Sneak Play Into Your Kindergarten Day


The Question:

 I want to use more play-based learning in my classroom this coming year. What are your favorite ways to “sneak” play into the K curriculums standards?

The Answers:

Sneaking is for breaking rules or doing something wrong. Playtime is right, and necessary. It should be in the lesson plan unapologetically.


Here is how I do it. Terminology helps and knowing your standards is crucial. I can tie our “play” into standards easily when asked: Ten Minute Play Challenge

I create thematic learning centers and stations as well as incorporate a choice time at the end of the day. My choices consists of boxes/containers full of play-based centers like kitchen/cook, fast food McDonald’s, Bob the builder, etc… As long as I am getting in the standards throughout the day, student have plenty of time to play. I also teach in an all-day kindergarten which helps time management.
I do a lot of games for math. Competition type things. The kids love it and it helps them academically and socially.
I use blocks, Legos and puzzles as problem solving activities for STEM objectives!
Most of their learning should be through play…with no sneaking about it. Post a poster in your room entitled something like “Best Brain Based Learning Strategies for Children 4-7 Years old”, and briefly cite your source. That way, if your admin. comes in, and you need some support, you have a poster that you A. made, B. researched and C. is based on what’s best for kids, and that, for kinders is hands on, hands on, and MORE hands on. We do sometimes fill out “sheets”, but it is a recording sheet for a hands on activity.
I make sure that choice time is incorporated every day. Choices include math manipulatives, computer time, iPad time, kitchen/housekeeping, painting, legos, or anything else that helps develop teamwork, helps socialize, works on fine motor skills…etc! Full day kinder sure does help for time!
Check out the books Standards Based Hands On Math. Amazon sells them for about 40 bucks. Well worth the money for excellent standards based math play.
I do these in my K classroom…
1 – Tape sight words or words for sentences onto blocks. Kids have to say the word/make a sentence to use the blocks.
2 – Tape a picture (like cat) to a white sheet of paper, have kids segment the word and use paint to write it. OR put a word and students paint a picture of the word. 
I think we need to define play. Unstructured play (without teacher expectations) is what I consider true play. If we are manipulating, organizing or having expectations I don’t consider it play.
This is a great topic! Just do it in moderation, they so need it!! I use the puppet theater for readers theater, I use the theater and the kitchen to make it into a grocery and restaurant and use it for writing lessons. I do it in many ways. It is so important to let them be kids!!!! You can be creative and think of lots of ideas that are play centered and still educational.
An important aspect of play is creativity – if you are constructing what you want them to do – it isn’t free play. Do I have a kitchen center? Yes. Is it always a kitchen? No – and not because I call it something else. My students have to choice to go to various stations in the classroom and explore through self generated play. Play is not, in my opinion, giving them blocks with sight words on them (although that is a hands on activity I use). I think it is important to differentiate between organized play, hands on activities, and free play. Our children desperately need more time for free play!
Playhouse, store, housekeeping…..oral language development
I totally agree with Matt Gomez. If we are trying to hide play as a learning activity it is not true play. We are forever complaining about our children not writing creatively or solving math problems creatively and we wonder why? If we do not allow enough time for kids to play independent of structured outcomes is it any wonder they can’t do anything else creatively?
Play goes with standards. Does this person asking have to sneak it in due to decisions made by others? If so, let’s help. If not, just let kids have time to play and know your standards along with why play is DAP, in case you ever have to defend what you do. Sometimes, teachers don’t work in settings that allow play due to people who don’t see the value in it. We need to change that and show how kids learn through play.
We aren’t allowed to have centers such as housekeeping, but when we have indoor recess due to weather, I put out puzzles, math manipulatives, clipboards with paper, etc. Most of my K students choose to write sight words, make patterns, etc. during their recess.
During literacy centers I incorporate restaurant, school bus, toy store, vet office, aquarium, police station, firehouse, etc. basically whatever fits the theme of what we are learning about during the rest of our day. I put out appropriate reading and writing materials (post it’s, menus, rx pads, books, labels, etc) with the toy or real props. But most importantly, I model for them how to use those tools. This helps them actually practice literacy skills during their imaginative play.
Oh and also, I agree that this is not a substitute for actual unstructured play with peers. I give them choice time every day in kindergarten.
Place the toys in a writing center. Allow the kids to play with the item then write about it. I usually provide a toy that correlates with what we are learning. (i.e. when we learn the letter m. They explore with a magnifying glass. The letter Dd is for dinosaur so they play with dinosaurs) if they aren’t writing sentences yet then practice writing the letter Dd.
Amen to play!
Oh my Lord! Craziness! I give my class over an hour each day for free play. And our principal likes it!
Use hands on materials and play acting like Jennifer Reinhart suggested. Connecting to real world experiences helps. Play based is so connected to the core. Find out what they want to learn, what are their interests and use those ideas as well. I wrote my master paper on learning through play and my administration threatened my job if I used those ideas! You know what works for your kids!!!!
Isn’t it sad that we have to sneak it in? It’s the way they learn. I’ve added some fun stuff, like doing patterns with beads on pipe cleaners. My students love that! Block play with cardboard blocks from Melissa and Doug, for spatial reasoning. Puzzles on their favorite topics-dinosaurs, princesses, …. Crafts whenever I can. Free Draw is their favorite thing to do!
I incorporate play into various independent centers for both reading and math.
 We are not allowed free play, kitchen/home centers, blocks, Legos, etc. We are told there is not enough “rigor” and it must be very rigorous.
“Sneak play” makes me sad!
Leischen, that is so SAD! It breaks my heart every day when I see what’s happening to kindergarten! These kids are FIVE! I try to work a “play center” or two into my center rotation every day so that these kids can still be kids and use their imaginations! I HATE what the Common Core Standards are doing to education!!!
There are a lot of ways to still use the dramatic play areas WITH the standards. I found lots of justifications on Teachers Pay Teachers. Pretty cool! These kids learn by being social, and being hands on!
True unstructured play in my room most afternoons from 45 min to an hour. My boys love to combine large wood blocks with planes and cars creating an airport, highways and more. It’s fun to watch. It’s sad play centers are not “permitted” in all K classes.
About 2 of my 6 centers are play based. They need to have time to collaborate and talk in a group! I find pictures of buildings from countries we are studying, photos of animal habitats, etc. and have the kids try to build them with Ikea’s wooden stacking blocks or k’nex
Watch them in their play and document what you see with notes and photos, then look in your core to find what learning was covered. We are totally play based in Saskatchewan so I feel for you.
Some daily 5 activities can include play activities. My students think they are playing while using manipulative for math and reading. For them, that is play. They love magnetic letter and cookie sheets, Play-Doh, creating with cube blocks. I check out Pinterest for great play ideas for learning.
This is just so sad……what can we do to push back ?
I have total free choice rotational play centers on Fridays for almost 2 hours. I pull each student for 3-5 minutes to do assessments. I’ve explained the importance of play and am able to show my administration that I’m being productive as well.
We have free choice time every afternoon. I do as many fun, or hands on learning things as I can during the day. When we have been crunched for time, it has been suggested to cut back on play time. I refuse and so far my administrator has been supportive. We also added a 20 minute afternoon recess that we are technically not supposed to have, but that time just cuts from the inside free choice time. Play is incredibly important.
Dramatic play fits in to every area of study in the K curriculum!
The work of children is play.
The last 15 minutes is deemed as ‘free choice time’…it is sacred in my room.
Anything can be turned into a game , just gotta think waaaaayyy outside the box. It’s all in how you present the material and your tone of voice. i taught k for three years and realized even a simple worksheet can be a game. I simply stopped calling them WORKsheets and said it was game review, and lessons were called games. Simple words that change how a child perceives. File folder games LIKE bingo can be done for almost anything. I have even turned reviewing the first half of the years sight words into different types of indoor carnival games …. I set up cups glued to card stock with a word on it. The child had to throw a ping pong ball into a cup (I used wide mouth plastic cups.)  If it landed, and they read the word correctly, they earned two points for their team. The next day it was hide and seek sight words. While they were out of the room I hid sight words written on index cards.  Another day I had them lined up on a wall and on the opposite wall I had cards set up. After hearing a sentence they had to “bear crawl” (or use another gross motor movement) to the other side and put the sentence on the board by rearranging the cards. They could ask to repeat the sentence one time each. I am using sight words as an example, but I have repeated these activities for other areas of learning.  I got most of my ideas for game based learning in K from looking into preschooler aged activities on similar topics and adapting to suit Kindergarten levels of learning.
The last 30 minutes of each day are used for student selected centers.
This is a tricky issue. I believe that play is important. Whether it is student or teacher directed. I feel for the teacher that posted this because I am in the same situation. I have toys, a play kitchen, puzzles, etc. My team mates do not.
This is a tricky issue. I believe that play is important. Whether it is student or teacher directed. I feel for the teacher that posted this because I am in the same situation. I have toys, a play kitchen, puzzles, etc. My team mates do not. Free Play is not seen as a valuable use of time in K. An argument from another K teacher was, “We barely have enough time for all the other things we have to do, how can we put in Free Play?!?” When I went to administration last year, with research in hand for FREE play centers. She told me they had to be learning based and she needed to see specifically how I would do these. I have still not figured that one out. So, I feel like I have to “sneak” in free play time. We play every Friday for 15-20 minutes. I see great things during this time. I wish I could convince my colleagues and administrators that this time is just as valuable as reading instruction. Any thoughts or advice welcome. I admire teachers that have made it happen on a daily basis!

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