look for the flat side. You need to place it on top of the other block. Would the curved side balance?

As the building grows bigger try and guess how many blocks you will use. Will your child use all of the blocks or will they sort through the pile, looking for blocks that are the same size and shape?

Will your building have only straight sides or will some of the walls be curved?

Materials you will need

  • Boxes
  • Rocks
  • Books
  • Blocks
  • Cotton reels

Alternative tools

  • Ice-cream container
  • Plastic containers
  • Stackable material
  • Food containers
  • Plastic cups
  • Plastic bowls

Why does this matter?

As children build they are learning about measurement. They are learning that measurement can be represented by length, weight, volume, capacity and area.

As they explore the different aspects of measurement they are learning that we can use different tools or instruments to measure. When they build with blocks they are selecting which measurement tool will be best to describe how tall or how wide their building is.

Building, stacking and packing helps children to develop estimation, prediction and comparison skills. As they build they will be comparing and predicting how many blocks they can stack up before the tower falls over. Will it be the same as last time? Does it change if the shape and size of the blocks are different?

What does this lead to?

Building helps children to develop language to describe what they are doing, seeing and planning. As they build the tower they are:

  • Describing what they have made - It is a very tall tower.
  • Using comparative language - Your tower is taller than mine, but mine is wider.
  • Using prediction - The building is wobbly. If I put another block on top I think the tower will fall over.
  • Making ordered arrangements - I am going to put the smallest blocks on the bottom and the biggest ones on top.

When they build, children are experimenting with space and area.

As they build they are exploring how much space they have to play in and the amount of blocks they can fit within that space. When they think about what they want to build they will be exploring where to start within the space. Will they start along the edge of the mat and work towards the middle? Will they start at the back of the mat and work forward until all of the area is covered?

Language to use

  • Top, bottom, front, back, edge, middle, side
  • High, low
  • Taller, shorter
  • Big, little, small
  • Wide, narrow, long, short
  • Same, different
  • Estimate, predict, compare
  • Area, space
  • Balance, level, slide, equal, tip

Questions to use

  • How high can you build it?
  • How many blocks can you stack before it falls over?
  • Where do you need to place the big blocks?
  • Can you stack shoes on top of one another?
  • Can you build a sandwich?

Useful tips

  1. You might also like to take a look at the activities We're off and racing and Packing the lunch box.
  2. Younger children are still developing their fine motor skills and visual distance perceptions. Your little one will need bigger blocks for holding and blocks that are more uniform in shape.
  3. For younger children most of the fun is in knocking over the tower. This can be very frustrating for older children. You could try making one tower for each child.
  4. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Use stacking toys and puzzles.
  2. Use pattern blocks and cards.
  3. See how many blocks you can stack into a shoebox.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Build and stack with blocks of different shapes, sizes and thickness.
  • Build a race track for your cars to race along.
  • Build a house for teddy.

Three to five year olds

  • Build walls in the garden using bricks, stones and found objects.
  • Make a height chart. Can you stack the blocks to the same height?
  • Use chalk to create patterns on the ground outside. Put different objects on the line. Can you stack the objects on top of each other?
  • Build a city for your toys to live in. You could use a car mat for a base or draw an outline on paper.
  • Build a racetrack for your cars to race along.
  • Build a cubby house from found objects.

Questions to ask

  • How big is that?
  • Is teddy big or little?
  • Can you find the little blocks?

Questions to ask

  • Where will you start?
  • How many bricks will you need to use?
  • Who is the biggest person in our family?

Language to use

  • Top, bottom, in, out, under
  • Big, little, short, fat, thin
  • More, less

Language to use

  • Top, bottom, next to, underneath, alongside, against, between
  • Length, width, narrow, long, short, fat, thin, thick, flat
  • Soft, hard, squish
  • Rectangle, square, round, oval