If you’ve ever visited us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool when we’re using centers, you’ve seen a buzz of happy activity and play. Centers in preschool are fun — that’s undeniable — but they’re also key to learning, development, and growth for your child. Learn what goes into centers in preschool, and how your child is benefiting.
Children build their academic skills when they explore and create during their chosen centers. This happens organically, because children are allowed to choose the centers that appeal to them, and then once there, they get engaged and active in using the materials.
Children learn through play. At centers, children use designated materials that are designed to build learning and skills, and they get to be hands-on and exploratory with those materials.
Safe Place to Make Mistakes
We learn through mistakes, but when children’s learning has a heavy emphasis on worksheets, there isn’t as much opportunity to learn from those mistakes. Center time, on the other hand, is low on stress — there’s no right answer here — which allows children to try, mess up, and still enjoy the process.
Extend the Learning
Centers are also designed to allow children to keep learning the concepts they are being taught. If they practiced learning the letter A, for example, they might want to paint an A in the art center. Or they may look for the letter A in the books at the reading center. They may use manipulatives in the literacy center to sound out other letters.
This provides an environment ripe for making academic discoveries on their own, further solidifying important concepts.
Children have so little say in their world. In a world where big people call almost all the shots, centers at preschool are liberating. Children need time to make their own choices, and the freedom of choice is abundant in centers. This helps children develop a true love of learning and exploration.
Children build social skills, including cooperation, when they play at centers.
Children have to learn how to respect the materials, how others use the materials, and the ideas of their classmates. They learn to build on each other’s thoughts, and they learn to take turns. They also learn to problem solve together.
And because centers are open for free play, children get the opportunity to learn how to join in on play that’s already going on, and to welcome people into an activity.
We also use centers in preschool to observe the children. We note what they are drawn to, where they struggle, who they interact with and how, and so much more. And often, as teachers, we engage with the children at specific centers to monitor their skills and understanding.
Surprisingly, children can even learn a bit of time management through centers at preschool. With only a limited amount of time each day, children have to learn how to prioritize what’s important to them. Over time, they begin to better understand that if they spend all day at the puppets, they won’t have time for blocks. They then get to make their own decisions about what is more important to them, and act accordingly.
The Types of Centers at Preschool
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have a variety of centers where we often rotate materials and items according to our themes.
We supply the art center with a variety of materials that help children build skills while expressing themselves creatively. Here, they practice drawing, cutting, gluing, and so much more that helps with hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and creativity.
We stock our reading center with books that support our weekly themes. We often change the objects in the reading center to match our themes as well, like when we bring in a spaceship tent during our unit on space.
We encourage dramatic play in all we do, as it allows children to make sense of the world and draw important connections and conclusions. Dress-ups are a fun and important process of dramatic play. They allow children to literally try on different roles.
We love that children often keep their dress-up clothing on while they move to different centers. They take their dramatic play with them to new situations!
Puppets help in dramatic play, building vocabulary, storytelling, sharing, building listening skills, learning to improvise, and so much more.
Sand, Water, Sensory Bins
We often have a sensory bin filled with objects that correlate with our weekly theme. For example, during our “Under the Sea” unit, we filled sensory bins with blue sensory beads and ocean animal figurines. This allows the children to get more familiar with a subject through their senses.
We also often bring sand and water into our sensory bins, as those allow children to discover the world in new ways.
Providing musical instruments is a great way for children to explore cause-and-effect, creativity, emotional expression, and a variety of elements of music.
Playing with blocks helps children learn engineering and architecture concepts, teaches planning and cause-and-effect, builds creativity, fosters cooperation, and so much more.
Using manipulatives in a math center is a great way for math concepts to come to life for children. It also helps math feel accessible and positive, giving children a good foundation for a subject that tends to intimidate as time goes on.