Above: The hole cuts all the way through the block, and this invites the children to confirm the emptiness of the hole. They look into one side of the hole and see their friend on the other side. It feels like seeing through a solid wall.
Left: As nature abhors a vacuum, young children are impelled to fill an empty hole. Here, a boy places cylindrical parts in each hole of the room structure. An empty hole is an invitation to put something inside.
Right: These older children use the holes to join blocks together with a Small Plug. In this case they discover that the cart they made lopes up and down when rolled because the holes in the wheels are off-center.
what it means
Consider how less useful the Imagination Playground Blocks would be without holes. The holes afford games of looking through, filling up, attaching appendages such as noodles and plugs, weaving holes with fabric, securely joining blocks together like tinker toys, and using the holes as the chassis to axles with wheels. The holes, conceptually, are the absence of mass. A hole will not cast a shadow but conversely will cast light within the shadow of the block. Fundamentally, holes allow passage, of sight and of smaller objects, while the block itself does not. Holes can take on the value of an “object” when given names such as a “porthole” or “escape hatch.” These words refer to empty space itself. And what fun—holes show what is on the inside of a block.
2-4 year olds
For the two-year–olds, the hole itself serves as the focus of the child’s investigation and play. It may be fun just to put an arm all the way through a hole in a tall block. The child gets joy from this as a form of magic, the way an adult would react by walking through a stone wall. A year or so later, children will begin to plug the holes with noodles as a way to anchor the noodles, like making a pretend flower arrangement or making handles on a huge pretend cup. The holes are just convenient features to hold things in place. The larger holes in the big blocks, however, often serve as windows in a house or turret holes for a castle.
4-7 year olds
Older children will search for Blocks with Holes in order to place them in a desired location—on the rim, in the middle, or off-center. For example, they understand how the rotation of the Little Cheese will be determined by the location of the hole, or which hole they should insert a cylinder into to create either a lollipop or toadstool.