“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play,” Plato counseled.
The ancient philosopher was on to something. Children learn through play – as they are doing at Allen County Public Library through a new block-play program. PNC awarded the library system $30,000 through its Grow Up Great early-learning initiative to buy multiple sets of blocks and to support programming for child-care groups at the main library and Hessen Cassel, Pontiac and Shawnee branches.
In June and July, the blocks will be available for a “Block Party” series at most branch locations.
Shawnee branch manager Pamela Martin-Diaz demonstrated the power of block play with little ones from Loving Hands Child Care on Friday. The library has a set of Big Blue Blocks – soft foam pieces in multiple shapes – as well as wooden unit blocks and a Rigamajig set, with nuts, bolts and pulleys that allow children to engineer an infinite number of playthings. Two-year-old Natalia Smith busied herself with a handful of unit blocks, while Kambreanna Pringle, 7, connected oversized blocks with nuts and bolts.
“Early Childhood Alliance is providing training on the stages of block play – which all children go through,” Martin-Diaz said. “Then it's building and bridging.”
The eight-stage process ultimately leads to complex structures, with children using blocks to create things they recognize, like cars and houses.
PNC's Catherine Hill said the grant is linking child-care providers working with ECA to the libraries.
“We bring more people in to use the library, where there are a plethora of free resources,” she said. “We're getting Early Childhood Alliance to integrate that into all of their Parents as Teacher and teacher trainings.”