Developing Block Play in an Early Years Establishment

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Project summary:

This project investigates ways of implementing high quality block play and enabling an accessible and inviting environment within an establishment.  

Children playing with blocks


This project intends to discover the important benefits that high quality block play can offer children in early years and how to develop the block area within this establishmentWhen conducting this investigation it was identified that the block area attracted a consistent group of children who benefitted from the holistic development that block play providesIt was also observed that a select few children would rarely engage in block playOn that account, it could be  suggested that through building the lead practitioner and staff members knowledge and embedding froebelian principles within their practice that the block area could be further developed to engage children who are not naturally drawn to the area and therefore provide them the developmental benefits that block play can offer. 


The block area in this establishment is always an energetic, vibrant and extremely busy environment.  Great opportunities for learning and development are continuously evident in this area however due to this high level of energy and participants, these opportunities could be more difficult to achieve. 

Previous to this project, the investigating practitioner was not the lead professional in the establishment’s block area.  When taking the lead in the block area it was thought to be beneficial for the practitioner to gain an understanding of high quality block play and how it can be implemented and extended forward.   

To inform this project,  both quantitive and qualitative data were acquired. Initially observations were used to achieve quantitive data in order to discover any indicators of potential areas of progression in the block area.  This information was then followed up by providing for these progression areas and quantitative observations were then conducted to provide context and more detailed findings.  These observations proved to beneficial to the project as they presented clear data as a progression of various areas of development were evident. However, when devising parent questionnaires it was recognised that it would potentially be difficult to acquire qualitative data. In order to obtain more detailed findings, it was then decided that informal interviews could be conducted to be better able to analyse their feelings on block play and their child’s development.   

Froebelian documentation and literature was also used to inform this study. 


The main ethical consideration of this project proved to be maintaining the wellbeing of the participants.  All of the children in the establishment are encouraged to participate in play in the block area and it was discovered that there were a select few children who did not often engage in block play.  These children were then chosen to be observed to discover a potential change and/or progression in their development when involved in block play.  These children were supported and encouraged to participate in block play however would often express that they did not want to be involved, therefore were also supported in engaging in other areas of play.  This ensured they were caused no distress or harm. 

Anonymity and confidentiality of all participants were maintained throughout this investigation.  

“I didn’t know I could build this!” - Child H when completing their first building of Edinburgh Castle.


This project involved building the practitioner’s Froebelian principle knowledge and how embedding these principles into their practice best supports block play.   

Staff members participated in professional dialogue about what their approach is when conducting their practice in block play.  A staff member expressed that they felt high quality block play was achieved when following the children’s interests and allowing them to engage in child led play however using adult intervention when necessary to provide those high quality block play experiences, thus encompassing Froebelian principles including freedom with guidance and knowledgable, nurturing and reflective practitioners. 

This led to the observations of children in the block play area and it became clear that a few children did not often participate in block play.  In order to engage them they were observed and identified their interests in order to encourage them into the block area.  This then presented the opportunities to support these children’s development through supporting and extending upon their interests. 

Child H had been observed entering the block area on rare occasions where they would spend a short period of time and would mostly engage in solitary play before moving to a different area.  This child had clear abilities in both literacy and numeracy as they had been consistently observed to read through fiction and non fiction books, identify numbers and express interest in the pictures within these books.  In order to engage Child H in the block area more fiction and non-fiction books were displayed which initially caught their attention.  The adult then supported the child to read through the books, asking questions about the child’s interests and what they liked and disliked.  “I like the castles in the story, where is it?”  This interaction with the child allowed them to see the child’s interest in castles and Scotland.  The child was then encouraged and supported on numerous occasions to return to the block area and build upon their knowledge.  They developed their numeracy skills as they used more mathematical language describing each block and shapes and used positional and directional language.  It also then showed obvious holistic development as the child discussed and shared ideas with peers, developed cultural awareness and built upon their engineering skills. 

Providing open-ended resources such as loose parts also sparked interest in Child H and other participants as they were then able to express their creativity and expressing their “inner and outer.”  These resources also allowed some children to express themselves through schemas including trajectory, transporting, connection and enclosure which enabled the area to become more accessible for those children. 

The parent interviews that were conducted showed that parent’s had limited knowledge of the benefits that block play can offer.  It showed that due to lack of resources at home their children do not often participate in block play and therefore it is more difficult to witness the holistic development benefits.  However a parent did express their child had shared what they had learned about building castles, showing the impact that block play had on them. 


In conclusion, it was identified that when provided with focused learning opportunities and ample, open ended resources, high quality block play can be achieved and provide great learning and development possibilities for all children, including those who are not initially drawn towards that area.  Knowledgeable, nurturing and reflective practitioners also proved to be vital in this project as this practice allowed children to follow their own interests,  

Moving forwards, it could be suggested that children’s interests and learning from other areas could be added and embodied within the block area  in order to engage those children who are not naturally drawn towards that environment.   

It could also be suggested that an informational block play poster could be provided to parents of children in order to share the advantages of encouraging children to engage in block play. 

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

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