Building Better Block Play Part 1

CRASHING And Cleanup

Now, let’s look at two common block play activities that often generate friction in early learning settings–CRASHING and cleanup.


CRASHING down what they create is an important part of block play for some children. Destroying what they build is part of the creation process–wiping the slate clean so they can create again. CRASHING also offers a chance to hone hand-eye coordination, muscle control, visual tracking skills, social skills, self-regulation and more. Plus, it’s fun.

That said, CRASHING down block structures is against the rules in many early learning situations. It’s seen as too noisy, too dangerous, or too destructive.

In our program, we made it OK to throw things at towers to knock them over as long as no one was in the Crash Zone. We also added a rug to the block play area to mute the sound of the crashes and protect the hardwood floor.

Instead of instinctively saying NO to activities like tower CRASHING, it’s important to reflect–looking for developmental value. If you can suss out such value, then it is important to find ways to support the activity.

Managing your block play area to best support child-led learning usually requires a lot of observation of how children use the space. We’ve created a number of helpful observation tools that you may find helpful when observing block play. Links are provided on this session’s resource page.

Block Play Cleanup

Cleanup time is another friction point in many block play areas. Here’s a quick video looking at the topic:

There are many approaches to block play cleanup. It’s important to have a thoughtful policy that’s developmentally appropriate. Two-year-olds, for example, are developmentally able to sort and organize blocks as well as four-year-olds.


When it comes to block play rules and management of the block play space, the key point is to be willing to step back and evaluate the way you do things and make changes as needed. Just because a rule or practice has been in existence for a long time does not mean it is effective and should be maintained.

We’ll end this module with a few questions and then move on to some more thought on supporting block play.

Lesson tags: building better block play part 1
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