Each day includes as much uninterrupted play time as possible. This valuable time allows us to honor the children’s ability to explore, create, and invest in their environment. Morning play or free play may sound like a vague time of our day, but in fact it is a very much planned time. The children have freedom to choose among many different activities. They are afforded the time and space needed to delve into projects, invest in play themes, complete activities, and to explore relationships. As the teacher, however, I constructed the classroom environment and arranged the choices that the children will find. Free play is not time off for me. On the contrary, I am paying close attention to the children, interacting with them, offering guidance and help where needed, noting progress and struggles, and observing actions. We are all very busy during play.
Some of the activities available to the children during this time could include: blocks of varying shapes, sizes and material, manipulatives, paper and crayons, little people and dinosaurs for imaginative exploration, and cars/trucks to name just a few. The materials are on a rotation system based on need, desire, skill building and enjoyment. This way the children have time to invest in a certain material but do not become “bored” with it in the process.
Choosing our materials
We choose materials to encourage and support different skill sets. Our manipulative toys (such as Legos, Bristle blocks, Peg boards, and stacking puzzles) support fine motor development and control. These materials help build the muscles necessary for future writing tasks. The more we build these muscles and develop their fine motor, the easier hand writing can be. Often times these materials are used during fantasy play as well. A Lego structure becomes a castle, the peg boards become tables for a feast, or the bristle blocks become cars in a race. By providing the children with raw materials and open ended play, we allow for greater flexibility in learning. I want them to become excited about play. This excitement leads directly to learning.
Through play the children acquire social, emotional and academic skills.
A quick look at some of the skills they are learning:
- turn taking skill development
- acceptance of others ideas
- accountability for their actions
- community building
- story development
- peer to peer negotiations/ conflict resolution
- expressing and handling emotions
- language development
- thematic play
- problem solving skills
- critical thinking
- self awareness and self confidence