Saturday, 14 November 2020

Play Time in First Grade (Even During a Pandemic)

I have always believed that 6-year-olds need time to just be kids and have free play time. I have always tried to make room in my schedule for playtime in grade one. Usually it's at the end of the day, after our Science/Theme lesson. It varies from about 10-30 minutes each day, depending on how our other lessons go.

In the past, I have just had buckets of toys and let the kids use whatever they want, spreading out on the carpet, switching up tables, sitting where ever they want. Obviously this year, things had to be a little different. We need to be at our tables all the time, so I tried to create more individual play bins that students could bring to their own table spots to play with safely.

Some of the inspiration for these bins were from some awesome kindergarten teachers I follow on Instagram: @inquiryteacher, @learninginkindergarten, @joysofkinder, and @itskindie. Thank you to them for sharing their amazing ideas with us!!

I spread out my play time toys into two areas. It just helps with crowd control. Plus I wasn't using this shelf for anything this year and the open dish tubs make it easier to spray down with sanitizer at the end of the day. In these bins I have mostly my building/STEM toys: Lego, Brain Flakes, coloring books, Snowflake Blocks (from Target), Lincoln Logs, Locktagons, Castle Blocks, and Bristle Blocks. (All things I had in my classroom previously.)

This shelf is where I keep the themed play bins. There are a few small bins of building toys: Magnetic Tiles, Hashtag Blocks (from Target), Plus Plus Blocks, and Play Doh tools (which they use with their own individual tubs of Play Doh). There's a few simple toy bins such as Mr. Potato Head, cars, and Learning Resources Playground Engineering STEM Kit.

Here are a closer look at some of the individual play bins. I took various things I already had in my classroom and put them together to create these bins (Keva Planks, Wooden Logs, Wooden Blocks, gems, pom poms, felt, living thing toy sets from Science, etc.), only purchasing a few things from the Dollar Store or Amazon. This is what happens when you hoard over 13 years... you collect A LOT of stuff. lol

Bin #1: Superheroes

  • Wooden blocks (cut by my dad from 2x4s and painted with black chalkboard paint)
  • Little People Superhero Figures (bought these on Amazon last year when I was doing a superhero theme in my classroom)
  • Keva Planks
  • Black Gems (from Michaels)


Bin #2: Pete the Cat

Bin #3: Construction
  • Keva Planks
  • Worker Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me 
  • Rocks
  • Various construction vehicles from the Dollar Tree/Dollarama

Bin #4: Frozen
  • Little People Frozen figures (from Amazon--one of the purchases I did make; totally worth it though!)
  • Double-Sided Castle Block (made by my dad out of a 2x4--I printed out the Arendelle Castle and Elsa's Ice Palace and Modge-Podged them to either side of the block)
  • Character Stones (printed out some various Frozen 2 characters and Modge-Podged them to some white rocks I had)
  • Blue Wooden Blocks (from a tub of wooden blocks I already had)
  • Blue and White Gems (from Michaels)
  • Blue and White Sparkly Pom Poms (from Michaels)


Bin #5: Trains
  • Wooden Trains (from IKEA--I actually stole these from home because my kids have a gigantic bucket of them and wouldn't notice a few missing! lol)
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Trees (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)

Bin #6: Fairies & Ponies

Bin #7: Zoo
  • Various Animal Safari Ltd. Toobs (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Keva Planks
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)
  • Zookeeper Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me

Bin #8: Dinosaurs
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)
  • Dinosaur and Tree figures (from dollar store--these ones I also "borrowed" from my kids' collection)
  • Red and Orange gems (from Michaels)
  • Wood Fire


Bin #9: Ocean
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Ocean and Coral Reef (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)--can also usually find ocean animals at the dollar store
  • Felt Mat made by me
  • Diver Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me
  • Blue Gems (from Michaels)
  • Wood Waves

Bin #10: Arctic
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Arctic (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Felt Mat made by me
  • Blue and White Gems (from Michaels)
  • Blue and White Sparkly Pom Poms (from Michaels)

Bin #11: Farm
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Farm (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)--can also usually find farm animals at the dollar store
  • Keva Planks
  • Barn Block (made by my dad out of a 2x4--I printed out a barn clipart and Modge-Podged it to the block)

Bin #12: Toy Story
  • Little People Toy Story figures (I have a soft spot for Fisher Price Little People, can you tell??)
  • Wooden Alphabet Blocks
  • Character Stones (printed out some various Toy Story 4 characters and Modge-Podged them to some white rocks I had)
  • Colourful Gems (from Michaels)

These bins have been a big hit! I love seeing how engaged they are and how creative their imaginations and story telling can be. Play time is a great time for them to develop their oral language skills, fine motor and dexterity (using the small pieces such as gems), socio-emotional learning, problem solving, and more. It is also just FUN and joyful to see them happily playing in a time where things are hard, different, and confusing for their young minds.

Let them play! :)

I hope you are surviving your year and finding joy throughout it.

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