Do you have a Jenga set in your classroom? If not, you should. Jenga is a set of small wooden blocks designed to be set up in a tower formation. Players take turns removing one block at a time and placing it on the top of the tower until the tower becomes so unsteady that it falls over. The box says, “6 yrs. +” but I think preschoolers could find a millions and one ways to play with a Jenga set.
Because of their size, small hands can use these as a tabletop manipulative. Their open-ended design allows for creative play. I found a set on Amazon for $8.99 but I imagine you can find these at garage sales and the like for a lot less. Well-built wooden manipulatives can cost a fortune, so these are a really good option for a tabletop block set. They also come in a few other sizes, so you can really create a “set” of tabletop blocks for your classroom.
The game of Jenga requires well-developed hand-eye coordination, balance, spatial awareness, fine muscle control, and enough social/emotional development to take turns. These are just a few of the reasons that Jenga is a good choice for children as they are all working on these skills. If you want to introduce the game and its rules, start your tower small. Instead of stacking the whole set, create only 5 or 6 rows. This makes the tower less heavy, and therefore easier to take the blocks out, and when it falls over it is not such a big deal. It also takes a long time to stack the entire set, which with young children might mean 5 minutes of set-up for 30 seconds of play.
When I was on vacation recently, there was a GIANT Jenga game going on. It was made out of big wooden blocks, much like the large wooden blocks in many preschool classrooms. This got me thinking that you could create a Jenga-like game on the rug and have children take turns taking a block out from the bottom and placing it on top. It doesn’t have to be in a tower; in fact, it would probably be better if it weren’t. This would be a great way to introduce the game and its rules to the children and could be an interesting circle time game.
Give it a try and let us know how it goes.