Preschool and kindergarten activities take place many times throughout the day.
Circle time or teaching time as some preschool teachers call it, outdoor time, trips, extra activities like music and library etc.
TheÂ preschool activities that I am going to address here are the ones that take place in the centers of a center based classroom during the work period.
I call the time that the children spend in the centers work period because first of allÂ children’sÂ play IS work as you can read in this piece called The Importance of Play and secondly if the centers are set up correctly the children can actually be using thinking and problem solving skills along with their play which is called work according to even traditional theories.
Ideally this is the way a good preschool and kindergarten curriculum should be run. I have a few past posts that talk about WhatÂ isÂ a work period and in general what an integrated curriculum is all about
Units or themes can be planned and activities that are connected to that theme can be added to the different centers. This way the whole curriculum is cohesive.
If you are homeschooling your child you can probably do a center based type of curriculum on a scaled back version but you can certainly use the center ideas and activities. (You just cant have them all going on at the same time).
Two ways to run centers
Center in a kindergarten or nursery classroom can be dealt with in 2 ways.
You can fill up each areaÂ or center with what you want to put in and just let it sit there the whole year.
Another way is to keep changing the centers to make the learning more exciting and actually more interesting to the children.
It’s like when you take away some the children’s games and toys for a few months and then take them down again, its’ like you bought new toys and they are as excited about them as if you just purchased them.
I am going to spend time going through each center and how to get the most out of it.
In this post I will start by concentrating on the dramatic play area, or as many call it the house or housekeeping area.
It definitely can be ONLY a house area if you set it up that way and leave it as such.
It becomes a dramatic play area when you turn the area into other types of places like fire houses, doctors offices etc.
So lets begin our center talk by starting with the dramatic play area.
Dramatic Play Area
If you are an early childhood educator you must be aware of how important it is for children to be able to play and act out what is ging on in their lives.
The children learn social skills and it often helps them deal with difficult situations that are going on in their lives.
The basic set up of a dramatic play area would be the classic housekeeping stuff.
The set up will be determined by the schools budget and if you are a home schooler and want to create a small area like this in your home for your preschoolers and how much energy and creativity YOU want to put into this.
Many of the materials don’t have to be from expensive educational resources if you can find some of the things you need at home or from parents of the children.
Some of the materials you may need.
- Small table
- Children’s chairs
- Kitchen equipment like stove, sink refrigerator
- Small rug
- Small dolls bed
- Baby carriage
- High chair
- Dress up clothes
- Fake food
You should try to add the items that are common to the place you live in and common to the children s lives.
If you know that none of these children have any babies in their homes maybe you would not want to put baby paraphnelia in there.
What is considered common to a farm family in USA will not necessarily be the same as city people in South Africa
One way if integrating the centers is by allowing the children to create food and other items they may need in the art area for use in their housekeeping area.
Curriculum and the dramatic play area
Here’s where you can tie curriculum into real life.
If you are basing your unit on a trip that you took then it would be a good idea to turn the dramatic play area into that area for a certain period.
You can also listen to how the children are playing and bring in items to help them play out what they are doing anyway.
You can add a
- Cash register
- Fake fruits and vegetables
- Bakets or bags that are used to carry purchases
- Step stools for stacking items
- Large boxes
- White coat
- Doctors kit (with stethoscope, fake needles, blood pressure cuff)
- Table, mattress or little bed for kids to be checked
- Table for receptionist
- Forms for kids to fill out
If you have any friends that are doctors you may want to ask him or her if they have any old stuff that they are not using anymore that you can use for the children
- Fire hats
- Big boots
- Homemade fire truck from boxes
I found this post about a classroom that actually set up some fire station play.
In this classroom they were actually using math skills at the same time.
Very often you don’t need need that much to transform the area into a different place for the children.
If you have children from different cultures you can even read up on the countries they come from and try to make the area a different country every few weeks or month.
I knew a teacher who used to keep boxes of items stored together for when the time arose.
If she saw the children playing Doctor, out would come the doctor box. Fire Station, out would come the fire station stuff.
The examples I gave you above may be some of the most common but if you keep your ears open and use your own creativity, I am sure you can come up with many different exciting ways to give the children fresh experiences in the dramatic play are PLUs other items to add to the ones I listed above.