Centers in Your Classroom
Do you struggle with centers? Which centers to have? What to put in each Center? Ugh!! I have to change them! Well you’re in luck because I love centers. It is probably my favorite thing about teaching in the classroom and teaching at home. In this article, you will find easy centers for a preschool or kindergarten classroom or even your Homeschool Room. We will break down different types of centers in the classroom and how to maintain them the easy way.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
What are Centers?
Let’s start with what centers are according to Fountas & Pinnell in Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children centers are “a physical area set aside for specific learning purposes. The center has appropriate materials to enable children to explore and work independently and behave as active Leaners.”
Why have Centers in Your Classroom?
There are many benefits of having centers in your preschool or kindergarten classroom. Centers allow young children to learn in the most meaningful way, through hands-on play experiences, which is why they’re such a vital part of a high-quality preschool classroom.
The three main benefits of center time are:
- Oral Language Development
- Social Skills
Some additional benefits of learning centers are: When children are invited to explore centers independently, discipline problems may be reduced because they’re able to to practice self-regulation.
Student engagement increases when your students are allowed to choose their centers and explore hands-on activities at each center.
Different Types of Centers
Here is a list of all of the centers I had in my preschool classroom and in my kindergarten classroom now I don’t use all of these in our Homeschool Room just because of space but I still think they are valuable sensors. In the classroom I had my Center spread out all over the room so that kids were not congregating in one spot and it kept the volume down while I was working with small groups. At home our centers are in yellow bins that the kids can pull off the shelf and take to either the carpet to play or to a small table.
Let’s face it, playdough is life in any preschool or pre-k classroom. Playdough is always a favorite with young children, and they have lots of fun playing with it, too!
Art is a form of creative expression; the art center in a preschool classroom is a place where your little learners can go to express themselves creatively. While it’s an important center to have, setting it up and keeping it stocked can be challenging.
A place where students can practice the various stages of writing. Sometimes this center is “free writing”, with the kiddos deciding what to do. Other times, the activity is teacher-directed. Some ideas include making words with letter tiles, writing in journals, writing in sand, and book-making.
Setting up a block center in your preschool or kindergarten classroom can be tricky; and it’s so much more than just putting out a bunch of blocks in a basket and letting the kids go at it. Block centers are also great for supporting language, literacy, math, critical thinking, problem solving, and social skills too!
When you stock your math center with inviting and intriguing materials, your kids will start building those critical math skills without even realizing that they’re doing anything other than having fun!
A literacy center is a must-have in any preschool classroom or ECE environment. Having a quiet area to practice their reading, writing, and comprehension skills will help children express ideas, explore their interests, and learn about the world around them. Including a literacy center in your classroom will help foster skills in children that will influence their overall success in school and in life.
Sensory bins aren’t just fun, they’re an important part of any early childhood learning experience. Young children learn best when they can touch and feel something, sensory play provides opportunities for children to learn in meaningful ways.
A technology learning center provides plenty of great educational resources that can be utilized to teach children new subjects in a fun and interactive way. You can also teach children how to appropriately use technology to find a variety of information about the world. Integrating a technology learning center in your preschool classroom will ensure that children are digitally literate and can use technology to accomplish various tasks.
The dramatic play area is a favorite with both boys and girls. Young children thrive on pretend play, they love to dress up and act out real life situations in the play center. The opportunities for developing creativity, imagination, and oral language skills in the play center are endless!
A science center is so much more than just a place to put science related materials in the classroom. A real science center is interesting, inviting, and offers children opportunities to explore, discover, and use their senses.
What to Put in Your Centers
What I like to do is keep a core set of materials at each Center and then each month or each season add a couple of new things to freshen up the center.
You can get a copy of the core items I keep in each of my centers by joining our Farmhouse homeschooling newsletter.
Here are some things I love to have in a science or sensory center.
Keeping Up with Your Centers
Keeping your centers up to date can be a daunting task and overwhelming at times. But with a system you will be thinking centers all the time and have a stock pile of items to add when you are freshen up your centers.
I am always on the lookout for things to add to my centers. The Dollar Tree and the Target Dollar spot are my favorite places to visit. When I am running errands I will take a few minutes to walk the aisles to look for things that might work in a center. I rarely go looking for specific items because I often can’t find them, instead I keep an open mind and pick up things that I think will be fun for the kiddos.
There are also many things around the house that I love collecting. For example when the kiddos were young I would save the tops from the pouch containers. They come in a bunch of different colors and make a great addition to a sensory bin.
You can also get beans from the grocery store and buttons at craft stores. The key is to just keep an eye out when you are out and about.
When you buy each of my literacy units it include a list of centers and the things that I add to those centers based on the theme of the unit.
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Avoiding Pinterest Paralysis
Don’t go crazy looking at gorgeous ideas on Pinterest—if you go down that rabbit hole, you might never feel ready to set up your own centers. Just carve out a space wherever you can in your home or classroom, and get started. I hope that I have given you some great ideas that will make centers a breeze for you to set up and a fun/educational activity for your kiddos. Once you get in the mindset of CENTERS you will be able to turn just about anything into a center.