“Under Construction” signs solve a huge problem when it comes to the blocks center. Sometimes, one day just isn’t enough to finish a big project. The same is true for preschoolers who have BIG ideas and little hands. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for a young child to be ALMOST done building the Best Block Castle Ever…just to have to tear it all down because it’s clean-up time?
Instead of making students clean up something they have worked hard to construct, extending the play beyond the day allows them to think bigger, think longer, and learn more.
Benefits to Extending the Play with “Under Construction” Signs
Allowing students to carry on play from one day to the next, or even throughout the day, comes with many benefits. Students who are given this opportunity:
- Take their time while playing and don’t rush
- Take bigger risks – they know if it falls, they can rebuild it
- Use the time away from the center to review their work
- Stretch their brains by taking ideas from the downtime back to the block center
- Invite others to join them
- Build a sense of pride and accomplishment
- Develop perserverance or “grit” when it comes to longer projects
And, of course, using signs reinforces literacy skills by using text to show meaning!
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Cleaning Up without Breaking It Up
For students to understand what the “Under Construction” signs mean, it is essential to instruct them that the area does NOT need to be completely put away when they see the signs. Instead, the students playing in that area gather the loose parts and tidy the area but can keep up their work. Those students are, however, expected to assist in cleaning up other areas at playtime.
When to Call It Quits
Sometimes it can be hard to say goodbye to a good tower. Defining reasonable boundaries when the “Under Construction” signs are first introduced helps keep students from insisting their tower stay up indefinitely. Each classroom situation is different. One teacher might be able to extend the offer for a week. Others may have to clean up entirely at the end of every day or even after a few hours. This can also lead to a good classroom discussion about limits and how long the students feel is fair.
When it is finally time to clean up the center, some students may still struggle. Taking a photo of the block construction can be a great way to help students feel as if they can keep it longer. They might even refer to the picture to rebuild it later!
Using the Under Construction Signs in Smaller Spaces
Unfortunately, many centers are limited on space or need to use the whole classroom for other activities, naptime cots, or even share the space with other classes. The “Under Construction” signs work great for smaller projects as well! Play dough creations, lego builds, Perler beads, art projects, and any other project a student needs extra time on can be moved to a safe space with the sign near it. When the student is ready to return to the project, they’ll find it safe and sound!
More Resources on Block Play
NAEYC has information on ten things children learn from the block center.
Here is a good article on how to set up a block center from Kaplan Resources.
Combine Art and Blocks with this fun art project.