Story Making with Blocks

by | Apr 2, 2024 | StoryMaking

Hotel by Ashton 2

Not all stories begin with a book or pictures. Often, stories emerge through connection to place.

It was playtime in this small-town kindergarten classroom. The children could choose from a selection of materials during this time. Noah was decisive. “I want to build with blocks,” he said. ’I want to make something tall!”

Noah began stacking blocks to make his tower. His intent to build up from a narrow base reminded me of how the CN Tower stood tall but without a huge footprint. When I shared my association of his build to this Toronto skyscraper, Noah’s enthusiasm grew. He remembered being in Toronto and seeing the CN Tower. He would build the CN Tower! As Noah thought about the shape of this skyscraper, he remembered that, as well as it being tall, there was a middle part that was fatter than at the bottom or top of the tower. People, he told me, could go inside that middle part. I found a picture of the CN Tower on my phone, and we looked at it together. He was puzzled about how to make the middle part of the tower with the blocks he was using. He also had trouble making his tower remain stable. It kept toppling over before he was able to make it as tall as he wanted.

He decided to switch gears and build hotels near the CN Tower instead of the tower itself.

“I lived in a hotel for a whole day!”  Noah told me. He built several hotels to different heights, and with different roof lines.


Hotel by Ashton 1
Hotel by Ashton 1


And then Noah designed a crane he had seen in downtown Toronto too.

The remembrances and excitement Noah was telling through his blocks and words captured Mia’s imagination. She had been to Toronto and seen the CN Tower too! Maybe she could build it. It would, of course, need to be surrounded by Noah’s hotels and crane. Unlike their hometown, she knew that downtown Toronto is full of hotels, construction projects, and places like the CN Tower to visit.


Hotel by Ashton 1

She studied the picture of the CN Tower on my phone and, like Noah, started to build her tower high. The blocks were tippy. At first, she experienced frustration. Her building kept falling down. I suggested she look closely at the way she was stacking the blocks. Maybe she could discover why her tower wobbled. Mia experimented with how much of the blocks’ surfaces touched one another. She began working with her blocks more slowly and carefully, ensuring that each block was perfectly aligned with the block below before adding another. Her tower grew. But it still lacked the tall spire at the top. She searched for alternative materials with circular properties. Her eyes lit up when she spied cylindrical foam pieces. These, she surmised, would work for the spire. She selected colourful foam cylinders to show how the CN Tower lights up at night. It was very tricky to create the tower without it falling over… but she did it!



Hotel by Ashton 1

This story making of life in downtown Toronto drew in other children who also knew this Canadian city to be bustling with buildings, construction, and activity. More buildings and even parking lots emerged in their expanding ‘city’.

I watched with fascination as their shared connection to place became a child-led story they co-created with one another.