Friday, February 19, 2010

14 ways to attract girls to the block corner

Have you ever had the experience in your classroom where the boys, either through words or actions or sheer number, establish the block corner as "boys only" territory?

Here are 10 tried and true strategies you can use to make the block corner irresistible (and accessible) to girls:

1. Add Fabric Pieces 

Provide lengths of brightly coloured fabric in different textures and/or a basket of two of small fabric pieces.

Children use them with their block creations to make tents and houses, to decorate or as picnic blankets, as costumes, as a way to hide, and many other things.

2. Accessorise.

Include a basket or two of adornments and natural elements such as beads, shells, coloured tiles, seed pods or silk flowers.

Stand back and watch what happens.

3. Add writing props

Markers, paper and tape to encourage label and sign making; old plans, pens and clipboards to encourage drawing plans.

Or try placing a bucket of construction paper and a couple of baskets of collage materials alongside the blocks to see what they they create.

5. Bring the dramatic play corner to the block corner

Why not bring in the dolls and doll blankets; dress ups; a tea set or play food?  Or add some stuffed animals?

6. Bring the doll house into the block corner

The dolls may get a new extension for their home! A small basket of cars can inspire the building of roads to and from the doll house.

7. Add wooden dolls and dolls furniture 

8. Experiment with moving the block corner.

Placing the block corner next to the traditionally female dominated areas such as the dramatic play area can encourage the children to make connections between the two areas.

What started in the dress ups area with 2 girls finding outfits to dress up as tooth fairies ended in the block corner making a castle for the fairies to live in.

9. Bigger is better 

Noise and overcrowding, not to mention the frustration of having your creations knocked over, can be off putting for some children. If you are short on space in the block area, can you arrange the room differently to give the children room to move? Or perhaps creating a second block area will spread the load.

10. Pimp up your block corner.

Or as the talented Sherry and Donna from Irresistible Ideas for Playbased Learning would say "Make it irresistible".

This block area is aesthetically pleasing, organised and engaging, with materials presented in an interesting and provocative way that will challenge and extend the child’s understandings, whilst also encouraging imagination and expression. 

Seriously, who could resist playing here?

11. Pimp up your blocks.

Here is another one from this wonderful site - check out how they made these blocks themselves using offcuts of wood.

Another idea is to create personal blocks using photographs of individual children taped to a block, and covered with clear contact paper.

12. Add micro-figures to the block corner.

You will find baskets of farm or zoo animals in most block corners. What I've found interesting is that our girls go crazy for really tiny animal figures (particularly dogs and cats if you can find them).

These props are like gold at our preschool and are guaranteed to draw a crowd.

13. Make a block book or photo display.

Our block book is in a simple folder with clear sleeve inserts. Each page is a picture of a block construction and the proud builder/s, often with a narrative attached.

I am also a big fan of displaying photos in frames in the different play spaces. Photo frames lining the top of the block shelves, displaying photos of girls playing in the area.

These ideas offer the children a sense of belonging through the visible documentation of learning experiences that the child has been involved in – showing them that these experiences were meaningful.

14. Sit in the block corner.

This is probably the most important.

An interested and enthusiastic teacher's presence in the block corner is the thing most guaranteed to attract children to it.

Choose a time when the block center is not crowded and invite some girls to come in and play with you. Sit on the floor with them and begin building, asking open-ended questions, and supporting them in problem solving if the need arises.

Look what can happen when you do:

Have you tried something fabulous in your block area that had the girls absorbed in the valuable pursuit of block play?

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  1. Wow, love this post. Thank you for helping imagine so many new ways to envision the block area!

  2. This is great,and much needed.I am going to share this on Twitter.

  3. I love this post but just a tip - you really have to fix up your numbering, tis shocking :)

  4. great suggestions, jenny! i'll be adding fabric and doo-dads to our blocks.

  5. Fabulous to see these ideas set out so beautifully! Some I have already discovered, others inspire me to greater things.

    Do you know, I always had a huge block area in my room but the other staff hated it?! I had to put my foot down to allow the kids enough space to make really extensive constructions. I will bookmark this page for future use!!

  6. I've seen some of these ideas before, but there are some things I hadn't thought of. It's great to see all these ideas in one place. I'll save this post for future reference. I've linked up to your post on my weekly favorites here:
    Thanks for another great post!

  7. Truly a great post! My sons kindy has a block corner and I never see the girls playing with it.. never.. Think I'll send the teacher this link :)

  8. I would agree - animals are always guarantee to draw a crowd. We added some plain wooden peg people and they proved great for story telling.

  9. I would agree - animals and blocks are a great combination and appeal to many. We added some plain peg people to our blocks recently and the story telling they encouraged was fantastic.

  10. Great post. We have incorporated many of these ideas throughout the year and find girls frequenting the block area as much as boys. We added battery tea lights which were a big hit.