The teacher should plan ahead and focus on how each opportunity for learning may be used. Set the play area according to a theme and what is being currently taught. For example, when introducing a certain letter, number or color, incorporate this into the centers. Lesson plans throughout the day may include "play" or "pretend" to add variety.
Remember, always be opened for spontaneous opportunities for children to learn through play.
The outdoor playground may have the usual swings, slides and monkey bars, but also should include simple equipment such as jump ropes, hula hoops and balls. Watering cans, dirt or seeds and plastic toy hoes are great for pretend gardening. Perhaps old flashlights and canteens could be props for pretend camping. A couple of old steering wheels attached to a some wooden boxes could be cars. Always have two or more ideas to promote sharing and socializing. Providing simple ways for children to express themselves and make believe together, easily focuses on the importance of play in early childhood.
An indoor play area could be incorporated into centers. Most Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms use center time as a learning period. The block area allows a time for social and problem solving skills, such as building towers or bridges. Manipulates, such as a container of buttons, promotes math, sorting and classifying skills. Art and writing centers provide an opportunity for the children to use their imagination and be creative, whether painting with a brush or a feather, drawing with crayons or sculpting with clay or play dough.
The favorite of most children is the dramatic play area. Supply this area with dolls of different cultures, action figures, dress up clothes or musical instruments. Provide props for home living, a hospital, veterinary hospital or grocery store. It is interesting to create a theme every few weeks to allow further learning. Read a selected story about a farmer's market or a visit to the zoo and expand upon the theme in different centers.
Adding variety, sparks interests and also motivates good behavior, both in outdoor and indoor play areas. This not only promotes growth and learning for the children, but allows tremendous satisfaction for the teacher. The results of learning through play truly has a positive effect on the growth and development of young children.
I get most of my ideas and inspiration from invaluable books such as Creative Expression and Play in Early Childhood by Joan Packer Isenberg and Mary Renck Jalongo. What ideas have you come up with in your classroom?