Imagine the hardest decision of your day being what you want to play with after circle time… the things I would do to go back to that time!
This is the struggle of many 3-year-old students at my placement; it is one of the hottest conversation topics among the learners, each morning. The students are given a lot of choices throughout the day as to what they want to use, how they want to use it, etc. During the class’ center time, the students grab their name clips and are given the option of where they want to play. The center cards have a certain number of spaces for each name clip, to make sure there is not too many students in one area (ex: “Dramatic Play” has 4 spaces for student name clips). This is also a way to keep track of where the students are at; when a student moves to another area, their name clip must follow.
What are the Benefits of allowing students to explore centers at their own leisure?
NAEYC lists out 5 essentials to meaningful play:
- Children make their own decisions
- Children are intrinsically motivated
- Children become immersed in the moment
- Play is spontaneous, not scripted
- Play is enjoyable
When children are given options, they feel like they have some control, which is not always present in a classroom setting. Students will have more freedom to explore their interests and not be forced to play with anything specific.
Why this matters to you
I believe that giving students choices is a great way to improve learning. Allow your students the options to do what they want, and not do what they don’t. Students learn from people they like. Letting them believe that they are in charge of their own learning will have them happy and willing to explore the your classroom, while they have fun. Implement this into your play-based center time. The rest of the day you have the choice to dictate what happens and when, so allow your students some time to have freedom from restrictions and learn at their own leisure.