Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

How to Choose the Right Centres In Kindergarten

Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Healthline, “Play is important because it provides a primary foundation for learning, exploring, problem-solving, and building an understanding of the world and your role within it.”

So which independent centres are the just right centres in a Kindergarten program? I choose based on three criteria: open ended, sensory and relationships.

It is hard to talk about centres without talking about space and time. If you are interested in how I organize my daily flow or would like to learn more about Reggio Inspired Environments please visit my instagram account ReggioKInder.

I don't limit numbers after the initial first week of school instead we have conversations about how many is too many and the children are encouraged to negotiate. Sometimes we push two tables together to make a larger space or move shelves back to create more floor space for building. Occasionally I have a small centre like Kinetic Sand and the children decide to limit to a smaller number like 2 or 3. If I have funds or can share with a colleague I just make a second Kinetic Sand tube so that they can increase the group number.

These are my Kindergarten centre suggestions that meet my criteria and are kid approved. I also wanted to mention that when working with early learning centres I use the same criteria to curate materials.

In our space art and blocks are the two largest and most used centres. They each take up about a third of the room and most of the other centres are table activities, as well as  the home centre and light table. The third space is our gathering area for stories, songs, movement and conversations.

Bauspiel Castle Blocks will be my Sept 2022 purchase for the classroom

Bauspiel castle blocks and Grimms Forest Trees will be the next classroom purchase this fall (Sept 2022)

Block Play - I purchased as many unit blocks and accessories as I could afford over 3 years making building the collection my budget priority. During this time I supplemented play with loose parts, art and story play. I had a collection of cans, boxes and cardboard roof boards to extend block building while the collection grew. Now my goal is to extend the block play by adding accessories like play silks, gem blocks and vehicles.

This open ended centre is the most important and most popular in my program. The NAEYC lists social emotional growth, object permanence and creativity as three of the top ten reasons to include block play in every classroom. If you would like to read their position paper follow the link here NAEYC

I now have a large collection of unit blocks, because I want to ensure that groups of children can participate in block play. I set aside a large space to spread out and build side by side, together or on their own. They are all used every day and I continue to build this collection each year. either with more blocks or block play accessories. If you are interested in more information please follow this link to my recent YouTube video on block play. Block Play

I keep an updated classroom inventory with a have, want and wish. This means that I know what the next purchase will be and I am prepared for sales. For example, when I was collecting unit blocks the seller had a January sale with 15% off and free shipping. For blocks shipping is 15% of the cost so it was a huge saving for me.  

My currant want is a set of Bauspiel castle blocks and Grimms Rainbow Forest (pictured above).  Last year I borrowed these beautiful castle blocks from a colleague on mat leave and they were a popular centre and a perfect addition to block play. I loved the weight and texture of the castle blocks and how they integrated perfectly into our block play. Trying out a new centre is a great way to determine if it is a good fit for your students and extend what materials you already have.

Constructing - This includes Magnet Tiles, Castle Blocks, Marble Chute and Duplo and or Lego. These are also open ended materials and offer opportunities to create on a smaller scale than unit blocks. I choose a wooden marble chute with 72 pieces so that it has endless design options, can support a small group and easy to store in one bin.

Imagination and Creativity - Small World Play, Home Centre, Doll House Family Play and Loose Parts Play. These centres offer opportunities for students to tell their own stories drawing upon the life experiences and imagination.  This year we actually ended up with two small world play tables because it was so beloved. Often Loose Parts are moved to blocks, home centre and small world play by the children to extend their creativity. I also experimented with tinker trays and created three tinker trays of complimentary loose parts for children to explore and tinker with.

Sensory - water, sand, playdoh, kinetic sand, loose parts play, light table. We know that children learn with their senses and in Kindergarten we offer multiple experiences using a variety of materials. This year our water play turned into potion play partway through the year with a hint of colour, bubbles and gems. Jars, magic wands (from the party store) and beautiful little cream jars from the thrift store rounded out the materials.

 In our nature program they are greeted with forest smells, sounds and surfaces each morning. 

Art- Paint easel, variety of painting experiences such as mirror, paper, watercolour, paint sticks....collage tinker tray and potters clay.  Art engages the children's senses and helps with the development of cognitive, social emotional, self esteem and creativity. This is an independent centre and new materials are introduced and practiced before they are placed on the shelves.

Puzzles  and Cooperative Games-I usually put two puzzles on the shelves and two games. Sometimes I do a soft start with puzzles and have about ten in the room and the same with  games (but only 5). These centres develop memory skills as well as the ability to solve problems.

Literacy and Math Play - this activities designed for the children to grow their skills through guided play are also available as play centres.

I save and buy the best materials that I can afford because I want it to last and also because often there is a sensory benefit such as a wooden chutes, blocks or castle building materials. I want to offer enough materials so that the children can work in groups and also that there is a variety of choices but not so many that the children become overwhelmed.

What centres are most used in your early learning classroom? 


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