Block Center

Managing Centers in Preschool

Let's set the scene for a moment... you just set up an epic pumpkin patch in your dramatic play center. It is complete with pumpkins (uh, I'd hope so), a wheelbarrow, leaves and rakes, a scarecrow, and...yes you get it- the center is AH-MAZING!

So, what do all your children do when they arrive? They race to your homemade Pumpkin Patch! All 10 of them, in unison! You think, 'Oh, how nice this will be- the whole class playing together!' Then, reality sets in and all you hear is "No, I want to be the cashier!" and "Teacher, he just took my pumpkin!" and "OWW! Billy just hit me with the rake!" So much for playing together...

The problem was there was too many kids in one area of the classroom. They couldn't play freely, they couldn't talk out what roles they were going to play because there was just too many of them!

One thing to know about my classroom is that we are play-based. I never force students to go to certain centers, they are allowed to choose where they want to work and whom they might want to work with. That being said, the morning of the Pumpkin Patch they ALL happened to want to choose the Drama Center (of course they did- it is epic after all!).

So, I had to come up with a solution that did not involve micro-managing their choices. So, here it is folks- the moment you've been waiting for... Wait, I am pretty sure this idea has been out there awhile, but it is working for me- so maybe it will work for you?

Limit the number of kiddos in each center! I might have built this up a little too much...please accept my apology. BUT, it is working...really well!

See those signs with numbers on them in the pics above? Yep, those are my little miracle workers, baby! I have some signs that allow 4 students to be in the center (Drama and Blocks) and some that allow 2 students (all the rest of the centers) at a time. Those little silver circles under the number? Washers (make sure they are magnetic!) that I hot glued to the laminated signs.

Then, I bought some thick cardboard pieces from the craft store. I think the ones in the picture above were supposed to be chalkboard labels or something. I added a magnet to the back (buy some thick heavy duty magnets, not that stuff on a roll) and DONE!

Now, when the center is full of names, my kiddos know that they have to pick somewhere different to go until a spot opens up. I have loved the management side of it, but also it encourages some of my kiddos to try out centers they may not have tried before!

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This freebie first appeared in the Take & Try Newsletter!  A bi-weekly newsletter for early educators that features free ideas you can take and try in your classroom!

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Adding Small Parts in the Preschool Block Center

The How and Why of adding small parts to the preschool block center.
The How and Why of adding small parts to the preschool block center.

Small parts, loose parts, a trinket box- there are lots of names revolving around this idea.  But, whatever you choose to call them, they are a great addition to the preschool block center.

What are small parts?

Small parts are basically materials that children can manipulate freely, with no set instructions.  Small parts can be found everywhere!  Some ideas you see in the above photo include: rings from gallon milk jugs, empty spools, old puzzle pieces, nuts, bolts, buttons, babies and a few random things that were donated to our preschool.

Why use small parts in the block center?

Small parts are a wonderful way to enhance block play.  Simple little parts can become so many different things when building structures.  For instance, in the photo below, you can see students pretending that the small parts are cookies.  I love the creativity that is sparked by adding these small pieces to the block center.  Not to mention the fine motor skill that my students are practicing!

The How and Why of adding small parts to the preschool block center.
The How and Why of adding small parts to the preschool block center.

Small parts are such an easy open-ended tool to add to your preschool room!  Just remember to be cautious with student who still like to place items in their mouths.

Do you use small parts in your classroom?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Preschool Block Center

Ideas and resources for a preschool, pre-k or kindergarten block center.

Pre-K Centers

Block Center Materials

Cardboard Blocks: Large lightweight cardboard blocks

Wood Blocks: Wooden blocks in different shapes

Foam Blocks: Medium sized foam blocks in different shapes

Cars: Wooden or plastic cars


Traffic Signs: Small wooden traffic signs for pretending with cars

Train Tracks: Wooden or plastic train tracks

Trains: Wooden or plastic trains that hook together

Building Bricks: Medium sized building bricks (such as Lego Duplos)

City Rug: A city on a rug with roads for driving cars

Pre-K Class Tour

Block Center Labels

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8 Math Block Activities for Preschool

Blocks are a basic and classic toy for toddlers and preschoolers.  But, have your ever taken the time to think about what blocks can really teach our children?  Not only do blocks help preschoolers practice fine motor skills, but they also foster creative thinking, task completion and sorting with like colors and shapes.  Science concepts, such as gravity, cause and effect and building a structure with stability all can be gained from playing with blocks.  These benefits to block play is why we have so many sets of blocks in our preschool room!

Although, sometimes children can get bored with blocks when only knowing one way to play with them.  Try some of these 8, fun and full of learning, math block ideas:

preschool math block games
preschool math block games

1. Counting and Measuring with Lego from The Imagination Tree

2. Building with Blocks and Technology from Hands on as We Grow

3. Duplo Lego Pattern Towers from All Our Days

4.  Exploring Shapes with Blocks from Teach Preschool

5.  Teaching More and Less with Blocks from Pre-Kinders

6. Block Center Visual Prompts from Rainbows Within Reach

7. Number Recognition Lego Flowers from The Educator's Spin on It

8. Sorting Blocks by Shape from Hands on as We Grow

Great ideas aren't they?  I know that I am more inspired than ever to use blocks in new and exciting ways to promote more learning through play!