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Ages and Stages of Block Play

How do you develop a more positive attitude toward your block area? First, you need to know the ages and stages of block play. The following is from Block Play: The Complete Guide to Learning and Playing with Blocks by Sharon McDonald (Gryphon House, 2001)

Block Play Stages by Sharon MacDonald

Stage One (Ages 2-3): Children explore the properties of blocks by moving, touching, holding, and feeling as opposed to building.

Stage Two (Age 3): This stage can be called "stack and row" because children stack blocks vertically or lay them horizontally, repeating the same designs over and over.

Stage Three (Ages 3-4): During this stage of development, children begin building structures, especially bridges. At first, children will set up two blocks, leave a space between them, and place a block between to span the space. As the child masters the bridge concept, the bridges become more elaborate.

Stage Four (Age 4): Children begin to develop problem-solving skills by making enclosed structures during this stage of block play. In order to make an enclosed structure, children must plan carefully. After they have mastered enclosures with the blocks lying flat, they will move on to vertical enclosures.

Stage Five (Ages 5-6): During this stage of play, elaborate, decorative structures as well as symmetrical patterns begin to appear and children begin to name their structures. The name rarely relates to the function of the building. For example, a child might have a bathtub, store, farm yard, and swing all in the same structure.

Stage Six (Ages 5-6): Children work cooperatively to build a common structure. They will decide before they start what they are going to build, and assign each other specific roles. Children will want to keep the structure up for several days to continue working and to start dramatic play around the structure.

Remember, the ages listed above are only a guidline.  You may teach a class of 4-year-old children, but they may not all be in the same stage of block play.

Assignment #2: Answer the following questions and e-mail them to

  1. Watch the following 6 videos. What stages of block play do you see in each video?  CLICK HERE for a printable version of the Block Play Stages.

  2. Observe one child in your classroom.  What stage of block play is he or she in?  What behaviors did the child demonstrate that helped you decide what stage(s) they were in.

  3. Does knowing the different stages change your view of block play in your classroom?  Why or why not?

Assignment #3:  Skills Learned Through Block Play


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