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Look Around the Room
The first step in setting up a center or unit focused around life in the city is to explore what applicable toys are already available in the classroom. This should include a wide range of play options. Be sure to check the dress up clothes for fireman hats, police jackets, and construction worker hard hats. Outfits and medical kits for doctors and nurses can even be incorporated as part of "people who work in a city." Wooden building blocks and large paper bricks can be included if students are encouraged to build streets and skyscrapers. Trucks, cars, motorcycles and emergency vehicles can also be repurposed in this way.
Puzzles, books, and play sets should also be considered for this theme. If books are not the right fit for a play center, they can be put into frames and the covers can serve as decorations for a city themed center. If inspiration is needed on how to incorporate books, be sure to consider that public libraries are a part of every city.
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Best Pieces to Add
Once the room has been gleaned, it may be time to invest in some new toys to fill in some missing pieces or add some interest to a new center.
The Fisher Price Little People series is a great place to start for city themed preschool toys. The pieces in the sets are very realistic and offer a great play value for interactive learning. Since some of the vintage sets include lead paint and unsafe parts for children ages three and under, it is necessary to find the newer series for classroom use. Many of these sets are now available at consignment shops and yard sales. With a workable budget and a close eye on sales, even the brand new sets can be affordable. Some of the best sets for the classroom are the Fisher Price Little People Learn About Town, The Fisher Price Little People Shop N' Learn Market and the Fisher Price Little People Racin' Ramps Garage. Fisher Price Little People dump trucks, airplanes, garbage trucks, school buses and fire trucks could also be included.
Another thing to consider for this unit or center is a floor mat. A good city map floor mat includes images of streets and destinations for toy figures and vehicles to drive on and visit. The best floor mats are made of thick fabric and may be rolled up or folded for storage.
Street signs are also a big part of a city. Toys and books which include street lights, stop signs, and construction themes can also be incorporated here.
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All of the sights and sounds of a city should be included the space or lesson that is created. Students will gain a better understanding as they explore with all their senses the experience of city life.
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Source of ideas: Authors personal experience with preschool classrooms.
Sources for specific toys:
Fisher Price Online Store http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=900000&e=storethumb&pcat=fps_presch_lp
Toys R Us http://www.toysrus.com/