It is a common occurrence across the land. The creative area is teaming with girls and the construction area is awash with boys. To try and rectify this issue I have tried many things.
Banning the boys from the construction areas (to give the girls a chance)
Buying pink construction kits
I even bought pink construction role play costumes (yes, such things do exist!)
My preoccupation was with gender equality. The girls who were not coming into the construction area were staying away because the space was full of boys and these girls had to build with the construction otherwise they weren't having equal access to provision an equal opportunities to learn.
In truth lots of children that I work with (who often, but not always, happen to be girls) don't actually enjoy construction. Even when the boys are not in it.
What I find is that when this group of children do use the construction resources they tend to produce low level structures that they then use for small world or role play. What they don't do is explore the more intricate and complex skills of 'construction'. So for these children the construction area and its resources are a facilitator for other, more preferable learning.
Rather than wasting lots of our time and effort to get certain groups of children into our construction areas, we need to identify the skills that children learn through construction play and actively start promoting those skills in the areas that they do like to visit.
Then, if we are secure in the fact that we are promoting the skills of construction in the small world, the sand and the creative area, does it matter that certain children never go into construction? If you are learning to connect does it matter that you learnt that skill in the creative area rather than with a piece of 'Mobilo' in your hand? I would say not.
So, the first thing that we need to do is to create a list of the skills that children can learn through construction. Then divide that list into the skills that are 'pure' construction skills and skills that the construction area can facilitate.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it might get you started. I have highlighted first word of all of the 'pure' skills in blue and the facilitative skills in red.
- promotes learning about the
function of objects entrances, exits and pathways. How to navigate inside, out, through and
- allows children to show their knowledge of
something and how it works long before they have the language to be able to
verbalise what it is they know.
- supports fine and gross motor development
- encourages the development of spacial awareness
- collecting information through observation
- helps children to classify by common characteristics
- exploration what happens to an object as you manipulate it
- trajectory (commonly known as chucking or dropping your
- find out how weight and shape effects movement and motion (it is much
harder to roll a square brick than a round one!)
- explore force and motion
- experience height, width, length and size.
- opportunity to sort, count , make patterns , sequence , remember numbers, counting on, fractions (construction kits like Duplo and Lego are
particularly good for this).
- use geometric shapes with a 'real' purpose.
- create symmetry
- experience scale ( children need opportunity to build with large and
Working together in construction encourages:
- Acquisition of language (especially through peer building
Construction allows children to practise:
- creating lines
- enclosing (like making tunnels, houses)
- making things equal
- creating shapes
- stepping (as in making steps)
So, according to my list so far, there are no skills that you can only develop in the construction area. Admittedly, lots of the above are easily developed by construction kits and it makes sense to have one area that primarily develops them but none of them are exclusive.
What we need to do for construction (and EVERY other area of our provision) is to identify the 'core' skills that that area promotes and develops. Then, if children are not choosing to come into an area because they are not interested in it or motivated by it, we can actively ensure that they are getting access to those skills elsewhere.
Who knew there were so many ways to acquire construction skills without being in construction?
If you have children who want to access the construction area but can't or won't because it is consistently dominated by a 'core' group of children then that is a completely different issue. The key to solving that issue will lie within your wider provision. The 'core' group probably only dominate one area because there is nothing else in your entire provision that provides the same level of interest, sense of achievement and overall feeling of well being – but that is a whole other blog post!
As a general rule:
Identify the core skills and the facilitative skills that each area can offer (this list will change over time depending on your enhancements)
Use assessment and observation to identify what your children need to experience and learn then level your provision for challenge
Carry out regular observations of your environment as well as your children to see who goes where, which spaces are full and which are left empty
Use your knowledge of your children and their interests to dress and enhance your environment to encourage and support engagement
Make sure your construction equipment is varied, levelled for challenge and appears in numerous areas indoors and out
Remember that it is high level engagement that will give you high level attainment