Many years ago when I was helping to set up a new preschool program at my local museum we were on a very tight budget. Much thinking went into deciding which materials we should buy first, which could we attempt to make ourselves, and which could be purchased later.
There’s no one answer to those questions but for me I felt strongly that wooden blocks were an excellent investment. Now almost ten years later, I was visiting that program, and was please to see the same shelf and set of blocks are still there. Well loved and cared for I wonder how many different creations and configurations those blocks have been made into. How many hours of engaged play have been spent with those materials?
Today it was quite heartwarming to see this current group of preschoolers building and creating with those same wooden blocks for most of the free choice time. As they were building, I noticed that some of the blocks had laminated photographs taped onto the blocks. After asking one of the children they explained that a while back when they studied the town the teacher made the blocks so they could re-create the town and make maps. What a wonderful way to bring the town to life in the block center, and though I have seen this done in other classrooms, I would have to say that this particular set was especially beautiful.
It’s these kinds of personalized touches that make a learning environment feel like home. Though programs can buy all sort of materials from teacher catalogs, investing in simple well made toys is the best investment that any early childhood program can make. Personalizing the materials to the place that you live is even more rich and rewarding!
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