Must-Try Tips for Pre-K and Kindergarten Center Time Limits

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Center time in Pre-K and Kindergarten doesn’t have to be stressful and overwhelming. The key is allowing students to have as much independence as possible when doing centers. This starts with teaching our kids to take turns independently and share. Building up these social skills is so important for early learners. So let’s talk about what to do when centers are too crowded and how to navigate it with these Must-Try Tips for Pre-K and Kindergarten Center Time Limits!

*For even more teacher tips and how to create a playful learning environment in your classroom, be sure to join us in P.L.A.Y. (Playful Learning All Year)!

Let's talk what to do when centers are crowded and how to navigate it with these Must-Try Tips for Pre-K & Kindergarten Center Time Limits!

Must-Try Tips for Pre-K and Kindergarten Center Time Limits

Let’s chat center time limits! What do you do when you introduce a new center activity and it suddenly becomes the most popular place to be? Should you limit the number of students allowed in each center?

I personally do not limit the number of students in centers for a variety of reasons. BUT – sometimes centers naturally have limits. Let’s dive into some common center time situations we run into in the classroom!

Popular centers like toy food and kitchen areas often become full fast and students learn to problem solve when there is not room for everyone.

Why don’t I limit the number of students in a center?

When my kids are playing, there is NO limit on how many kiddos can be in an area and this allows me to support students during PLAY in situations like:

  • when a student wants something another student has
  • practicing patience and taking turns
  • problem solving
  • making new decisions/redirecting themselves

One strategy I may use in supporting students is asking them questions like, “What does it feel like if a center is too crowded? Is it fun?” Or I may say, “Maybe we can come back later if this activity is more fun in a small group.”

I may ask them to share. But what if they refuse? This is a great teaching moment.

Working in groups teaches students to be respectful of each other's work and space like if they are working hard building blocks.

So many social skills can be taught and reinforced when we do not place a number limit on our centers. Much more so than when we just say, “Nope. Can’t go there because it’s too full.”

I find that kids are more engaged with their work and play when it is their own choice.

Yes, problems arise, but one thing I’ve been exploring and asking myself over the last couple of years is… if I spend my time trying to avoid situations that I deem problematic, how will my kids learn to navigate those things?!

When there are a limited number of toys, for example cars, students get to practice sharing and taking turns.

I do realize that sometimes we may need to limit the number of kids in one area at any given time for safety. But I also know that we often set limits in classroom centers because of perceived problems like noise. And we do this without evaluating if the noise is engaged and purposeful.

Many centers also naturally set a limit (for example – a math center with 4 dice = 4 students). But if I see two students offering to trade and share a die then I pick that social skill practice any day!

Do you encourage free play and choice in your Pre-K and Kindergarten center time? What are your tips for center limits?

BONUS Song!

Songs are powerful AND effective! They can be especially useful tools for teaching important skills like waiting your turn for your favorite toy or center. That’s why we want to share with you one of our favorite songs for teaching patience.

This simple and engaging song is sung to the tune of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Sharing songs like this with your students when you don’t need them will help your students remember the procedures when you DO need them!

Check out the video to hear our patience song in action. You will definitely want to try it with your kiddos!



I can learn to wait,

and do so patiently.

See my hands and body,

they’re as patient as can be.

When waiting for a drink

or a toy or friend,

I can be so patient,

I know the wait will end.

Want to improve classroom management and increase student engagement with music and movement?

Don’t miss out – sign up today for The PLAYlist! With 3 new songs every month designed specifically for Pre-K, TK, & Kindergarten PLUS corresponding games and activities, this resource is quickly going to become your favorite tool in your teacher toolbox!

Join the PLAYlist and get 3 new songs every month plus corresponding games and activities.

Join The PLAYlist and spend less time trying to capture student attention and more time being engaged in active learning!

The Kindergarten Connection
Must-Try Tips for Pre-K and Kindergarten Center Time Limits
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