A couple of yeas ago now I went to a workshop presentation by Nate Folan, the author of the activity book The Hundredth Monkey. A great time was had by all to say the least. My favorite discovery from Nate's workshop was his use of wooden building blocks. Needless to say I went out right away to get my own set and I've been using them a lot over the past couple of years.
Throughout the book the block activities are presented separately, but Nate showed us a sequence of activities that I tend to stick with and have added to. I want to share my additions here and, with respect, mention Nate's gems in hopes to entice you enough to pick up his book (BTW - My new activity book is now available. Find it on Amazon.)
Needs: A set of 2 inch wooden building blocks (I picked up a set of 48 at Walmart in the baby toys section). You will want at least one block per participant and more if you want to build sculptures. (Note: There are smaller block sets available, I think they are an inch and a half. Smaller blocks make most of the activities a bit more challenging.)
Mix-and-Mingle (my addition): Every player picks up a block then walks around to find out the commonalities s/he has with other player's blocks. Be sure to learn player's names in the process.
Connection (my addition): Players exchange blocks for a while until you say "STOP" then find something they connect with on the block they have in hand (e.g., favorite color, special toy, a word that reminds them of a good memory). Then, players go around sharing their connect with others. If you want, have players exchange blocks after a share. Players then have to find a connection to the new block, then share.
Ice-Cube Dance (Nate's): Players press one or two blocks together, each using one index finger. Pairs then explore how to move around each other and the playing space without dropping the block(s).
Ice-Cube Tag (Nate's): Pressing two blocks between an index finger, pairs move around the area trying to dislodge other players' blocks using only the free index finger available. After a drop players re-set, or find a new partner to play with, and then re-enter the game.
Block Sculpture (Nate's): Groups of 6 to 8 players get together and build a three-dimensional sculpture with the blocks they are given (2 to 3 blocks per person). Once the sculpture is built the group attempts to raise it up, only using index fingers, as high as they can and then lower it back down without dropping any blocks (see first picture above).
Skyscraper (my addition): Using one block per player a group of 5 to 8 people make a single stack of blocks then try to turn it over 180 degrees and set it back down without dropping any blocks. Using the picture to the left as an example, the "Z" block would be at the bottom of the stack and the "3" block would be at the top after the group turns the stack over.
What else can you do with wooden building blocks? Share your ideas below in the comments.
Have fun out there!
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.