Choice Time: Intro

Choice Time: Intro

What is "Choice Time" and why does it matter?

Choice Time refers to the time(s) of day when children are allowed to choose how they want to spend their time. This does not mean it is a free-for-all and the children can do whatever they feel like, but rather the teacher has selected a number of different options that they may choose.

For example, some common choices you might have available:

  • the sand table
  • the play kitchen
  • puzzles
  • the art area
  • play dough
  • the reading corner

Calling it "Choice Time" is a minor language switch for your parents, children, and yourself. For parents, it helps represent the intentionality you bring to your day. Many parents still struggle to accept how powerful and important play is, so anything we can do to re-frame play is a good thing. When explaining your Rhythm of the Day, you can describe Choice Time as the time where children are invited to engage more deeply in a few different activities of their choosing.

For children, it provides useful language you can use to reinforce your classroom norms. For example, if a child is running around, you can say, "Running is not a choice right now, but we will go outside later," or if you see a child is drifting and not engaged in anything you can say, "What choice do you want to make?" Sometimes a child will request a choice that isn't currently available, and you can make a judgment call about bringing it out immediately or saving it for later.

For you, "Choice Time" limits the number of options and therefore the amount of mess at any given time of day. You can decide what system you want to use to show what is available to your children, but it can be as simple as pulling a basket off a shelf and putting it on the floor where your children can access it.

Choice Time is also when you are able to set up a teacher-led activity. If you know the rest of the choices are more self-sufficient (blocks, play kitchen, puzzles, etc.) then you can set up an art activity or game that requires more of your attention as one of the choices. You can invite your children to join in whatever you're doing by saying, "Do you want to come paint with me?" The wonderful thing about Choice Time is that it is a good chunk of time, so even if a child doesn't want to do something immediately, there is time for them to change their mind later.

Choice Time is a great way to also represent the balance between teacher-led and child-led learning that is happening in your program. The Choice refers to both you and your children-- you are the guiding hand thinking about what types of play and learning your children are interested in, and your children ultimately get to choose what interests them and how they want to spend their time.

Whether you choose to use the specific phrase, "Choice Time" is up to you. "Open Exploration," "Center Time," "Free Exploration"-- these are all other great options to consider. The point is that how we talk about what we do--both with children and parents--matters.