Tell your children and they’ll probably want to build a fantastic tower or enormous birthday cake in the construction corner. This year, 2013, marks the Unit Block’s 100th birthday.
In 1913, Caroline Pratt was a young teacher working in Manhattan. Having grown up on a farm, she understood about hands-on learning. But she realised that city children were deprived of much of the practical know-how that seemed natural to country kids. This concern, coupled with inspiration from the Froebel course she’d just completed, led Pratt to design the Unit Block. Its mathematical proportions and open-ended nature blend perfectly with Froebel’s philosophy.
Because there is no “correct” use of blocks, children have no fear of failure. Imagination guides their play, and each experiment encourages the next. While observing block play, adults can almost hear a child’s thoughts! Block play allows children to represent ideas in concrete ways – preparing their minds for more abstract forms of symbolism, such as written language. Block play supports knowledge and understanding of the world as children create miniature environments and experiment with concepts like design, symmetry and balance. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright attributed his success to an early love of block play. To learn more, watch this video.
And while some of us are celebrating, this child is busy taking Unit Blocks forward into their next hundred years!