There is always something to do in a preschool classroom. To someone on the outside, it may just look like you are playing with your preschoolers, but it is never “just play”. Table time in preschool is a consistent, and predictable way for your students to start their day. When your preschoolers start their day with table time they are engaged in play while also learning.
What you do during your preschool table time, and any time in your preschool classroom, matters a great deal to your preschoolers and their development. Whatever you do, it should be intentional and have a purpose. Here are some great ideas for you to consider for your preschool table time.
1. PROVIDE ENGAGING ACTIVITIES
When your preschoolers enter your classroom they know it is table time, because that is the daily routine. They strive with consistency. If the materials they have to choose from are not engaging though, they will be restless and become bored. Manipulatives are great, but that cannot be the only thing available during table time.
Instead, set out engaging invitations to play. For example, if your theme is insects, set out some construction paper, small tissue paper squares, googly eyes, glue sticks, and crayons. Your preschoolers can use these materials to create what they want, maybe even insects! You can encourage them to create insects by having lots of environmental print about insects around your classroom.
Many teachers enjoy using quiet bins for their preschool table time. Quiet bins are small, shoebox sized tubs for skill focused activities designed for one or two children at a time. For example, one quiet bin could have scissors and strips of paper with pre-drawn lines. The lines can be straight, curvy, and zigzag. The activity is just cutting along the lines. Each quiet bin has a different activity, so there is plenty of variety. The quiet bins should be rotated out every couple of weeks, too, or as often as needed based on your preschoolers’ interests.
Your preschool table time is an excellent time for observations. Preschoolers are well engaged in their play and are all more or less in the same area of the classroom. This makes it easy to get observations for many children. Remember to take pictures of what your preschoolers are doing, so you can add them and your written observations to their portfolios later. These observations will also help you plan future curriculum, including table time activities.
When you engage in play with your preschoolers you are able to use scaffolding to help bring them closer to their developmental goals. They watch how you solve problems and manage emotions such as frustration, which helps them learn to do the same.
If one of your preschoolers using the scissor skills quiet bin is struggling, you can sit with them and model how to pick up the scissors correctly. Lay the scissors on the table and place your thumb in the bottom hole and two or three fingers in the top larger hole. Then open and close the scissors while keeping them flat on the table. This will help the child progress in their scissor skills. If the scissor skills quiet bin seems too easy for a child, then instead of them sticking with the activity as is and getting bored draw shapes for them to cut.
4. MOVE AROUND
During your preschool table time, it is important to move around the room. Don’t just pick a spot to sit and observe from. Observe for a few minutes, and then go interact with the kids at one table, and then move to another a little later. This will give a chance to interact with most of your preschoolers each morning, giving you an idea of how they are truly engaging with the activities provided.
What you do during your preschool table time will set the tone for the rest of your day. Make it engaging and be intentional with your planning to get the most out of it. The more you are actively involved the more your preschoolers will get out of it, too.