Free play, good ideas?

Discussion in 'Preschool' started by anna9868, Dec 19, 2008.

  1. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Dec 19, 2008

    "Children learn just as much if not more through free play, (that has been set up with learning in mind,)"

    I'd like to hear from other people some interesting ideas for free play. I can see that it depends a lot on my toys/materials available, but some ideas are pretty cheap and easily duplicated.

    I usually put out some puzzles on the table for my 2/3 year olds. Lately started to take out floor puzzle (only I need to be involved a lot in order to sustain interest)

    I heard a good one from one of my co-workers. She takes a big roll of paper, tapes it to the table (we have a long table available ) and let the children color with crayons on it.
     
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  3. Maxadoodle

    Maxadoodle Comrade

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    Dec 19, 2008

    Cover a wall and floor with a plastic shower liner first, then tape long paper to the wall. Then give children real paint rollers and have fun (you do have to supervise so they don't paint the whole room). Other times you could make hand prints, large gadget prints, large arm movement drawings, a cooperative collage mural, etc.
     
  4. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    OMG! The Dramatic Play area with empty food cartons of all kinds, and plastic food, plates, cups, silverware, etc. The things the children will come up with in the area is priceless! A child, one day on the play phone, "Hon! Are you coming home for dinner? It's ready and you're not here yet!" They will have hours of reenactment of what they hear their parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. say. It's the most popular area in our Classroom. The girls are always taking over this area, so every other day, I make sure the boys have a turn there, and the girls take over the Block Area.
    Enjoy,
    Rebel1
     
  5. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Oh yes, we have a food area with lots of plastic food and plates. I usually have it avaialbe every morning and children love it. I just think I should introduce NEW ideas, because usually my children play with the same toys every day (twice a week when we meet, that is)
     
  6. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Occasionally we remove all of the blocks from the block area, leaving the cars and the signs and things. The places for the blocks are then filled w/tp tubes, jello boxes taped shut, big mailing tubes and a giant wholesale sized bag of 12 oz cups. As the play develops, we include posterboard, colored tape and clear celophane tape.

    We build all sorts of contraptions!!!

    Having a lot of playdough w/ no real gadgets, a lot of time and a lot of space for the play helps as well. Often this area is called the "bakery" but the children.
     
  7. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    By gadgets do you mean various things used to play with playdough (rolling pins, etc)? With my children they are very popular, some would lose interest in playdough if not for those scissors,etc.
     
  8. sparklystar

    sparklystar Rookie

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    Dec 21, 2008

    i have used shaving cream over my tables and let them get loose in it.
     
  9. mrgrinch09

    mrgrinch09 Comrade

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    Dec 21, 2008

    There's almost endless free play ideas that you can use depending on what learning centers you have in your room.

    Are there specific centers in your room that you are looking for free play ideas?

    We could probably have several running threads that share ideas for each individual center. Discovery Table, dramatic play, block area, science area, etc....
     
  10. mrgrinch09

    mrgrinch09 Comrade

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    I remove my rolling pins, hammers, scissors and other dough gadgets from my play dough area a few times a year. They need the chance to use only their hands when working with the dough. I've discovered that the kids tend to rely on the tools to much, and weren't developing their fine motor skills enough. I've had kids who weren't able to make a snake, pancake or ball with the dough while only using their hands, because they were depending too much on the tools to do the work for them.
     
  11. Maxadoodle

    Maxadoodle Comrade

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    Like mrgrinch09, I like to have only play dough out at times. That is when I will make a different kind of clay - a kind we have not tried yet. Also, silly putty is very cool (and easy to make with Discount's Silly Putty Solution and Biocolors.
     
  12. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    no by gadgets I mean those things that the playdo company sells like Ice Cream Maker and so on. Rolling pins and scissors we have as well. However, by adding the playdo into the pretend kitchen we discovered we are able to make things w/ playdough and no tools at all!! That was a wonderful discovery for us. Like others I have noticed that when the children are new, they can't really use the playdo in the way the more experienced children can.

    We have 'hot playdo day" - the day the playdo is made it is warm still from the stove-the kneeding of the dough is something they can't use tools for, it took us a while to get the under our belts.

    We really love playdo now, and we can make models of things that look a bit like real life-even our twos. the other day a 2 made a 'cucumber holder' with a snake in the middle, two sticks on the end and unifix blocks on the snake. another two said, 'i haven't had that much butter on a cucumber-but i like it on my corn on the cob'! Twos in playdo - having actual conversations!! Priceless.
     
  13. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    I love shaving cream as well!!!
     
  14. sparklystar

    sparklystar Rookie

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    Dec 21, 2008

    yea its so fun and squishy lol




     
  15. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    Thank you for all the interesting ideas. The shaving cream sounds very interesting (I just need to get over my paranoia that it would all end up on the carpet :(
    And the playdough only without tools does sound like a good way to develop fine motor skills.

    The reason I asked this question is I feel that I mostly do the same kind of activities for free play every time we meet. And some children rarely try anything new. For example, I have 1 boy and 3 girls, and I often feel that most of my activities are girls-oriented. All the small and big puzzles, dressing ups, etc., my boy usually just sits by himself and plays with cars while I help the girls with puzzles, or dress-ups. Shaving cream would probably grab everyone's attention.

    Oh, one thing that is ALWAYS popular among children is rice table. I don't bring it to the class often, but when I do, it's a big hit.
     
  16. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    This sounds interesting, what is it?
     
  17. mrgrinch09

    mrgrinch09 Comrade

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    Dec 22, 2008

    The discovery table is the same thing as a sensory table. The rice table that you mentioned is your discovery table.

    Does it always have rice in it? Try putting new mediums in the table for the children to explore. Water, Sand, pasta, buttons, flour, shredded paper, fabric scraps, marbles, bottle caps, styrofoam. Try something different.

    Messes happen. Messes can be cleaned up, carpets can be cleaned. Forget about the messes, and worry about what the children want and need.
     
  18. Miss J. Pre-K

    Miss J. Pre-K Comrade

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    Dec 22, 2008

    Sticky activities my kids have loved:

    Cornstarch and water makes a good goop or silly putty--it's a bit messy, so put down a large paper or shower curtain if you only have carpet

    Homemade play dough--so many kinds, sand, coffee grounds, and scented dough (use Kool-aid pouches) are the kinds we have tried

    Bath foam (find it with the kids' shampoos/soaps in stores)--we can't have shaving cream b/c of it being possibly toxic if ingested

    Also, I make monthly runs to the dollar store and put out one or two new materials in each center--these have included larger multicolored chalk in art, large soft dice in manipulatives, large cardboard "brick" blocks in blocks, etc. I wish I could take out my blocks and really have more homemade materials, alas, ECERS and my director won't let me. I can add to, but not take away from certain centers.

    Also, what about putting out blocks in a tower/house arrangement and inviting the children to help you add on. I find that children who were never interested in blocks enjoy working with them with a teacher nearby to introduce how to play with them.
     
  19. keep_smiling

    keep_smiling Rookie

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    Dec 22, 2008

    I read on here once to tape long sheets of paper to the underside of your table and have kids lay on their backs and color. I did it I had to replace the paper three times in a day, they loved it sooooo much.

    clothes pins and sturdy cups... They will sit there for a long time and put the clothes pin onto the edge of the cup and pinch it to take it off again. I put about 5 or 6 clothes pins onto each cup. Eventually, the clothes pins will be attached to shirts, pants, fingers, noses, lips, ears, hair.
     
  20. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    after the clothes pins get attached to things well, i have them match up mitten cut outs for 3 little kittens extentions. When we are really mastering that i add letters and thing so that the mitten need to be matched and then hung.
     
  21. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Today I placed an Eye Chart in the Dramatic Play Area.
    Some were trying to move closer as the letters got smaller. They were instructed that they couldn't do that because it's cheating. They were supposed to remain at the marked spot.
    They had a great time with it.:thumb:
    In our water table, I placed Sand with measuring containers, spoons, scoops of all kinds. I'm adding vehicles to it tomorrow. We've had Water with boats, beans, noodles of all kinds, pine cones, rocks, dirt, packaging peanuts, etc., flour, until some of the students decided to add water to it. It turned into a whole new experience for them and it was cool to hear them laugh and see them have fun with it. Of course they cleaned it up afterwards. Let the children's laughter remind us of how we use to be, like George Benson puts it in his song, "The Greatest Love Of All". If you haven't heard of this song, check it out! It's my all time fav. Whitney Houston did a re-do which is NOT AS GOOD, to me, and should have left it alone. Ooops! Back to the subject......:D
    In our Science Area, I placed a Search Bottle, with sand in it, with a rubber band, a crayon, a plastic flower, a leaf, paper clip, a bean, etc. The children enjoy looking for all these items in the bottle.
    Planting beans are always a BIG hit with our Pre-K's and it never gets old. They are fascinated with the beans growing towards the light. I turned the beans around and told them that the beans would change around and find the light. :cool:
    One of the new Math things I placed in the Math Area was paper plates with clothes pins. Each paper plate has a number 0-10, plus the way each numeral is spelled; 1-one, 2-two, etc., and marked lines for the value of the numeral. They place the pins on the lines and they definitely are not only doing Math but also their Fine Motor Skills are sharpened, plus reading/recognizing the way the numerals are spelled. More of the boys like it better than girls. What is it with Math that scares some girls away? I enjoy Math! :thumb:
    Dress up clothes in Dramatic Play was a BIG hit with my Pre-Ks in CA. We had this one boy that kept dressing up with the dresses and high heels. He kept putting together some of the most unthought of combinations & he kept us laughing with his Creativity.:lol: I haven't put any dress up clothes at this place I'm at now due to some other issues BUT maybe I will try it for the New Year.
    Rebel1
     
  22. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    The type of free play I read here is what I describe as directed play. During free play time (choice time) the teacher puts out specific activities to direct the learning of a child. I find for this time of day to be successful, the teacher must add items. If a director will not allow items to be added, you have to mix the available itmems up so that they look new.

    And, I require the sensory table, easles and playdough to be available every day. Usually not every child gets a turn at each activity each day--or needs a longer turn--so having it out each day meets the needs of the children.

    Remember that toddlers learn by taking things apart before putting together. So, puzzles will come apart more often than together. Flannel board activities will be take it down, rather than put it up. I love putting contact paper up, sticky side out, and letting them remove small items (Christmas bows are great).
     
  23. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    OH, blue, thanks for reminding me about contact paper and bows. Now i know what we will do tomorrow for a bit!!
     
  24. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    I have done this before, too! My kiddos LOVED it! My director walked in and wanted to know why all the children were under the table, and once I explained the situation she thought it was great, too.

    I like adding boxes, pine cones, toilet paper roles, magazines, ribbon and leaves to the art area. This lets the children explore a variety of materials and they come up with some creative projects! I also always have paint and play dough available (not together). I like including real kitchen gadgets with the play dough or sensory table. The children really like to explore using "grown up" tools like ladels, serving spoons, potato mashers, whisks, pots, bowls and tongs.
     
  25. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    IMO the key to free play working is to play along side the children. As my group splits up into many pods I have assistants to help with the playing and when parents have a few extra minutes to stay they know how to jump into a pod and play as well.

    I think that I read before your class is small-but I just wanted to make sure you can easily have them all in one area (if they were to choose to) while you were starting a game.

    The grown up just picks a play place and starts by saying "look and what is here......_______ would you like to join me?". The children usually magically end up all right there. Make sure you don't have the same person playing w/you all the time.
     
  26. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    I've figured that out too. In my case that's the only time of the day when I can do something really educational with children, like talk about colors, shapes, animals, etc. in the process of a game

    Yes, my class is small, 4 kids. But that doesn't help me figure out how to get them all together. They just have different interests, the most I can get is 2 kids working on the same thing. I guess our rice table is the only exception.

    But then, is it really important to have the children (2/3 y.o.) being all involved in the same thing?
     
  27. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    I don't think you are any less teaching when you teach during free play. In many cases I think you are doing more during that time than teacher directed time. You are able to know how the person you are interacting is doing and have much more ability to change the manner in which things are presented so that they can get the full effect of the chosen topic.

    I love free play w/intentional teaching.

    If you have a small class and you can get any number larger than one to do a thing you have it. you don't need the entire group doing the same exact thing-then it wouldn't be free time. free means that they can choose from the given tasks what they want. However, if you are in a place, they may choose that place when they wouldn't normally. Or if you are in that place you may be able to get them to do something more than if you weren't there.
     
  28. sarzacsmom

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    Discovery Table

    My discovery table is not the same as my sensory/rice table. it's more like a science table but not really just science. I se it to put random thing on and see how the kids respond to it. right now my discovery table has a basket of real life like plastic bugs, about 100 bug photos that I cut out o one of my husbnads bu id books and laminated, some magnifying glasses, some stretchy plastic tube things that I bought at Walmart in the party aisle for a whole 89 cents each--they can stretchthem out and push them back and they do all kinds of things with them, a jacob's ladder, and one of those stringy balls, and a kaleidoscope. I switchit out allt he time with random things, usually with no particuar motive ro reason for the items--just a chnce for themt o play and discover new things----peaks theri interest and gets them investigating!
     
  29. sarzacsmom

    sarzacsmom Groupie

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    i do shaving cream quit often with my kids. Its a great tool. it also cleans the tables of sticky residue quite well! If it does get onthe carpet it doesn't stain and makes the room smell nice. I jsut use the cheapest I can find. I also use it to make puffy paint and the kids love to paint with it.
     
  30. sarzacsmom

    sarzacsmom Groupie

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    the biggiest hit in my room for freeplay time is long pieces of cardboard! They have used it to sit in and pretend its the mayflower, they use it for a slide for the baby dolls, they use it for a train, a ramp for the monster trucks, a race track for the matchbox cars, and most recently they have been using it for a bed and a couch! Anytime we get soemthing that comes in a long box I ask for the cardboard. next most popular is the magic writers and dry erase boards. I try to let the children use theri imagaination as uch as possible because so many are stuck inside at home in front of a tv that they don't get a chance otuside of the classroom to develop their imagianation and imagiantion in where problem solving comes from--
     
  31. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    s.mom, I love your discovery table. I would call it a science table. So many classrooms lack a good science area. It is always one of the first things I tell new staff to include in their setup. Free play science is hard to set up, so keep up the good work.
     
  32. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Ask parents to bring in empty food boxes once a month for even more fun in the home center. Cereal boxes and egg cartons are always a favorite.

    Also, younger kids and kids with developmental delays have a lot of fun making collages by using contact paper with the sticky side up and just laying items on it. If you use clear, you can put the whole thing on a piece of construction paper and display it.

    When I taught toddlers/twos I loved using different items to paint with to add interest. Some of the items I used were: big kitchen spoons, whisks, baster, sliced fruit/vegetables, bath sponges, etc..
     
  33. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    cereal boxes I would guess are for buiding, what about egg cartons? We have a whole draw full of them in the office, I've been wondering how to put them in use.
    At home I would give my 2 year old beans and an egg carton, only it takes her 10 seconds to fill it up with beans and then she starts throwing all over the kitchen. Maybe I should find something bigger to put in those holes.
     
  34. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    I meant as props for the home center primarily. However, plastic tweezers can turn an egg carton into an awesome fine motor activity. You can put cotton balls or small puff balls from the craft store to move around with the tweezers. If you use the colored balls you can put a dot of paint at the bottom of each cup, let it dry and have them match the puff ball to the paint color.
     
  35. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Not to be the grinch, but Oregon's Child Care Division does not allow us to use egg cartons, due to Samonella or some other food bourne disease.
     
  36. MimiBee

    MimiBee Companion

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    I can tell you what NOT to use....construction markers that have been broken free from the highway and are lying on the side of the road. Apparently, as the not so nice officer informed me, the taking of these is a felony. I can't look at something lying on the side of the road without wondering how it can be used in the classroom...DARN MY PRESCHOOL TEACHER ORIENTED MIND!
     
  37. sarzacsmom

    sarzacsmom Groupie

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    I use egg cartons for sorting all kinds fo objects--different beans, and of course we make caterpillars out of them too. If you don't have tweezers for all your kids you can clothes pins or those clips that youcan get to put on chip bags (not the ones that look like a T), but the ones that look more like a computer mouse. Those work especially well for children that have weak fine motor skills, as they can put more fingers on them-, you can use pom poms in them or cotton balls or anything that they can "clip". I usually give each child a bowl of whatever item we are using and instruct them to fill each hole, then when they ahve done that have them take it back out and put it in the egg cartons
     
  38. abchild

    abchild Rookie

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    Blue, who had a problem with egg cartons....certifier or sanitarian? Just wondering since we too are in Oregon and cant find it in the rules. And we use them in our recycle area. Never been a problem for us. We use free play almost exclusively in our program (with intentional teaching/environment set up)
     
  39. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    For number fun; you can number the little spaces in the egg cartons and have a whole mess of plastic insects lying around...student can then drop 3 insects into the space marked 3; 4 insects into the space marked 4, etc...

    I also like to keep magazines on a table and kids can cut out whatever suits their fancy!
     
  40. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    It was the certifier who told me that sanitation did not allow egg cartons to be used. She said this only after seeing some in the classroom--like an afterthought. The regulations don't say anything about it. I used to use egg cartons and meat trays all the time, but since "my" certifier said no, I don't use them. I certainly would continue to use them until told otherwise. I was just sharing that information so no one would be shocked if told that.
     
  41. Nicole S.

    Nicole S. Rookie

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    I have toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, butter containers and other recycleables (sp?) in my block area. These make a great addition to my wooden blocks, and my kids love to try and make things with them as well. Just thought this was an inexpensive way to incorporate other materials as well! :)
     

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