We are keenly aware of the impact of stress upon our
own productivity as adults. We despair of solving a logic
puzzle or a computer glitch when we are worried, tense,
or exhausted. It is only when we leave a problem until the
next day that we find the solution has been staring us in the
face all along.
But we totally ignore this understanding in many school
situations. How different the scores on a test might be if we
recognized that a child has had no food; has been cower-
ing under the bed all night, frightened by verbal or physical
violence in the home; or simply does not perform well under
pressure. We continue to value a quiet, tidy classroom – but
learning is often anything but quiet and tidy.
For children, play is their way of growing: physically, emo-
tionally, socially and cognitively.
Consider the learning that occurs as children build collab-
oratively with hardwood blocks of different shapes and sizes.
4 Cognitively, children learn about structures and balance
as they create a building, about symmetry as they
create a balanced look, about position as they view
the structure from various angles. They develop and
use social skills as they plan what to do, listen to each
other’s ideas, negotiate roles, and share materials.
4 Language develops through social use with others. As
they engage with others, or with an adult, children use
language to describe what they have done, to explain
how it works, to reflect on problems and solutions.
4 Problem solving occurs when children try to find the
block that will fit the space, when they have to change
plans if the building isn’t strong enough and collapses.
4 Emotionally, children develop patience and persistence
as they try over and over again to place the last block
on the top without having the building topple over.
They develop confidence as they gain control over the
materials and experience success.
4 Physically, fine-motor skills continue to develop as
children hold objects and insert them into place and try
to balance and position blocks.