As I've been readying my classroom and looking at all the gorgeous pictures of classrooms online, three things have struck me:
It is so hard to fit it all in!
Many of our classrooms weren't designed for 25+ children and all of their learning centers. Often it's a difficult choice to decide which center wins out over another in terms of space. If you have a Block Center, you may not have space for that Easel and then what about your horseshoe table for small groups? Which is more important??
I can't believe how many lovely kindergarten and pre-k teachers are out there trying to cobble together a classroom with very little financial support from their districts. Some are moving to K from different grade levels and suddenly are thrown into a room with little in the way of center time activities. In order to have play-based learning taking place in these classrooms, the teacher has to be extremely creative, scour garage sales and beg, borrow and steal from their own family's pockets to get everything they need for their classroom.
There's so little time in a day!
There are so many mandated practices out there that it can be very difficult to see where play can fit into the day. When you have to have a dedicated Language Arts block, with small group rotations, Math, Social Studies and Science, plus daily or weekly assessments, when do you fit in centers?
Here's what I know though....
It is incredibly important for us, as early childhood educators, to advocate for our students. To share with administrators that play based learning works. That social and emotional skills are just as important as letter sounds. That moving and exploring, dancing and singing, are vital to our students' well being and will serve them well in the future. That any academic gains achieved through rote drilling will soon fade away while the benefits of a play-based program will last into adulthood.
So, forget about matching caddies for supplies - the students won't care what color scheme you go with. Concentrate on getting those centers in your room - housekeeping and blocks, an art center, play dough and puppets - those will be more important that any bulletin board could ever be. Check Freecycle, Facebook, Craigslist and garage sales, go through your own children's toys, ask at church, and get your centers started. Remember, you can add as you go - something is better than nothing - and at the beginning of the year too many activities can be over stimulating anyways! The Dollar Store is a great place to shop - students won't care if the puppets cost $1 or $20!
Fit that play time into your day any way you can! Set a dedicated amount of time (an hour at least!) for free choice centers and then defend that time with everything you have! Protect that time with research, show your administrators that your students can play AND learn at the same time. Invite your principal to come sit in at center time to see how your students are interacting and using the various center materials to increase their learning!
Click this picture to see the full size version - it is perfect for demonstrating all the learning that takes place during play!
Recently I came across two "poems" by authors unknown that spoke to this very subject, so I made them into posters. You can display them in your classroom to help remind yourself, parents and administrators that childhood is precious, and our littlest learners need their learning packaged very differently than older grades!
Just click the pictures to download them for FREE in my TPT store!