If you teach kindergarten, preschool, or even first grade, you should consider including activity stations into your day if you don’t already. Children learn through playing, and activity stations give them the chance to explore, feel different sensations, cooperate, and be independent thinkers. Activity stations give young learners a panoply of options for growth and exploration.
Activity stations can be permanent or temporary, but they should be areas where students can play by themselves or in groups. Make spending time at different activity stations a regular part of your classroom’s morning or afternoon routine, or use them as a special treat when students are behaving well.
No matter how you incorporate activity stations into your classroom routine, your students will love the opportunity to learn and express themselves in small groups or independently.
Here are some ideas for activity stations you can use in your teaching practice. I’ve added a short description to some of them to give you a better sense of how they might look in your classroom:
Ideas For Activity Stations
- Sensory tables
○ You could have a water table, a sand table, or another place where students can get their hands dirty and feel different tactile sensations. This PreKinders article has some great ideas for easy sensory tables for young learners!
- Dress up corner
- Play kitchen/play house
- Science corner
○ In the science corner, you could have food dye and water, magnets, leaves and flowers, different colored pieces of translucent plastic, or anything you can imagine! The important thing is to create a place where students can devise their own small experiments, even if they’re not explicitly stated (what happens when I put the red screen over the yellow screen? What does the underside of a leaf feel like?) This science center guide is a must read — it’ll give you great ideas for things to put in your own science corner!
- Building corner
○ Put wooden blocks, legos, or other items that students can stack and shape in your building corner!
- Art corner
○ The art corner is the place for drawing, playing with play doh, or even finger painting if your classroom allows it. Students can cut, color, paste, and have fun!
- Music corner
- Drama corner
- Growing corner
○ Let kids plant seeds in soil and watch them grow! You can have bean, lentil, and flower seeds set out for the children. Let them bury the seeds, water the soil, and see what happens. Don’t worry if not everything grows — it’s all part of the process!
You can create all kinds of stations and areas in your class — just make sure that your teaching team can handle the mess, noise, or safety concerns that may come with some of these stations. Have fun with it — your kids certainly will!
Make a Chart for Activity Stations
If you have activity stations, create a cute chart with boxes for each station and make name tags with magnets or Velcro strips on them for each student. Place 4 or 5 matching strips in each box so that only a certain number of students can check into each station at a time. This creates a kind of contract so that students stay in their assigned stations, and it also caps the number of students at each station so things don’t get totally hectic.
You can draw a simple symbol or picture next to each activity station’s label to help the students differentiate them, and you can put the labels on Velcro or magnet strips too so that you can rotate them if your students rotate activity stations! Perhaps students go to 2 activity stations for 20 minutes each in the afternoon, for example. You can easily rotate the activity station names, keeping the students in their same groups, for ease and clarity.
Making Activity Stations Part of Your Day
There’s really no wrong way to use activity stations in your classroom, but I highly recommend making them a regular part of your routine because they’re so beneficial to children, and because children love them so much. And because you’re not teaching when students are at their stations, they take off some of your workload!
Your activity stations don’t need to be anything fancy, and they don’t even need to be particularly well-defined. At a kindergarten I worked at, one of the activity stations was just a toy tent with some pillows and stuffed animals in it. The kids loved playing house, cuddling stuffed animals, and just telling jokes in there! Let your imagination, and your students’, guide you toward activity stations that will light up and energize your classroom.