Your classroom is a discovery zone, a place to explore, investigate, and create. It’s a place where the process of learning is more important than the finished product.
You can create centers for language, math, art, science, and dramatic play. Integrate time into your schedule for groups of children to visit each center daily. Provide a wide array of open-ended materials and manipulative items where children can easily access these on their own. This area is a place where children can put things together, take things apart, create a new project, discover, and experiment.
Stocking Your Centers
Collectible resources can be obtained in your children’s’ family closets, garages, flea markets, and yard sales. Ask for surplus items from local businesses. Below you’ll find some ideas of “stuff” to enrich your preschool learning centers.
Along with the basic five areas of study, you might think of creating centers for woodworking, a water table, blocks, or cooking. A gross motor area might contain outdoor toys arranged inside for rainy or cold day play. Be innovative and turn your classroom into “The Learning Center.”
Collectible Stuff for Centers
Language – provide this area with all kinds of books, puppets and stuffed animals, felt board, large pillows for seating, old greeting cards and postcards, tapes of stories and music, chart paper, author & illustrator’s works of art (posters and pictures).
Math – this area can use scales for weight and measurement like a bath scale, measuring tapes, food scale, postal scale, and yardstick. Collect items to sort such as paint chip samples, coins, beads, rocks, and shells. Matching games are fun with patterned fabrics, textured fabrics, socks, gloves, and wallpaper samples.
Science – fill this center with plants, like ferns and green leaf varieties, flowers, cacti and small trees. Provide nature books and magazines. Have a supply of observation tools such as magnifiers, microscope, and binoculars. Make sure to include items to observe, such as rocks, acorns, leaves, twigs – anything from nature. Keep seeds and potting soil available for growing plants. Have an assortment of magnets and metal items. Think about small machines for children to take apart such as clocks, toys, and small appliances. For safety purposes, make sure to cut off the plugs and wires.
Art – this place is a zone for creativity. Collect a variety of papers; vellum, rice paper, corrugated cardboard, freezer paper, sandpaper, wallpaper, brown butcher paper, and more. In the paper area have packing pieces, cardboard tubes, boxes, and paper cups and plates. A variety of painting tools are fun, such as all sizes of paintbrushes, rollers, toothbrushes, pastry brush, and feathers. There are so many materials to use in art – so “save that junk!”
Dramatic Play – is a realistic area for home-life play. Collect items for prop boxes that include the post office, pet store, travel agency, bakery, bank, and so on. Household items such as pots, tools, clothing for dress-up, suitcases, and empty boxes from food are useful. If your children play restaurant, things like paper plates, cups, pads of paper, play money, and placemats are useful.
There are only a few ideas for objects to collect for your preschool learning centers – the list is endless. Some teachers find that posting a “wish list” for recyclables near the entrance door alerts parents of your needs. Remember children learn through play and these preschool learning centers prepares them for living in the world in their future.
Source: personal classroom experience