Kids learn primarily by play, and independent play is particularly important to their development. Play helps children develop their fine motor skills, learn how to navigate the world, and explore their environment. The kindergarten classroom should be full of stimulating things that they can play with, touch, look, at, and engage with. Below are a few things I have in my classroom for the kids to play with throughout the day.
A felt board is fantastic for teaching kindergarten students. The basic concept is that you create a felt surface and then stick felt shapes on it. The small pieces of felt will stick to the board without any other adhesives, just like magic! You can use felt boards to tell stories, introduce vocabulary, and engage students in class. The kids will love sticking the felt to the board and creating art and stories. Felt boards are inexpensive, easy to make, and super engaging.
Children learn through experience, and by using all their senses to explore the world around them. A small booklet with pages of different materials (like burlap, velvet, corduroy, silk, sandpaper, and more) lets them experience a number of different touch sensations. They’ll love playing with it, and the book is a great tool they can engage with by themselves.
Sand / Water Table
Depending on how much leeway you have in classroom decoration and what your budget is, you can do some pretty cool things in your classroom. One really great tool for independent play is a sand or water table. If you have a sand table, the kids can rake the sand, build sand castles, or just let it run through their fingers. All you need to make a sand table is some type of container (a large plastic or Styrofoam tub will do), some sand, and a few toys and tools the children can play with. You can put seashells, buckets, shovels, and rakes in your box, or whatever else you come across that might be fun to play with.
With a water table, the children can create dams, watermills, and currents. They can also see what floats and doesn’t float and simply play around. You can buy water table kits online, and you can also put small vessels and objects like watering cans and rubber ducks by your water table. If you have very young learners, it may be a good idea to give them waterproof aprons to wear at the water table. And of course, always make sure there’s an adult supervising your students.
Whether it’s drums, maracas, triangles, thumb pianos, or bells, it’s fantastic to have objects your children can make music with in class. You can pass out instruments to every child or just a few students who are behaving well, and the whole class can make music together. You can make a walking beat and do silly walks around the classroom, or you can sit in a circle and make aural patterns together. You can also create a beat to which you can chant vocabulary and target sentences. Making music helps students develop their sense of rhythm and tone, and it also hones their fine motor skills. Plus, it’s engaging and fun!
Don’t have musical instruments? Don’t worry. You can use pencils and plastic cups to make a beat, or anything else you have laying around your classroom.
Do you have extra clothes and accessories that you’re not using? Bring them to school! The kids will love getting to dress up, and you can also use clothing as a teaching tool to illustrate getting dressed, colors, patterns, and more!
Furthermore, if you have extra socks you can bring them to school so the kids can make puppets!
I know that not all of these suggestions are possible in every classroom due to budget, school restrictions, or other reasons. If you can’t do any of these things or if they just don’t sound interesting to you, don’t worry. There are tons of low-budget and simple toys and tools you can make or buy for your classroom. The important thing is that your kindergarten students have toys they can play with by themselves, and that the classroom is an engaging place for them. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be something they can touch and play with.