Thursday, May 10, 2012

Noodle Blocks, More Than Play

A dollar store laundry basket $1.00
3 pool noodles from Walmart at $1.88 each
Equals about $7.00 [with tax] and five minutes of effort 
for a surprisingly basketful of fun learning

Measurements are by choice, but I tried to go on units related to the diameter of the noodles. The smallest are about 1/2 the diameter tall, the middle ones the same height as diameter, and the larger ones double height to diameter.

Using a finely serrated bread knife, simply cut through at your marks. No need to be exact.

These three noodles were enough to fill up the laundry basket and provide adequate blocks for 2 children to play with at a time peacefully, three at the most. When all four got in there, there were really some issues of sharing and snatching from each other due to a lack of resources.

Some noodle blocks were a little more wonky than others. I tuned up a few, but left most. After watching them play with them, I wish I would have left the others alone.

These can only be stacked vertically, so there isn't a ton of architectural opportunity here. They aren't very heavy, so no gross motor muscle building like with regular blocks. So what good are they besides being a novelty play item for a few minutes? I was surprised.

It helped to have two different sized noodles. In their wonkiness [lack of perfection, listing drunkenly to one side due to imperfect cuts causing slight angling], I found the children carefully assessing and adjusting their placement to maintain balance, or changing out noodle blocks for others if they just couldn't get it to work on the particular one they were placing it on.  

Due to their lightness, they lacked the weight that regular blocks can utilize to provide counterweight even when off center if stacked correctly. These noodle blocks required a great deal more finesse and thoughtfulness than other blocks.  The children were absolutely determined to stack them as high as they possibly could. Over and over and over again. This was much more of a mental exercise and physics lesson than block play. 
I liked it. A LOT.

Also, because of their lightness, the children had to be VERY careful to not knock them over. While the blocks themselves didn't provide gross motor through weight, the physical effort required to move so carefully around towers and fetch and place the blocks, did.

What else do I like about these noodle blocks? 
They are a big hit with the toddler crowd.
They are soft, but not too soft, and easily held and stacked by toddlers. I imagine they could be a choking hazard for ones with teeth, so watch that, but she's a late bloomer and doesn't have any yet. Actually, for her teething, this provided a nice soft yet firm surface to gnaw upon.

They are also weather proof! 

Heading with them outside now. They will make a great addition to our outdoor block area.
A piece of rope will be provided for lacing them.

These have been all over Pinterest, but I have no idea who the original creator was. I will happily give credit where it's due if I find out. I'm thinking it may be the staff at Family Fun magazine.

Math: logic, reasoning, height, same/different sizing, counting number of blocks high
Science: physics
Fine Motor: manipulating blocks
Gross Motor: getting and placing blocks, especially as they get higher; not knocking over towers
Social: sharing resources, requesting a size or color, turn taking, group dynamics
Tags: block, blocks, block play, preschool, daycare, childcare, pre-k, prek, outdoor, playground, fine motor, gross motor, pool noodle, noodle blocks, noodle, boy, girl, toddler, infant

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