We have a megablox building station in the play area of our picture book room, so I had a huge tub full of megablox to draw from. I sorted through and took out several dozen of the single blocks. I used the computer to make strips with various patterns of block color on them. I measured the blocks ahead of time to make sure that my strips were the same size as the blocks themselves, to help my very literal preschool audience move from the abstract pattern strip to the physical blocks.
Along with the obvious fine motor skills required to create the block towers, this activity also touched on several math concepts: one to one correspondence, matching, patterns, counting, and color recognition.
As expected, this was a very popular activity. Unfortunately, it was also an activity that relied heavily on object manipulation using objects that could not easily be attached to the table. It didn’t help that on the other side of the room was a huge tub full of megablox. At least once a week I would check on the exploration table only to discovery that some well-meaning child had “cleaned up” by putting all of the blocks back into the main megablox tub. The pattern strips did not grow legs nearly as often, but even they were occasionally appropriated to be lettuce in a salad at the kitchen area (a creative use I observed myself) or otherwise scattered about the room by an ambitious toddler. There’s no real solution for this problem with this activity, other than to move the entire table into an area where there is a more constant adult presence, but doing so would have moved it out of the area where preschoolers would be most likely to spontaneously encounter the materials, so we decided to just grin and dig through the tub for the blocks we needed. Again. :-}