Updated: Jun 6, 2021
A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum
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The Building Blocks of Learning
Playing with blocks is one of the fundamentals of early childhood. This unit builds on this universal interest in building and expands on it to examine the trucks, tools and tradesmen involved in construction. I love that it also brought attention to the teamwork aspect of the industry. It didn't hurt that this topic was super high-interest for my toddler.
Building Background Knowledge
Many toddlers and preschoolers (boys and girls alike) can identify different types of trucks and construction vehicles. Where they may need a little help is understanding the different task that each performs and how they work together. In addition, trade professionals each have their own tools and skills but they all have to do their part to get the job done.
Getting Our Hands Dirty
Here is my toddler explaining how the bulldozer (actually a front-end loader, I think??) scoops the dirt and the dump truck hauls it away. This was a light bulb moment for him that they didn't both just play in the dirt; they had a specific job to do. We had built two raised garden beds, but it was still winter so I hadn't planted anything in the second bed which worked out great because my toddler could dig and role play in the dirt.
*Books with an asterisk are my Top 5 Picks to Add to Your Home Library for this unit
Builders and Breakers - Light, Steve
Busy Busy Construction Site - Scarry, Richard
The Construction Alphabet - Pallotta, Jerry
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site* - Rinker, Sherri Duskey
Building a House - Byron, Barton (diverse characters)
Brick by Brick - Sheffield, Heidi Woodward
Additional Book List
Books in bold are also suggested books in another unit.
How a House is Built - Gibbons, Gail
B is for Bulldozer - Sobel, June --> I actually prefer this one to The Construction Alphabet (even with its beautiful illustrations) as it is far less wordy (diverse characters)
Construction - Sutton, Sally
Demolition - Sutton, Sally
Roadwork - Sutton, Sally
Dig, Dump, Roll - Sutton, Sally
What Can a Crane Pick Up? - Dotlich Kai, Rebecca
On the Construction Site (A Shine-A-Light Book) - Brown, Carron
Let's Meet a Construction Worker - Heos, Bridget
Whose Hat is This? - Knowles, Laura
Whose Tools? - Busseo, Toni
Hello, World! Construction Site - McDonald, Jill --> Great for younger children!
Bang Bang Tap Tap - Garcia, Emma --> Great for younger children!
Tip Tip Dig Dig - Garcia, Emma --> Great for younger children!
Dig a Tunnel - Hunter, Ryan Ann
The Home Depot Big Book of Tools - Weinberger, Kimberly
The Truck Book - McNaught, Harry
Work Dogs Work* - Horvath, James
Dig! - Zimmerman, Andrea
The Digger and the Flower - Keufler, Joseph
Little Excavator* - Dewdney, Anna <-- One of our absolute favorites! (growth mindset)
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? - Sayres, Brianna Caplan
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel - Burton, Virginia Lee <-- don't miss this classic
Mighty, Mighty Construction Site* - Rinker, Sherri Duskey <-- I hardly ever say this about a follow-up book, but I like this as much Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and I think it is more suitable to this unit as it focuses on teamwork. See my full review here.
Three Cheers for Kid McGear! - Rinker, Sherri Duskey
Build. Dogs, Build A Tall Tail - Horvath, James
Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail - Horvath, James
Backhoe Joe - Alexander, Lori
Pete the Cat: Construction Destruction - Dean, James
Iggy Peck Architect - Beaty, Andrea
If I Built a House - Van Dusen, Chris
Curious George Tool Time - Rey, H.A.
Block City - Stevenson, Robert Louis
When I Build With Blocks - Alling, Niki
This unit lends itself to a lot of free play and role play so give your child the tools they need to explore the concepts and encourage them to design, dig and build!
“Playing with blocks helps children develop their vocabularies, improves math skills, and even teaches them about gravity, balance, and geometry. They learn how to describe colors, shapes, sizes and positions as they build various structures.” - Gigibloks.com
Educational Games and Toys
Developing Life Skills: Activate your child's inner architect. Use whatever building materials you have (blocks, Legos, Magna-Tiles, cardboard boxes, Popsicle sticks and marshmallows) and let them build! If they aren't sure what to build, give them an open-ended prompt (i.e. Can you build a tower for Rapunzel? Can you make a garage for your trucks?)
Field Trip: Find a neighborhood nearby where new houses are being built. Take a drive-by field trip every few days to see the houses taking shape. Pull over on the curb and watch the workers do their job or the weather is nice, bring the stroller and take a walk. We got lucky one day and got there just in time to see the cement mixer pouring the driveway!
Read Along Play Along Activity: Using the book Block City, ask your child to pretend they are the little boy in the book building his palace and city with blocks, toys and figurines. At the end, they get to knock it down and build another day!
Taste-Safe Sensory Tray: Give your child a large sheet pan and small bowls of construction-themed snacks and ask them to set up a construction site: dirt (crushed Oreos), Chex Mix (building materials), Lego candy (bricks), Candy Corn (construction cones), Coco Puffs (rocks), marshmallow creme (concrete) and chocolate pudding (mud). Add some small construction vehicles and let them play! If they need a little help, ask them to re-create their favorite scene from their favorite construction book.
Water Play: Set up Busy Toddler's Bubble Trucks Sensory Bin featuring bubble foam
STEM Activity: No Time for Flashcard's Foam Blocks and Shaving Cream Towers
Easy Craft: Colorful Shape House from My Mommy Style
Fine Motor Skills: Smashing Fruit Loops with a hammer from Everyday Chaos and Calm
Pre-writing Activity: Pre-writing Lines with trucks from Days with Grey
Gross Motor Skills: Set up some construction (soccer) cones to make an obstacle course outside. Ask them to "lift" one like a crane and "bulldoze" the next. When you're done, they can help clean up by "building" a tall tower of cones.
Art Activity: Squirt some paint and let your little one stamp with shapes to create their own piece of artwork. There are several varieties of this. I used my old Fisher Price shape sorter shapes but you could use Lego DUPLOS for block painting (a la Raising Little Super Heroes) or your Melissa and Doug Rainbow Caterpillar "gears" as described in Fun-a-Day's blog post.
Some children (and adults) need a visual prompt for building with blocks. I found an interesting post from You Clever Monkey on the importance of playing with blocks and How to Prompt Block Play and Challenge Your Child with a link to a free download of Block Prompt Cards. These really helped my toddler to see beyond the individual shapes of the wooden blocks and give him ideas for how to use them (other than building the tallest tower in the world as per usual).