What Do Teachers Do During Free Choice?

free choice in preschool
Facebook… sometimes Pinterest if the students are playing well.

I am kidding.

Yesterday I published a post listing some of my favorite free choice activities and it naturally lead me to wanting to share what exactly I { and other preschool teachers } do while our students are exploring. The most honest answer is it’s changes daily. I see free choice as the time for me to :

  • Connect with my students. If my students do not feel connected to me, to the class, or the school environment they won’t feel comfortable to explore. I try hard to connect to them by playing with them. Following their lead and addressing questions as they come up. Some days that might mean talking in depth about Elsa and Anna, about something going on at home, or their imaginary friends. All of this matters. No matter how silly it might be, follow along and get connected. Everything is easier with a connected class.
  • Work on specific learning goals. I work with students on developing literacy and math concepts , language… whatever skill it is that I have noticed they are in the midst of developing. Having a great co-teacher makes this much easier. Talk about what you have both noticed the children developing ” Did you see Suzie can count to 25?! ” When you share that info you can act on it. Now you can work on counting to 30 with Suzie while you play with pom poms in the sensory table… This is not high pressure learning. It takes time to get to know your students because this shouldn’t be quizzing, just scaffolding.
  • Work on supporting friendships and modeling social skills. The same way that you take note of your students learning you can also take time to observe their social development and work on specific goals for each child instead of only addressing social skills focused on the whole class.
  • Play because through play I can do the other three much better than through direct instruction.

So yes I do get to play when I go to work, no wonder I love it!

Here are some more specific examples of what you can do during free choice of you are a teacher or parent in the classroom:

Sitting with children playing play dough you might mention how the play dough feels on your hands, you might tell them that you are making pizza dough and ask them if they like pizza, you could make lots of small balls and squish each one while counting. You don’t need to tell the child what to do just model all different ways to use the material and offer opportunities to connect by learning more about each other.You don’t need to tell the child what to do just model all different ways to use the material and offer opportunities to connect by learning more about each other.

At the sensory table you can fill up cups wondering out loud if you can fit two full cups of the filler into the bigger jar. You can say that you want all the yellow pom poms on this side and the red ones on the other and then wonder out loud how many there are. You can dig in with your hands and talk about the texture of whatever is in the table. More than anything you can mirror what the students are doing and just listen.

At the kitchen area you can sit down at the play table and ask a child what they are cooking you or ask them what they feel like having for dinner.

If you notice the book nook being neglected sit down and start reading silently. I am not sure I have ever done this and not had a child land in my lap and ask me to start the book again.

These are just some examples that have popped into my head. The reality is that you don’t have to say anything 99% of the time. Start playing next to your students and the learning opportunities will flow. As a new teacher, I always wanted to quiz and tell ” What color is that play dough you are using Johnny?” ” Yes it’s red.” or ” No, it’s red!” this isn’t an effective way to engage young kids. Let them explore and as you get to know them you will be able to work in some targeted learning goals naturally. Forcing it turns an engaging classroom into a quiz show and that’s not very inviting. My overall goal as a preschool teacher is to make school a safe and happy place to be. My classroom is one of my students’ first experiences with school and I want to make a lasting impression that learning is fun.

Now I ask all of you teachers and homeschooling parents – What do YOU do during free choice?

Easy Valentine’s Day Craft

easy valentine's day craftThis easy Valentine’s Day craft was inspired by these hole punch snowflakes we posted years ago. What I love about these hearts aren’t just that they are pretty , they are so simple and are a craft that you can put down and start dinner, run to the bust stop to pick up a sibling, or put away until the next day. Using a hold punch is a wonderful tool for building hand strength but make sure you have the right size punch that your child can maneuver to avoid any frustration.

Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( great way to use up scrap paper! ), hole punches, scissors, and some ribbon. You will also need some painter’s tape to hang them up without leaving too much gunk on your walls or windows. easy valentine's day craft

Start but folding some paper in half and cutting hearts. easy valentine's day craft for kids

Time to punch, hole punch heartI am telling you this one was tricky. hole punch heart craft for valentine's dayEveryone helped punch the holes. hole punch heart valentine's day craft

Make sure there is a hole in the middle of the top to thread the ribbon through. hole punch hearts

Thread it through and tie a double knot. This was too tricky for my daughter. The hearts are fragile and rip easily on this step. We decided we were a heart factory and the kids punched most of the holes and Mama tied on the ribbon. hole punch hearts in window

Hang them up in the window using painter’s tape. easy valentine's day decor


Books About Love & Friendship

books about love

Check out these 14 wonderful books about love and friendship after you make these fantastic hole punch hearts Valentine’s Day craft!

45 Valentine’s Day Activities For Preschool

valentine's day activities for preschool My daughter is itching to get our Valentine’s Day crafts from years past out and up on our walls. I told her we need to finish packing up all the Christmas stuff first. We were off to a good start but then the stomach bug hit and we’ve been stalled ever since. As a compromise I have gathered up all our old favorite Valentine’s Day activities for preschool, added some from our favorite blogs and put them all in one place so she ( and all of you) can decide what we are going to make this year.

valentine's day ideas for preschool

Melted Pony Bead Heart Wind Chimes
Cork Love Bugs
Frozen Vinegar Heart Valentine’s Day Science! by Inspiration Laboratories
Heart Sun Catcher for Toddlers
Toilet Paper Roll Heart Stamps from Teach Preschool

valentine's day ideas for preschool

Valentine’s Day Rainbow
Valentine’s Day Truck
Valentine’s Day Yarn Heart from Hands On As We Grow
Heart Memory Game
Air Dry Clay Hearts from Let’s Explore

valentine's day crafts for preschool

Paper Hug
Woven Heart Mobile by The Imagination Tree
Valentine’s Day Discovery Box
Stained Glass Crowns from The Artful Parent
Heart Shaped Pizza

valentine's day ideas for preschool

Mosaic Heart Valentine
Valentine’s Day Tambourine
Valentine’s Day Heart Window by Fun At Home With Kids
Heart Chalkboards
Paper Heart Patterns

preschool valentine's day activities

Playdough Valentine’s Day Bakery
Recycled Paper Hearts
Collage Heart Craft
Valentine’s Day Doily Watercolor Art by Creative With Kids
Heart Bead Wands

preschool valentine's day ideas

Love Potions
Color A Heart Game from Toddler Approved
Heart Sun Catcher
Tie Dye Hearts
Crayon Shaving Heart Art by Buggy and Buddy

valentine's day ideas for preschool

Shake Painted Valentine
Doily Heart Butterflies
Puffy Heart Wreath
H is for Heart
Frozen Heart Recycled Crayons

preschool ideas for valentine's day

Heart Color Match
Heart Butterflies by The Artful Parent
Apple Print Valentines
Heart Bird Feeders
Valentine’s Day Photo Wreath

valentine ideas for preschool

Love Bomb
Marbled Salt Dough Heart from Twodaloo
Marshmallow Heart
No Glue Heart Suncatcher
Heart Garland from Hands On As We Grow


Did we miss one of your favorites? If so leave a link in comments to YOUR favorite valentine’s day craft and I’ll be sure to add it to my Valentine’s Day Ideas For Kids & Families Pinterest board!