Quality Block Center (ECERS-R)

We all know the wonderful benefits of block play to a child’s total development: physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. But it is important to also remember that the number of blocks available, the space provided for block play, and the teacher support and interaction with children during block play will all affect the quality of the children’s experience.

At the good level of quality, The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R) requires enough space, blocks and accessories for three children to be able to build sizable structures at the same time. We often see programs who lose credit because they fail to meet all the requirements for this indicator.

girls building block tower2_diversityHow much space is enough?

  • There must be enough room for three children to build sizable structures, such as long roads or large buildings, without having to compete for space.
  • Blocks centers tend to be a place where we find other materials particularly small building materials, such as Legos, Lincoln Logs and even train sets, all of which are considered fine motor materials. It is important to remember if those activities take up enough space so that it interferes with block play, programs can lose credit.

How many blocks are enough?

  • Determining the amount of blocks a program needs is a little more complicated. First, the ages of the children in the classroom must be considered. Younger preschoolers may require fewer blocks because their block structures tend to be less complex. While older children who are capable of building more complex structures will use more blocks. I can remember observing in a 4-year-old preschool, and one child used over 98 blocks to build her castle.
  • The size of the blocks is another factor. If many of your blocks are smaller in size you will need more. Likewise, less will be required if you have larger blocks, such as hollow blocks.
  • Finally, the interactions of the children will also determine if there are “enough blocks”.   If children often have to compete for “favorite” types of blocks because they are just a few, this would not be considered “enough” even if it appears there are plenty other blocks.

What kind of accessories are needed and how many is enough?

At the good level of quality (level 5), there must be two accessories that support block play. For example, a set of farm animals for children to build a barn or fence around them, or people so children can build houses for them. Other acceptable accessories include vehicles and other accessories used to enhance block play such as traffic signs and small buildings.

When all these requirements are met the open-ended possibilities that blocks provide are limited only to a child’s imagination!

For more information:

Harms, T., Clifford, R. & Cryer, D. (2005) Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, New York: Teacher’s College Press

Harms, T., Clifford, R. & Cryer, D. (2003) All About The ECERS-R, New York: Teacher’s College Press

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Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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