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March 8, 2016

Kindergarten Can Still Be Fun: 10 Ideas for Playful Learning

By Allie Magnuson
Grades PreK–K

    We all know kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Developmentally-appropriate activities have been replaced by academic rigor, standardized tests, long hours of sitting still, and even college- and career-readiness standards!

    Admit it: you dream of a future where kindergarten can go back to what it used to be. You drown in paperwork and stress.

    But here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait for the future! You can add some playfulness into your day already, right here and now. Keep reading for 10 ways you can let your kinders feel and act like kinders, even amid all that work.

     

     

    1. Let Them Dress Up

    As long as they’re behaving, what’s wrong with letting your students wear a hat, a cape, or Cinderella shoes while they work?

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: Working While Wearing Dress-Up Clothes

     

    2. Let Them Move

    Don’t make your students sit around all day. You don’t need to wait for recess — use learning time as an opportunity to move! Have students walk a number line, play sight word hopscotch, make letters with their bodies, or chant rhymes with a jump rope.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: Walking a Number Line

     

    3. Let Them Make a Mess

    I know, messes are messy. But kids like to help clean up anyway, and nothing beats their enthusiasm for things like finger painting, seeing how slime works, and planting seeds in the dirt.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Boy Playing With Slime

     

    4. Let Them Make Noise

    I know, noise is noisy. But music and rhythm can help kids learn almost anything. Have them count while they bang a drum, form numbers and letters while they sing, listen to sounds while they play with a plastic tube, or practice fine motor skills while they strum a guitar.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Girl Playing a Play Guitar

     

    5. Let Them Create Art

    Yes, there is still time for art — it’s just not called “Art Time” anymore. Students can draw their self-portraits every month to see their fine motor progress, use rubber stamps to learn shapes and colors, or weave quilts to make patterns.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Boy Weaving a Quilt

     

    6. Let Them Perform

    Acting, putting on puppet shows, and storytelling are all activities that help students practice vocabulary, fluency and expression, oral language, and social skills.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Reading and Acting

     

    7. Let them Build Things

    A variety of big blocks, small blocks, wood blocks, and foam blocks can teach students about size and texture. A structure of sticks and marshmallows can help them learn geometric shapes. Bonus: when students build and construct, they work on spatial skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and creative thinking.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Building With Blocks

     

    8. Let Them Play with Language

    Read stories with lots of sound words (like buzz, zip, or whoosh). Read Dr. Seuss books with nonsense words. Try out some tongue twisters. Play audiobooks. Let students record their voices so they can listen to themselves.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: A Boy Recording His Voice

     

    9. Let Them Change the Rules

    When your students play games, let them come up with their own rules. When they’re finished with work, let them decide what to do next. Give them the chance to be the teacher every once in a while. These things foster their sense of cooperation, fair play, social skills, independence, decision-making abilities, and self-confidence.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Discussing Rules for the Board Game "Operation"

     

    10. Let Them Use All Their Senses

    Put sensory tubs with water or sand in your centers, or have your students practice letter recognition in an eye doctor dramatic play center. Give out scratch-and-sniff stickers. Let them write with Smencils or draw with Mr. Sketch markers. Try using small snacks to teach math. Play some music while they work.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Playing With a Sensory Bin

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Practicing Letters With an Eye Chart

     

    So what are you waiting for? Get to work and play!

     

    We all know kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Developmentally-appropriate activities have been replaced by academic rigor, standardized tests, long hours of sitting still, and even college- and career-readiness standards!

    Admit it: you dream of a future where kindergarten can go back to what it used to be. You drown in paperwork and stress.

    But here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait for the future! You can add some playfulness into your day already, right here and now. Keep reading for 10 ways you can let your kinders feel and act like kinders, even amid all that work.

     

     

    1. Let Them Dress Up

    As long as they’re behaving, what’s wrong with letting your students wear a hat, a cape, or Cinderella shoes while they work?

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: Working While Wearing Dress-Up Clothes

     

    2. Let Them Move

    Don’t make your students sit around all day. You don’t need to wait for recess — use learning time as an opportunity to move! Have students walk a number line, play sight word hopscotch, make letters with their bodies, or chant rhymes with a jump rope.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: Walking a Number Line

     

    3. Let Them Make a Mess

    I know, messes are messy. But kids like to help clean up anyway, and nothing beats their enthusiasm for things like finger painting, seeing how slime works, and planting seeds in the dirt.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Boy Playing With Slime

     

    4. Let Them Make Noise

    I know, noise is noisy. But music and rhythm can help kids learn almost anything. Have them count while they bang a drum, form numbers and letters while they sing, listen to sounds while they play with a plastic tube, or practice fine motor skills while they strum a guitar.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Girl Playing a Play Guitar

     

    5. Let Them Create Art

    Yes, there is still time for art — it’s just not called “Art Time” anymore. Students can draw their self-portraits every month to see their fine motor progress, use rubber stamps to learn shapes and colors, or weave quilts to make patterns.

    Kindergarteners Being Playful: A Boy Weaving a Quilt

     

    6. Let Them Perform

    Acting, putting on puppet shows, and storytelling are all activities that help students practice vocabulary, fluency and expression, oral language, and social skills.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Reading and Acting

     

    7. Let them Build Things

    A variety of big blocks, small blocks, wood blocks, and foam blocks can teach students about size and texture. A structure of sticks and marshmallows can help them learn geometric shapes. Bonus: when students build and construct, they work on spatial skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and creative thinking.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Building With Blocks

     

    8. Let Them Play with Language

    Read stories with lots of sound words (like buzz, zip, or whoosh). Read Dr. Seuss books with nonsense words. Try out some tongue twisters. Play audiobooks. Let students record their voices so they can listen to themselves.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: A Boy Recording His Voice

     

    9. Let Them Change the Rules

    When your students play games, let them come up with their own rules. When they’re finished with work, let them decide what to do next. Give them the chance to be the teacher every once in a while. These things foster their sense of cooperation, fair play, social skills, independence, decision-making abilities, and self-confidence.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Discussing Rules for the Board Game "Operation"

     

    10. Let Them Use All Their Senses

    Put sensory tubs with water or sand in your centers, or have your students practice letter recognition in an eye doctor dramatic play center. Give out scratch-and-sniff stickers. Let them write with Smencils or draw with Mr. Sketch markers. Try using small snacks to teach math. Play some music while they work.

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Playing With a Sensory Bin

    Kindergarteners Having Fun: Kids Practicing Letters With an Eye Chart

     

    So what are you waiting for? Get to work and play!

     

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