Every school year we hear it. The rallying cry of our students, ” I’m tired of playing in the same centers all the time.” This is definitely understandable. Often kids play in the same centers all the time without much variety.
As teachers, we tire of having to use the same toys over and over too. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In this post you will learn how to update the classics and bring in fresh and new ideas.
Mailbox Center-Make a public style mailbox out of a cardboard box Set it in the corner of your room. Add a small table with various boxes, tape, envelopes, and stickers (to use as stamps).
You may even want to look for a mail carrier costume in children’s sizes after Halloween on discount. Add a blue tote bag to carry mail in and you’re all set.
Vet center- Get a low setting coffeetable or small folding table to use as an exam table, stuffed animals, and a vet kit. Ask your parents if they have any doctor kits that they want to give away and use in your new center.
Dress Up-Even the most tried and true centers need an update. Ask your parents to donate clothes, shoes, scarves and even their kids old Halloween costumes. If you do this twice a year, say once in the spring and once in the fall, you will have a good supply to switch out.
Cell phone center-Ask parents, friends, and family to donate old cell phones they don’t use anymore. I don’t mean the most recent iPhone.
I’m talking about the really old phones you have lying around. I know I have at least two or three around. Kids will have fun having conversations with each other on ‘their own’ cell phones.
Board Games- Introduce kids to games like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Checkers, Battleship, Life, and even Jax.
Card Games-Add games like Uno, Old Maid, and Go Fish to the mix.
Slime Center-This gooey, stretchy, bright colored stuff is all the rage. Mix up a few recipes and keep them on hand for your kids to play with on a regular basis.
Active Center-If you have enough space in your room, make an active center. Draw a hop scotch board with colored masking tape, let them play with hula hoops, or bowl.
When I worked in daycare, we had a Wii U that we would let them play on. If you can find one cheap on eBay, just make sure you buy a charger for your remotes. It is much easier than having to scrounge for batteries all the time.
Construction Center- If you don’t have any, get a set of toy tools for your classroom and use cardboard pieces for wood. If you have old measuring tapes at home, add those in too.
Reading Center-Make your reading center a cozy, quiet place to be and add pillows, blankets and bean bag chairs.
Computer Center-When you are ready to upgrade to a new computer, instead of trading it in , donate it to your classroom. Start a small library of games that are both educational and entertaining. Screen time doesn’t always have to be about zoning out.
Electronics Center-Once a week we let the kids bring in their tablets to use in the electronics center. We allowed them one hour on them in the afternoon and then they had to play in other centers the rest of the day.
Writing Center– This center is geared toward students who have a flair with the written word. Put out construction paper, notebooks, pens, pencils and stickers for them to write letters, poetry, make cards, etc.
Homework Center– Let students work on homework if they wish.
Funding for Your Centers
Chances are your school or daycare is on a tight budget. Either you get a small amount of classroom money each month or not at all. Keeping toys fresh and new is expensive but there are ways to creatively get what you need for your classroom.
Yard Sales-Make a list of toys and games to look for and hit your local yard sales.
Have a Center Wide Garage Sale or a Bake Sale-Organize a center wide garage/bake sale. Ask parents to donate items to be sold.
Give them a list of toys and games that you are looking for in case they come across something for your classroom. Each room in the center sets up their own table at the sale and whatever money they earn is used for their classroom.
Classroom Wish List-Make a classroom wish list in lieu of the normal gift exchange at your classroom Christmas party. Add items you need for your room, everything from new crayons, markers and stickers to toys for specific centers.
Let parents know that they are not obligated to donate, but if they want to, they can. You never know who will open their hearts and wallets to help.
Switching out centers and providing opportunities for imaginative play and artistic creation is a lot of fun. You never know what your kids will come up with.
In using the suggestions above, you can overcome boredom, spark creativity, and easily ask for what you need in your classroom without feeling awkward.
What are your favorite centers that you use in your classroom? Chime in in the comments, I would love to know.