In January we all get a fresh new start. I love that feeling of wanting to start or try something new. I usually will try something new in my classroom in January to keep things interesting and engaging for my little learners. For some reason, over Christmas break, I kept thinking about how much free choice and play time my Kindergarteners have in their schedule. I have always allowed time for some free choice play, but to be honest with you it is still very structured. It gets woven in, here and there, but never is a designated time. With my Kindergarten program being only three full days and the curriculum demands high, unfortunately it is one of the first things to go… even though I know better!
So here goes nothing! Starting next week my students will have 20-30 minutes of free choice PLAY every day. The first thing I did was look at my schedule and try to move things around. Now that we really understand our procedures and classroom behavior expectations, I did have some wiggle room. I am also going to try it at different times of the day to start and see if that works or not. We are going to end our day with play on Wednesdays, and have play time before lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Next, I decided what free play is actually going to look like in my classroom… and, well, I am just going to go for it. Which means opening up everything. That list includes: easel, play dough, sand and water table, kitchen, blocks, manipulatives and games. Really nothing is off limits. It’s not like they haven’t had these things before, we do them every week, but it’s more structured and not fully open. For example it might be “free choice block time” instead of “you can do blocks in your free time”. I think the reason that I am not totally scared by this is that my kids really know their clean up procedures and are pretty independent. But it will be interesting to see how it goes the first couple of tries ;0)
Some of you might be asking what I hope to get from this. First of all, I want more time for my kinders to work on their social emotional skills and the best time to do that is when they are playing. They will be practicing sharing, taking turns, not getting their way, etc. Secondly, I want to be able to observe them more with their friends and how they interact. Lastly, I want them to stay little and be kindergartners. The more and more articles I read about the academic demands early on harming our little learners, the more I find every minute of “play” that much more important.
I would love to hear about the free choice play you offer in your classroom and any tips you might have for me!
Happy Play Time!