Preschool learning centers are child friendly spaces where kids can explore, learn, create and relax. Optimize the space in your classroom to create a smooth flow from one center to the next. Always keep in mind the needs of the children and your own.
Label: Each center needs to be marked with a picture and should have it's own defined space. You can also show the number of children that are allowed in each center.
Picture: Use a picture to remind the children of the way the center looks like when it is clean. It is a great way to teach children to be responsible and autonomous.
Made to measure: The furniture in the classroom should be comfortable and fit the size of the children.
The number discussion: Many teachers like to limit the number of children at each center. I do not agree with this approach. In my opinion children should be able to make their own choices and play at any preschool learning center they like for as long as they like to. That being said I do encourage them to try new things and play with other children.
Preschool learning centers lingo: Teach the children that sometimes centers are OPEN and sometimes they are CLOSED. We also use the words COMPULSORY and FREE. Compulsory means they need to come to this center and free means they can choose to go to this center.
In my class I use the center board below. It allows the children to see clearly which centers are open and closed and the number of children in each center. By doing so, it helps build independence, a calm classroom environment and smooth and easy transition time.
Music/Listening Center: This center should include: Tape/CD player, headphones, books on tape and musical instruments.
Creative Center: Used to be called the dolly corner. This center has a kitchen, a table, a mirror and a dress up bin. Reinvent this center frequently by connecting it to the children's interest or your teaching unit. For example turn it into a grocery store, a farm, a coffee shop or a hospital.
Writing/Art Center: Keep lots of papers, markers, crayons, glue and scissors at reach. Ideally use clear containers without covers.
Construction Center: Blocks and Lego, carpet with picture of a road. Open this center often. It is a great center for kinesthetic learners. Vary it by adding dinosaurs, farm animals, little people and so on.
Library/Book Center: A comfy couch, pillows and a carpet along with a changing library that carries books relating to your teaching unit.
Painting Center: Paint, easel, smocks and paint brushes. Children should paint at least once a week. It helps their creativity and gross motor development. Ideally the painting center should be located close to the sink.
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