Starting the Day with Connected Play

Cross Posted from
Written By Christine Pinto and Jessica Twomey

Our kids start out the day PLAYING! The centers that we plan for them are intentionally CONNECTED to learning ideas taking place over the course of the week. The play engagements give children opportunities to experience different types of play through: Technology and Communication, Art and Expression, Blocks and Building, and with Letters and Words.

Connected Play Workflow

Intentional Set Up of the Connected Play Board

One of the major points of Connected Play is that it is CONNECTED to learning that is happening during the week (thematic, book/story related, etc.). With this in mind, you are selecting your activities and thinking of an image that speaks to your students. Perhaps the image will be of the materials/manipulatives they are using, one that you create, a sample, etc. Frequently used items that you see your kids using every once in awhile, can be put on a slide under your Connected Play Board. Use bullet points in the text placeholders to type your kids names in.

If you are planning collaboratively with a teacher partner (like us) or your grade level team you can SHARE the slide deck AND still have your OWN spaces. This makes sharing pictures/images easier


Since Monday we introduce a big idea or book that we will be diving into for the week,we  explain the Connected Play centers to the kids that they will be engaging in. Project the Connected Play Board and the kiddos will know where to go! (This makes it really nice for the following days as they enter the classroom, because they know to look for their names and which center to go to without you having to verbally tell them.)

Wednesday – Friday

All you have to do is rotate the groups of students over to the next activity!

Rotation of students will vary on your preference. Above, the last textbox is selected and moved to side by pushing the arrow key. Holding the Shift key, other text boxes are selected and moved over.

Setting Up the Next Week

Thinking ahead to the following year and how you may want to use some of the same Connected Play activities. We suggest that you put your Connected Play boards under your frequently used items slide, make any notes, and then insert a new board.

Use the Shift key to select both slides, and drag them under the frequently used items slide. Click on the baby arrow to insert a new Connected Play Board layout. If you want to keep the groups the same, you can choose to duplicate the boards instead, and just delete the pictures on the original board.

The Benefits of Connected Play

As children prepare to engage in learning for the day, play-based experiences create a sense of safety, stimulate natural interest, and foster development of schema.  The invitation to Connected Play may be an open-ended or guided experience meant to access prior knowledge and stimulate wonder. In order to ensure that all children are exposed to a variety of experiences, they participate in one invitation each morning, with the option to return to the experience at different points throughout the day.

As we created a framework for implementation of Connected Play invitations, the Connected Play Board became a way to visually organize and support work flow within the classroom.  Here are some of the advantages we have discovered in working with the Connected Play Board:

Benefits for the child:

  • Clear and consistent routines
  • Emergent literacy through pictures and words
  • Ability to self-direct
  • Development of independence
  • Guidance in appropriate play practices and social interaction in conjunction with academic concepts

Benefits for the Teacher:

  • Boards can be created as part of the planning process from any space at any time
  • Re-organization and rotation of groups happens with ease (we know teacher time is precious)
  • Boards can be personalized, saved, shared, and built upon to meet the needs of learners from week to week and year to year
  • Clear routines and independence create time/space for individualized and small group instruction to meet the needs of learners
  • A variety of academic skills/concepts/strategies can be covered within this format allowing for engaging, meaningful, and efficient learning opportunities.

As we share practical applications for Innovating Play AND explore specific possibilities in Connected Play, we invite you to join us in these wonders:

How can open-ended materials support creativity in communication and reflection?
How can play create a safe start to the day allowing natural experiences to connect learning?
How can teachers use observation of children’s natural learning patterns to guide instruction throughout the day?
How can play based experiences support connections between social/academic/emotional growth?


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