Category Archives: Blocks

Playing in the Gutters

 Anyone who knows me well, knows I am no stranger to Home Depot.  Having married a man with a penchant for home remodeling, I have learned to navigate the aisles well, in search of the right size of screws, the critically needed electrical wire, or the aesthetically pleasing cabinet pull.  Almost without fail, I see something at “the Depot” that appeals to the preschool teacher in me (or maybe it’s the preschooler in me). 

Well, here’s one hardware store find, I think is a blast to use with kids.  These are vinyl gutters.  I can’t recall the price, but I know it was just a few dollars.  They’re the same kind used to run along the edge of your roof.  I had them cut on site at a variety of lengths- 1, 2, 3, and 4 feet.  (I don’t know if there is typically a charge to cut it, I just asked and mentioned it was for preschool.  It’s amazing what people will do for those little ones!)

Once they’re cut, children can use their own imaginations along with constructive and spatial skills to build ramps – or a series of ramps- for cars or balls right in your living room or block area.  Couches, chairs, blocks, stairs, hands, almost anything can be used to prop them up into an inclined plane!

You can set them up with cups, bins, or buckets to catch balls, marbles, or even water, as it runs along the track!  Let the children be involved in creating the track and setting out the targets.  Their gears will be turning as they hypothesize and experiment with their new ideas.

Use them in a large water table, or outside with a small pool.  Add some toy spiders and sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, acting it out as you go!  Set them out in your sandbox for a sand slide or cement chute.  Place them in your playground and see what else the children use them for!

You could even use the gutters on a warm summer play day and have a water race!  Have a group figure out how to work together with their pieces of the gutter to get the water from point A to point B.  They can hold them at different heights as the water runs from one person’s section to another’s!  They quickly learn what a little elevation does for a ramp!  It’s a great mix of science and social skills in one as they work together toward the goal.  (You could play essentially the same game using a ball instead.)

These gutters could be used in so many ways!  Your children will likely show you some new ideas as you let them explore with them!  They really lend themselves to exploration with physics concepts like velocity, inertia, motion, acceleration, gravity….you get the idea.  As an added bonus, they store rather nicely as they stack one inside the other.  So go on.  Play in the gutters!  Tell your mom I said you could.



Filed under Blocks, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity, supplies

Problem Solving Your Play Time


I thought Stacy brought up a good question in regards to the Dinosaurs Invade the Block Area  activity.  I thought I’d share it with you and get some of your great ideas as well.

I have issues with putting dinosaurs out in my classroom. Everytime I do it deteriorates into the children using the dinosaurs to bang or hit on each other. Do you have this problem and if so how do you handle it?

  • In general, if a child is using anything to hurt someone or make others feel unsafe, I would state very clearly that what they are doing is hurting others, and that I can’t let that happen at school. (I often point out that that means I won’t let people hurt them either.) Then I tell them they need to play something else for a while and maybe try again later, when they’re ready to use the toys properly. Then lovingly walk them to another area to play. (Of course, if the behavior is more violent, sometimes I need to remove them from others for a short time.)

    More specific to your question, if you’re finding that every time you put the dinosaurs out, the overall play deteriorates, you may need to be more involved in directing or redirecting the children’s play. You may suggest other plot lines for example, introducing a unifying crisis like a storm where the dinosaurs have to work together to build shelter (specific to the block area). The children may be having a hard time coming up with any story line for dinosaurs besides fighting. Reading stories about dinosaurs (like Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp) will introduce new ideas.

    You may also want to take a few minutes to discuss the issue during your large group time or morning meeting. Be very specific about the kind of play that you’re not happy with and why it isn’t appropriate for school. Ask the children to introduce suggestions for appropriate ways to use the dinosaurs and demonstrate with them. Let them know that you can only use those toys in your classroom if you know they can use them properly and keep each other safe. Don’t be threatening, just be very clear and specific.

    I hope that helps!

  • So now I pose the same question to you!  What do you suggest for redirecting this type of behavior?


Filed under Article, Ask Me, Blocks, social skills

Dinosaurs Invade the Block Area


So this one’s pretty obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.  (Like the time the store clerk had to remind me to actually take my bags with me after paying.)  You may be thinking, “I just put dinosaurs in the sensory table.  Isn’t this pretty much the same thing?”  Well, yes and no.  You can certainly use the same set of dinosaurs, but you’re going to get a different type of play.  In the sensory table, you obviously get sensory play, along with language and dramatic play, but the theme of that dramatic play is likely about flooding or burying.  In the block area, the play is constructive and spatial.  The language and dramatic play elements are still there, but likely in the sense of the dinosaurs seeking refuge in a home or cave, or being trapped or caged.  It may even take on a familial script, or something we couldn’t even imagine yet.  The children not only play with the dinosaurs in a different way in the two areas, but they will play with the blocks in a different way than they do without the dinosaurs.  So don’t worry about it being redundant.  Get those dinosaurs out in your block area too.  The children will love it, and you’ll be surprised at how their play changes.


For more dinosaur activities, click here!


Filed under Blocks, dramatic play, Learning through Play and Experience