Happy Architect Review

One of our favourite areas in the room has always been the “construction corner.” I have watched wood blocks transform into pirate ships, tall towers, trees, baby carriages and everything in-between…many, many, times over the years. Perhaps what makes this corner my personal favourite, is simply the open-ended play that it provides my multi-age group. There is no “appropriate” age for building and constructing – building blocks support all ages and stages of development.

Over the past few weeks, my small group of eight children (ages two to four right now) have collectively been involved in dramatic play over in the construction area. Now, if you have ever known a two and a half-year-old and a three and a half-year-old separately, you can understand that cooperative play amongst these ages can and does indeed happen, but it’s rare when it comes to building because often the two-year-old is more interested in the inevitable crash of towers than the construction. If the common theme was “house” you could guarantee that the children were utilizing the blocks to build a kitchen or using the smaller blocks as various food items or props in their play. With the interest so high in the “construction corner” I was excited to have the opportunity to test out the Happy Architect sent to us from Quality Classrooms.

Upon receiving the package – I assumed that the 28 pieces in the box weren’t going to be enough pieces for a collaborative project amongst the children; but, keeping an open mind, I opened it up and presented the pieces to the group. They got to work right away – as you can tell in this one photo, they worked separately on their own projects (often referring to the pieces as puzzles *interesting*).

Some of my first thoughts about these blocks:
– They are NOT necessarily open-ended. They need to be utilized in a specific way in order to construct anything
– They do feel beautiful and like a quality item
– I wondered if the children would grow frustrated with these as most of the materials in our room are open-ended and don’t have a specific or rather, “correct” way to be utilized.

Over the next few weeks, a few of the children spent a lot of time building “the puzzle” and deconstructing it to build it another way – I could tell that these types of blocks were promoting some thinking challenges for the children, and I liked it. It wasn’t long before they were being used in other (more typical for my group) ways…photographed is a sailboat in the making complete with a highchair for the baby. I think once the children became familiar with how to connect the pieces, they were more easily used in other types of play.

In sum – these are really interesting building blocks for children. They most definitely support the development of the varying ages in my group (I observed a lot of scaffolding, problem-solving, communication, and both fine and gross motor skills being utilized – to name a few). I look forward to observing the new ways the children utilize them going forward.

Written by Ashley Elliot, a licensed ECE in British Columbia

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