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Is It Safe, Strong and Beautiful? Blocks in the Rivers Class!

March 15, 2022 | Kristen Jordan

Several weeks ago, Ms Gluckow introduced blocks to the Rivers Children.  They began with the “Unit Blocks”; meeting one block at at time, learning the name of each block, and practicing building simple structures.

Through this work, children have gained an understanding of the procedures for using blocks safely and with purpose. Blocks are a big part of our math curriculum.  Children compare block sizes, must figure out which size will work for the space they want, and think about equivalencies.

They begin to understand that 2 squares equal a unit block, two units are the same as a double (and 4 units, etc.)  “We already did half so we only need 8. It’s 4 wide so it’s 16 wide.” Blocks provide challenges for young children in terms of spatial and mathematical understandings, knowledge and skills. 

Children learn to build “safe, strong and beautiful” structures as they work with blocks.  These ideas are emphasized over and over as they work with teachers so that they are eventually able to consider these concepts as they work independently and reflect on what they build.  We often see them doing the “finger check” to see if their structure is strong or if they need to make some adjustments, like adding “connectors” to make sure it stands.

“I am making a connector. It’ll be strong.”

We believe that it is important to make work beautiful; work that children can be proud of.  Blocks are an area where many children find great success in creating beauty. 

Children think about the world around them and can try to represent what they know with blocks.“I want to make a balcony. It’s DD’s house”   

Often children work with other friends in the block area and this requires talking to one another, making a plan, and regularly compromising.   When they built their city, the children had to really work together to think about what and how to build.  Experiences in blocks support social-emotional and language development, problem solving and creative thinking.

After children worked with the Unit Blocks, they were introduced to Hollow Blocks.  These blocks are very large so a big part of learning to build with them is how to carry and work with them safely. Children learn to use their “lobster claws” to grip and carry the Hollow Blocks.They build strength and stamina as they exercise some gross motor movement and control.

Just as with the Unit Blocks, children build safe, strong and beautiful structures and then they play with their creations! The larger Hollow Blocks bring about a different type of play because as soon as they build they can put their body in or on their structure and use their imagination in a different way through dramatic play.  “Can you imagine going inside the building I made?”

Children have been creating many fun places to play with the hollow blocks!

“I’m dancing!” 

They built several thrones of various types.

“I am making a princess chair.  I want it high.”

 “I am a Queen.” 


They made a castle. “This can be a gate. It closes and opens”

“This is a visiting door with a peeking hole.”

And other fun places to imagine and play!

Both Unit Blocks and Hollow Blocks are a great language for expression for young children: expression of ideas, thoughts, stories, and understanding.  WE LOVE BLOCKS!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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