Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Importance of Play - Kindergarten Center Time

 One of my absolute favorite time of the day in Kindergarten is our Center Time.  Over the past 10 years, standards have changed, and in some ways (lots of ways) I feel that Kindergarten is the new First Grade.  Even with all of the pressure to have rigor in the classroom with regards to curriculum, I will always find time for play.  There is so much research around the benefits of play in the Pre-K and Kindergarten settings.  One of my favorite books is called The Importance of Play by Vivian Paley. So, twice a week we play.  We reserve our Center time for days when we don't have Music, Library, or PE.  Kids get to play and explore, use language to learn new ideas, practice sharing and working as a team, and just be messy and have fun.

There is a lot of messy play during Center Time. I want to be able to provide clay, play doh, paints, and things that splatter all over the tables.  I have no problem wiping up paint and shaving cream if it means the kids get that sensory experience.

The Sensory Table has been a fast-favorite.  Right now it's filled with wheat kernels.  My cousin is a wheat farmer and saved a big bag for me.  Right now, we are just working on taking turns, sharing materials, and learning to contain the mess just a little bit.  Soon, we will add measuring cups, scoops, and funnels.  It's a great way for kids to explore capacity.

The Lego table is always a hit, especially with the boys.  I've always wondered why Legos draw the boys, and not as many girls.  The kids love building spaceships and cars.  They are learning how to share the wheels because there are never enough to go around.  Legos are great for small motor development.  It's really hard work pinching those little pieces and taking them apart.  The language the kids use while creating their spaceships is impressive.  Today I heard someone say that the spear on their ship reminded them of a Narwhal.  That comment led to kids asking, "What's a narwhal?"  It's a perfect example of the way oral language is developed through play time.

I have to admit, it kind of made me sad the day that my son (who is now 13) told me I could take his cars into the classroom.  Kids LOVE playing cars.  Sometimes I pair the cars with a racetrack carpet and other times I put out the blocks and traffic signs.  I love watching the kids build a city out of their blocks and then drive their cars around.  The planning that goes into their city is amazing, and the various shapes of the blocks add an extra challenge to the construction.  Meanwhile, kids are reading the signs and talking to their friends about the "rules" in their new town.

My philosophy on parenthood goes like this:
"When all else fails, make some play dough."

I'm telling you, friends, play dough has saved my life on many occasions.  I will share the recipe soon.  Sometimes, on rainy days when my kids were young, I would whip up a batch of homemade play dough and the peace would be restored to my house in two minutes flat.  

I love adding play dough to our Center Time because the rolling, squishing, ball forming, and snake making is so wonderful for developing those small muscles in our hands that we need in order to hold a pencil and write.  With this batch of play dough, I added some cinnamon, a pie plate, and real apples as our inspiration.  Suddenly, we had a pie shop right in the Kindergarten classroom!  It's amazing what a little play dough and some imagination can do!!

There are so many more centers that I have to tell about.  We open about 7 or 8 different centers each day, and each has a different learning goal or experience to provide the kids.  Center time is a happy time in Kindergarten, as it should be!

Happy Play Time!

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