Building blocks

The unschooling diaries: week five

One of Arthur’s favourite activities at the moment is building things with Duplo. He was given a set for his second birthday, but it took a little while for him to see the appeal (beyond eating or throwing the bricks anyway). This year, with the addition of a fire station and Batman set, he is well and truly away.

He is sometimes quite happy to build on his own, but he especially loves to direct: sitting down with me or Leigh and getting us to help him create the structures in his mind. We had a great session this week, straight after breakfast one morning.


I’d cleared my writing goals before he’d woken up so I was free to play without worrying about my to do list. And as we played, I was fascinated to see where the building blocks of his inspiration came from: not just the plastic bricks themselves, but the characters and narratives he was drawing from the stories he loves and the world around him to weave into the little world he was creating.

It started with a hospital – the red cross emerging from the pile of bricks and Arthur making connections about what it symbolised, and where his Daddy was working. He decided batman had an ouchy, and put him to bed to be made better by the doctor/fireman. Then he wanted a fire station next to the hospital. And then he decided maybe the hospital was on fire.

As the drama unfolded, more characters were drafted in. One of his favourite films at the moment is Toy Story, and he soon asked for Woody and Buzz Lightyear to come and play too.


They were roughly approximated from duplo bricks, but even just the suggestion of his much-loved characters was enough to enhance his play.


Sending Buzz flying through the air ‘to infinity and beyond’ got Arthur thinking about space and rockets, one of his other current obsessions (not that you’d ever have guessed form his outfit). The fire station/hospital was soon dismantled, and in its place we built a ‘Saturn V’. With some creative use of windows we managed to include some space for passengers, and that fired his imagination even further.


He was quite particular with his directions for building the rocket itself. The books he’s read and the videos he’s watched have given him a clear idea of the parts needed to make up a spacecraft – he is already much more knowledgeable than me!


We both had so much fun putting together those multi-coloured bricks, and with them cementing learning and weaving new stories. Once I’d helped him lay the foundations Arthur was happy to sit and play for ages whilst I watched, utterly engrossed in the imaginary world he was continuing to create from the building blocks around him.



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