I always had a love for school, even when it irritated me I loved school. I loved learning new things, I loved finding new books, I loved hanging out with my friends, all in all I loved school. Sure there were times when I didn't like a teacher, or I didn't like a subject we were taking, but in the grand scheme of things I enjoyed school. So it would not surprise anyone that one of my favourite rainy, non school day activity was playing school. I would set up my sister and our stuffed animals in a classroom area of our basement. I would then set up colouring or writing or story activities to do with them. Sometimes I even let my sister be the teacher, but she was younger and did not know as much as me, so that was only sporadically.
It's ironic right, kids complain about school, yet when they are left to do free play they play school. I find it funny, but I think it's one of the best games or activities that I as a parent can foster. Do I want to guide the school play, no, do I expect my kids to not need any help, no, but I need to do something so that it can be an independent activity and not an activity I have to over see.
Lil Man's favourite activity at school is Centres. This is when the kids are divided into small groups and they get to different activities around the room. These activities can be music, reading, games, blocks, worksheets, anything really. The kids will go through the 4 or 5 centres in a day, some could be teacher led and some are independent after the Teacher explains how the centre works. It's great because it gives them some guided instruction, but it also gives them time to play independently of which I personally feel kids need more.
So after a week of Lil Man being home for three days and always wanting to play school I decided I need to create some centres I could direct him back to at that time and he could do them independently. Some of them I will of course help him set up, but some he can just be directed to and I can let him play alone and I can do the stuff I need to do around the house. So that's what I did one weekend, I bought supplies for centres.
I went to the Dollarama and purchased little baskets that fit on my shelves, bought some craft supplies, and some notebooks.
We now have eight centres in our house. We have a puzzle centre, a math centre, a writing centre, a workbook centre, a colouring centre, a painting centre, a play dough centre, and a games centre. These were simple to set up once I got around to organizing them. And now Little man can pick the centre he wants to do and we set it up and he plays for different lengths of time depending on the centre.
The puzzle and colouring centre are the easiest for Lil Man to do on his own. He simply grabs to box then puts the puzzles together or colours in one of the many colouring books we have. I put the board the puzzles in the puzzle centre and a few smaller puzzles. The colouring centre has his crayons and markers so that's easy for him as well. He definitely spends more time with the colouring centre than the puzzle centre.
Painting and Play dough take a little extra set up for me because we have to put the table clothe and newspaper down so he doesn't make a mess every where. But once that little set up occurs Lil Man is good to play for a long time on his own. Sometimes when he's in the play dough centre I have him make different shapes or letters as he plays. It's easy to direct from where ever I am in the house especially if I'm cooking or feeding the baby.
The math, writing, and workbook centres are much more guided by myself. These are centres that I have to be more actively involved in throughout. I help Lil Man write words, count his numbers or start different workbook pages. He finishes the small tasks but then I have to go back and start a new task or re-explain what he is supposed to be doing. He really enjoys these centres because he can practice what he is learning at school. He's very smart and he really likes to learn!!
The game centre is where Lil man picks out a game to play, this can be candy lane, pictopia, sorry or trouble. And sometimes he plays alone but most of the time we play together while his brother is sleeping.
My next task is to break up our day so that it is in a routine for Lil Man and he knows when he and I are doing things together and when he will need to do things independently. I am going to work on a ninth and tenth centre. The ninth being music and the tenth being reading centre.