The package containing our Arches & Tunnels arrived on a Friday afternoon. Initially I planned to wait until Monday before introducing the children to the new item to review but there were only a few children here so I decided it that it would be a fun way to end the week. After the children got up from nap, I let them open the package.
I didn't tell them what it was - although 'arches' is an accurate description of the shape of these blocks, I felt 'tunnels' might influence the children's use of the blocks. I wanted them to use their imagination and not have the product name limit what they chose to create. However, the first thing they did was make "the longest tunnel ever" and of course they used the packaging to 'decorate' it too;
I confiscated the box - I know they would have loved to play with it too but I needed it for storage!
I was impressed by the quality of these arches - they are sturdy and smooth with no sharp corners or edges. I really wanted the children to see these blocks as more than just tunnels but I resisted the urge to make any suggestions or direct their play. They eventually started to make other things like 'garages' - most of which were really just shorter tunnels but some had a different design (the packaging was used as the roof on the circular garages).
They played exclusively with the arches for the remainder of the afternoon. By home time they had begun to make 'flowers'.
The following week everyone got a chance to use the arches - the children in my current group range in age from 18 months to eight years old. The older ones really showed off their engineering and design skills.
The preschoolers' garages evolved to be much more elaborate than their initial circle or short tunnel;
The school-age children then developed the 'roller coaster' game which soon became the preschoolers favourite game. The goal of this game was to move the arch in such a way that the vehicle would roll all the way from one end to the other without falling off.
Of course some of the children suggested bonus points if you could hold it high in the air and rock it really, really fast while running in circles. *sigh* I much preferred 'calm and gentle' in our small, indoor, mixed use space but I'll admit some of them could demonstrate quite impressive skills even if it caused me a bit of angst.
Most interestingly it was one of the preschoolers who discovered they could make 'numbers' with the arches - wow!
After several weeks of play, none of this group of children ever lost interest in playing with the Arches & Tunnels. However, there were a few things that I think would improve the play value - at least for me and this group. We definitely could use many more blocks. Even if only one child was using them they would run out of pieces before they completed their construction projects. There were many disputes if two or more wanted to build at the same time.
Yet, having many more blocks of this size would have been an issue in our small space. Sure the large size is nice when you want to drive a truck through a tunnel but honestly, after that first afternoon no one ever made another tunnel. Construction with curved blocks offered so many more design opportunities than are possible with straight, square or rectangle blocks. It was fascinating to watch their creativity flourish. I wish we had hundreds of small arches to build with. I even tried boiling some tongue depressors and shaping the softened wood around a can. Sadly, it is not easy and it would take me years worth of time I don't have in order to make enough.
So, until someone makes us a bigger set of small arches we will have to keep taking turns using our big arches to build small projects.
Written by Cheryl, an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).