Play Centers

The Value of Play

A child's play is more than frolic and running around. Through play children learn to imitate animal noises, recognize alphabet letters and numbers, and understand about sharing and getting along with their peers. They develop their large muscle skills by running, walking, climbing or riding a bike; their small muscles skills by coloring, cutting, pasting and painting. And, this just scratches the surface.

A quality child care program, whether at a daycare centre, day home or at the child's home, gives a child the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential. It provides equipment with which to learn, an environment that stimulates curiosity, and a nurturing caregiver who binds it all together. Play centers appeal to the multiple intelligences whereby children learn, allow the child to take control of his or her own learning, builds teamwork and social acceptance and encourages creativity.

Creating Play Centers

When creating play centers in your facility start by making a list of the various learning centers you think you'd like to have for the children. Perhaps you will want a dramatic center, a construction play center, a reading center, an art center, and a rest center. Remember that children learn through diverse modalities - music, art, movement, kinesthetic actions, and verbal activities to name just a few.

Then, identify locations within the room or space that would be suitable for the centers taking into account all of the aspects of the particular learning center. For example, a reading or book center should have space for shelves of books and a table to sit at.

Be Organized and Well Stocked

Make sure you have the necessary items for each center - things you'll have to collect or purchase. Create a label for each center using the name for the center, for example "ART" with a picture of a paint brush or box of crayons. Organize the supplies within the center in a way that makes sense using shelves and boxes and ensuring there are tables, mats, chairs, or pillows, whatever makes the most sense for that particular center. Children play better when materials are close at hand, easy to identify and fast to put away.

Dramatic Center

When creating a drama center, have puppets, a tent, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, and small furniture and doll houses. Make clean-up easy by providing bins, hooks, shelves or boxes labeled with pictures of the toys that go into the box so the children have an easy time cleaning up.

Children tend to go to the place they enjoy the most day after day. In light of this, rotate the toys in the centers as often as possible so the children are kept interested and challenged with new things. In the construction center, alternate building blocks, Lincoln logs, tinker toys, and manipulative toys with weaving cards and other activities that demand coordination.

Old Favorites Center

One of the most fun spaces for children is the place where the old favorites linger. Playdough, water wheels, soapsuds, flubber, finger paints and shaving cream all hold a special place in the hearts of children. If it squishes, splats, oozes or is wet, it's bound to be a hit. Plastic smocks or old-button shirts are great for protecting clothing. This is one center you may want to do in the warm weather and keep it outside - for obvious reasons.

Quiet time requires a special place as well. A little corner where there are soft, cozy blankets and pillows under a canopy offers a safe and quiet place for the child who needs to remove himself from the fray for a few minutes.

Learning center ideas are plentiful and having several in your facility help you provide a valuable tool in the development of young children.