What is Constructive Play?
Constructive play (also known as constructing play or construction play) involves manipulating elements of the play environment to construct something new. This may involve all sorts of different construction methods – stacking, assembling, disassembling, sorting or molding, to name just a few.
Why is Constructive Play Important For Children?
Constructive play develops a vast range of skills and behaviours, including;
- The physical skills (both fine and gross motor) necessary to manipulate and control the chosen toy or material,
- Problem solving skills,
- Flexible thinking skills,
- The ability to plan the use of materials to see a design idea become a reality,
- The ability to test ideas,
- Perseverance in the face of construction challenges, and
- When working with others, team work behaviours necessary to successfully and collaboratively complete a task together
Children should be encouraged to fully explore and enjoy constructive play for all of the fabulous developmental opportunities it offers, and, according to Piaget, as an important stage of play in and of itself.
Ideas for Constructive Play
Most commonly when we think of construction play, we think of building blocks or other commercial construction sets but construction play also includes activities such as;
- Putting together a toy train track
- Building a blanket fort
- Creating box constructions with recycled materials
- A pull apart activity table
- Building sand castles
- Digging dams and rivers in mud
- Creating with playdough
- Exploring loose materials
Making the Most of Constructive Play
There are so many ways to play! Here are thirteen simple ways to invite (or extend) construction play experiences in your home, childcare centre or classroom;
1. Add a range of open ended loose materials to your child’s block play (or to other construction sets) – pieces of vinyl, pieces of fabric, balls of wool, small tiles, shells, bottle tops, lengths of ribbon, planks of wood, stones.
2. Add lengths of PVC pipes, clean tin cans, and measuring tapes to your block play area.
3. Add a variety of figurines and vehicles to your construction area, to be used with construction sets.
4. Look for interesting block shapes to stretch the child’s constructing abilities.
5. Add clipboards, paper and pencils to your construction area so that children can draw their building ideas.
6. Buy a bag of wood off cuts and some strong glue as an introduction to woodworking. Over time, add a small handsaw, nails and small hammer.
7. Build cubbies or blanket forts from sheets, chairs, milk crates, large boxes, paint, hay bales, tyres, lengths of bamboo or dowel.
8. Add lengths of plastic pipe and guttering to your sandbox or mud pit.
9. Add creative materials when constructing with boxes and other recycled materials – popsticks, buttons, googly eyes, string, sequins, felt tipped pens, tape, stapler, cotton wool, paint.
10. Adding open ended materials to clay or playdough – matchsticks, popsticks, patty pans, lengths of curling ribbon, googly eyes, buttons, sequins.
11. Set preschool aged children building challenges which require them to work together to develop co-operative and language skills.
12. Teach preschoolers and primary school aged children to weave, finger knit or sew.
13. Choose engaging construction challenges for school aged kids.
What constructive play experiences do your children enjoy? Is there a new way of playing constructively you would like to try?