Learning construction

Many children enjoy exploring materials and objects to see how they were put together and how they work. They will happily take things apart and invent new uses for them. Young children make ‘houses’ and create play spaces that require considerable inventiveness and planning. They enjoy handling construction materials, experiencing their solidity and exploring their expressive and construction possibilities. Developing spatial awareness and awareness of the strengths and possibilities of materials go hand in hand with imaginative play and make believe. Construction activities at all levels provide opportunities for developing ideas about structure and space and for organising, planning and carrying them through.

Construction starts in infant classes with simple building and balancing, for example with a number of small boxes. Children may be asked to build high, to incorporate a bridge or doorway, or to play with the boxes in a creative way, arranging and rearranging them to express the world of their imagination. It should be understood that an element of ‘let’s pretend’ is part of this, and they should be encouraged to talk about their constructions.

At times there may be an opportunity to define spaces in their own way, for example with large lightweight boxes, and to play make-believe within these spaces: there are opportunities for integration with drama here. On the basis of this type of experience, children will be able, as they develop, to build increasingly complex structures. They will be encouraged to create more subtle and varied spatial configurations, using open and closed spaces. They should always be encouraged to view their work from a variety of angles to maintain a three-dimensional consciousness of the whole.

Children need some form of stimulus as a starting point for construction activities. This could include:

  • Working from experience and imagination
  • Focusing on materials and tools
  • Working from observation and curiosity