Providing nontraditional materials for the block area invites children to test out new ways of balancing, stacking, building and creating structures. It can spark the interest of children who might not normally spend a lot of time with blocks or create opportunities for cooperative play as children explore a new material.
One classroom at Goodwill of Southern Indiana (an Excellence Academy center) provided a variety of colors and sizes of cups. The children built elaborate walls, pyramids, arches and towers. They incorporated unit blocks to make doorways and roads. Every day they came up with new ways to use the cups, and the play continued for weeks as the children collaborated, tested and built.
Want to get building in your classroom? Here is a list of 6 nontraditional materials to get you going:
1. Cups: Paper, plastic, foam or other, cups are versatile, accessible and cheap.
2. Paper Towel Rolls: Leave them whole to make tunnels and columns or cut them down the sides to make ramps.
3. Flat Rocks: Stacking rocks provides a great challenge of balance. Add some sticks and they can be used to turn a block structure into a nature scene.
4. Boxes: Small ones, large ones, leave them blank or decorate them to look like buildings. Just put a pile of boxes out and the children will know what to do!
5. Plastic Lids: Another great challenge in balancing, a variety of sizes of lids makes for interesting towers. They are also a great way to add circles to block designs.
6. Masking Tape: Place lengths of tape on the floor to make roads. Better yet, hand the tape over to the children and see what they create!