Your Home Daycare: The Block Center and The Manipulative Center

 By Lisa Henderson, B.S. Child Development



All home daycares should have a block center. Blocks are one of the most important tools in a young child’s development. Block-building teaches children concepts related to space, organization, geometry, balance, coordination, and shape. Children learn they can construct a small world, knock it down, and recreate it.

Your block center should be a large open area, preferably on a carpet. It is recommended NOT to have a table in the block center. Provide a variety of type of blocks to encourage experience in working with different materials. To stretch the children’s imaginations, add some people, street signs, vehicles, dinosaurs and other interesting items. The block center is a busy and noisy area, so keep it away from your book center! It is a great idea to place the block center near the dramatic play area, to encourage girls and boys to frequent both centers. (Statistics show girls spend most of their time in dramatic play and boys spend of of their time in the block center).

Unit blocks are the most highly recommended by child development experts. Unit blocks are usually made from maple wood and are left their natural color. They are an expensive initial investment, but are excellent quality and will last for generations of play. Be sure you have plenty of blocks to accommodate all the children in your daycare.

Lego blocks and Duplo blocks are also highly recommended. These function as both a block and a manipulative, as they require small motor skills to put them together and take them apart. You should provide either a Lego table or small Lego “plates” as a building base. Lego also makes wonderful “themes” that encourage dramatic play in the block center. Add some Lego people, Lego zoo animals, and Lego train and car pieces to your Lego collection. It is a good idea to have some rules specifically for your block center. I have found these two rules to be especially beneficial: (1) You may only build as high as your chin reaches when you are standing, and (2) You may only knock down your OWN blocks. These two rules help to encourage safety and help avoid hurt feelings, respectively. It is very important to allow the children to knock down their own structures, but make sure the children are aware of your safety precautions.



Your home daycare is a growing place for children. It is your responsibility to provide activities that develop their young minds. A manipulative center is a wonderful place, encouraging fine motor skills, thinking and problem-solving skills, and sequencing skills. This is a great place to include your math and science materials if you do not have a separate center for those items. The manipulative center should include a small table and no more than 2 chairs at a table, some floor space to work on, good lighting, and a large variety of materials.

Some of the materials I recommend for the manipulative center are: links, wood puzzles, floor puzzles, peg puzzles, shape sorters, counting and sorting toys, a balancing scale, matching games and activities, pegboards, nuts and bolts, dressing boards, dominos, sorting boards, tanagrams, magnets and magnetic boards, pattern blocks, strings and stringing beads, buttons, spools, lacing cards, small snap-together blocks, magnetic blocks, and a gears construction set.

Be sure the toys span different skill levels, to encourage advancement in difficulty levels. Rotate your manipulative toys on a monthly basis, but keep the most popular items in the center for a longer period of time. Use a variety of colors, textures, and sizes of materials to encourage sensory exploration.

Well, that’s the end of the Your Home Daycare series of articles. I hope you have enjoyed it and were able to learn something new. I appreciate all the positive feedback I have received in regard to the series. Thank you for taking the time to read!


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