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Old 09-20-2018, 10:07 AM
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LittleScholars LittleScholars is offline
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Default Centers vs. Complete Free Play... Which to Choose and How to Manage It?

I have centers (ish) set up, but kiddos can move through much of the day freely other than during designated group time (e.g., circle time, group activities). Other than meals, group time is also optional but the kids love it and never pass it up. Last winter was VERY cold and long, as as we head into our months of increased indoor time, I'm starting to think about how "free play" is structured.

For those of you that choose to move kids through centers, how do you do so? Do you find moving kids through centers enhances their day?

In case it is helpful, I'll only have 5 toddlers/preschoolers and we have enough space that even if kiddos all want to work in one center at once we never really feel overloaded. Our outside time needed an overhaul (I recently posted about that), but when we are inside our play is fantastic. Kiddos do gravitate toward the same things daily, and I wonder if I could be supporting them better by encouraging them to explore other centers.
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Old 09-20-2018, 10:14 AM
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Ariana Ariana is online now
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I have certain toys that are out all the time and then I bring out activities for us all to focus on. For example today I brought out the fall/halloween themed sensory bin. It is “new” so the kids get much more excited and engaged. Same thing with playdoh and art. It is not out all the time and is treated as “special”. This is how I structure free play with focused activity play if that makes sense.
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Old 09-20-2018, 10:34 AM
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hwichlaz hwichlaz is offline
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Only two centers are out all of the time. The play kitchen, and the blocks. Everything else is rotated through based on my current theme and child interest. Well, I guess my reading center is out all of the time too, but the books rotate according to theme. It keeps them interested, and I generally only have room for two kids at each center (except the kitchen) so they always want to move on to the next one.
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:05 AM
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LittleScholars LittleScholars is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ariana View Post
I have certain toys that are out all the time and then I bring out activities for us all to focus on. For example today I brought out the fall/halloween themed sensory bin. It is “new” so the kids get much more excited and engaged. Same thing with playdoh and art. It is not out all the time and is treated as “special”. This is how I structure free play with focused activity play if that makes sense.
Absolutely! This is what we are currently doing. I don't really manage, limit, or encourage other areas as much (blocks, trucks, dramatic play, puzzles, library, the fine motor activities that are always out). We do have times for reading and have special reading areas, so there is an emphasis on that at particular times of the day. I find some kids love the dramatic play center, for example, while others never touch it. I also find that most of my group always feels like they have to play together. I suppose this is a good problem, because they love each other, but I can't figure out if we have a great thing going or if it is my job to encourage them to branch out.
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:50 AM
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hwichlaz hwichlaz is offline
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Right now, I have a SN kiddo that would choke on manipulatives, so I have them out, but up high so they have to ask for them. Then I can take little Y to do something else for a bit. If I had all preschool-ready I'd be able to leave things out for constant access...but when you have a kid that eats crayons and gluesticks.....
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Old 09-20-2018, 01:41 PM
BrynleeJean BrynleeJean is offline
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When I more than 6 kids usually I’ll split them into centers. I have usually 3-4 or I’ll create more if I have more kids at any certain time
-1-blocks,cars centers
-2-library books center
-3- home living center, dress up
-4- coloring, drawing center
-5-(if needed) puzzles
-6- (if needed) another block I pull out
If I need to do something with a group or one of them I use this time to use one of the “centers” as table time with me so I can do work with them in smaller groups or I’ll call them out of centers individually for handprint art or whatever.

They sit quitley and the quietest get to pick fist centers until that centers full and then so on until all centers are full. Then I set a timer for like 15 minutes and when it goes off I turn on this Disney song on my phone. The same one every time. They have until the song is over to clean up their center and sit Quietly in their center and then I rotate. Set another timer and do another song. It goes on for like an hour or two. They don’t get bored, they practice playing with all the toys, and they practice their cleaning.
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Old 09-21-2018, 07:05 AM
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LittleScholars LittleScholars is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrynleeJean View Post
When I more than 6 kids usually I’ll split them into centers. I have usually 3-4 or I’ll create more if I have more kids at any certain time
-1-blocks,cars centers
-2-library books center
-3- home living center, dress up
-4- coloring, drawing center
-5-(if needed) puzzles
-6- (if needed) another block I pull out
If I need to do something with a group or one of them I use this time to use one of the “centers” as table time with me so I can do work with them in smaller groups or I’ll call them out of centers individually for handprint art or whatever.

They sit quitley and the quietest get to pick fist centers until that centers full and then so on until all centers are full. Then I set a timer for like 15 minutes and when it goes off I turn on this Disney song on my phone. The same one every time. They have until the song is over to clean up their center and sit Quietly in their center and then I rotate. Set another timer and do another song. It goes on for like an hour or two. They don’t get bored, they practice playing with all the toys, and they practice their cleaning.
This is helpful! Right now I have all of these centers, but no system to rotate them through. If a kiddo prefers one center and wants to stay do you still require that they clean up and rotate? I'm so conflicted because we also worked SO hard on the ability to sustain play for longer periods, and I don't know if I'm undoing the work or simply encouraging new experiences by rotating them. Does that make sense? Or maybe there is a time for both? Our days seem to go SO fast, but I might not be using time effectively.
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Old 09-21-2018, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hwichlaz View Post
Right now, I have a SN kiddo that would choke on manipulatives, so I have them out, but up high so they have to ask for them. Then I can take little Y to do something else for a bit. If I had all preschool-ready I'd be able to leave things out for constant access...but when you have a kid that eats crayons and gluesticks.....
I get that! Only my own kiddo would attempt to eat a crayon or something small (and it is pretty rare), but I know him well enough to know when he's looking tempted. Luckily, that means I can keep most things out. I do keep everything in bins that take a little work to snap lids off so I can monitor who is taking what out and can stop them if need be.
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