Let’s say you have a child that you need to assess before Friday. Oh, and by the way, today is Monday, and the child didn’t come to school, tomorrow you have districtwide professional development day, Wednesday you have “specials,” leaving you with Thursday. One day to determine everything a child knows and can do.

The reason for the assessment is rather secondary to the issue at hand. The reason could be that you need to complete an assessment, which is required by your district, something mandated by a licensing board, or even a necessary step to qualify the child for additional services. The fact remains, you have a very short window of time, and a critical need to get a lot of information.

As shared in a previous blog you already know your first course of action when assessing a child is to connect, imitate their actions and vocalizations, and match your interactions to the child’s pace and interests. While this is all good and well, you are still panicking, because the clock is ticking, and you need information FAST.

Here’s one “simple” solution! Get some blocks, dump them on the floor, and guess what? You can assess just about anything you need by playing with blocks. In fact, you can assess at least 101 things.

As a bonus, because assessment, instruction, and play are synonyms, to me, this means there are 101 things you can not only assess, but also teach children while playing with blocks.

Don’t believe me? Let’s begin “building” our list of 101 things. We start by imagining ourselves sitting beside and watching a child play with blocks.

In doing so, we can easily observe, document, and evaluate the child’s ability to…

Student playing with blocks

  • Align
  • Attend
  • Be patient
  • Follow simple directions
  • Identify shapes
  • Reach, grasp, release
  • Sit unsupported
  • Stack
  • Subitize
  • Use prepositions

Now, let’s add a book about shapes, a clipboard with blank paper, markers, and a map, to the pile of blocks.

This generates 10 more things, which can easily be assessed, including the child’s ability to…

Student writing on notepad

  • Copy shapes
  • Compare and contrast
  • Comprehend
  • Create sequences
  • Move to avoid obstacles
  • Name pictures
  • Persist
  • Represent
  • Symbolize
  • Understand directionality

Without much effort or expense, toy cars, trucks, roads, bridges, and loose parts can be added.

In doing so, 10 more things can be assessed, including the child’s ability to…

Student playing with toy trains

  • Add and subtract
  • Be aware of self in space
  • Demonstrate humor
  • Imagine
  • Inquire
  • Match based upon multiple categories
  • Rhyme
  • Shift attention
  • Use quality terms
  • Use size terms

Lastly, by joining the child’s play, or by including a peer or sibling, we can add yet another 10 things to our list of what can be assessed through block play.

These include the child’s ability to…

Students looking at map together

  • Access working memory
  • Be compassionate
  • Demonstrate empathy
  • Engage in communicative interactions
  • Engage in social interactions
  • Engage in teamwork
  • Play cooperatively
  • Recognize the affect and emotions of others
  • Regulate emotions, thoughts, and actions
  • Resolve conflicts


For those of you who are counting, you may have noticed, we are only to 40 things that can be assessed. No worries…click here to download a printable that contains the other 60. Plus, the printable includes a bonus skill, which tops us off at 101 things  that can be assessed using blocks.


Additional Resources

Author Note: The graphic containing the 101 skills was developed by Adriana Danaila. You can learn more about her amazing work by clicking here.