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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)!
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 in to some common center time situations we run into in the classroom!
RELATED RESOURCE: Pre-K & Kindergarten Centers by Skill BUNDLE
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.
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?!
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?
Want to stress less with even more “must-try” tips while learning how to create a “Playful Learning” environment?
(even if you “aren’t allowed to play”)
If you’re wanting to incorporate playful learning, free-flowing centers, effective routines, and more in your Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, then you’ll definitely want to join us in P.L.A.Y. (Playful Learning All Year)!
This course is a deep dive into practical ways that you can create a playful learning environment in your classroom. Be sure to request an invitation so you’re the first to hear when the virtual doors open!
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