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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Breaking Down Centers for Play and Learning

In this article, we will reflect on popular interest areas and or centers in the early childhood classroom. It is important to do this because oftentimes, teachers are accused of only having children play. We must ensure that parents understand that play is a child’s vehicle for learning. I had documentation ready for each center that included: what the center was, why the center was important, what the children were learning, and how it aligned with any state and national standards. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that differentiation is occurring in interest areas, and we are allowing children to learn through their individual learning styles. If you have yet to build interest centers into your classroom community, I challenge you to create and have fun with it!

Why Use Centers:

  1. Oral language development
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Trial and error
  4. Differentiation
  5. Thematic unit integration
  6. Cross-curricular integration/Integrated units
  7. Play and Learning (how children learn)
  8. Investigate, explore, examine, and make decisions
  9. Cooperation
  10. Problem-Solving
  11. Open-Ended activities
  12. Hands-on Learning
  13. Independent play
  14. Group Play
  15. Play is a child's vehicle to learning
  16. Role-play

And these are only a few reasons to mention that allow children to grow and develop.

Centers allow teachers to:

  1. Create areas that allow for differentiation where children can express themselves and relax.
  2.  Observe and monitor children in a setting where they are able to choose what and how they are learning a certain skill.
  3. Assess children in an environment where they can actually show teachers what they know.
  4. Pull children out for small group work and one on one interaction and still have other children busy and engaged.
  5. Incorporate thematic units and project-based learning more throughout the day.

Let's look deeper into popular interest stations. The following are only a FEW ideas of what skills children may be using and or learning from each center. Remember, teachers can always add materials, resources, or anything they want so that they can cover state standards and learning objectives. 

Reading/Literacy Center allows children to:

  1. Learn environmental print
  2. Play with words (read, sound out)
  3. Learn to hold books and turn the pages
  4. Retell stories
  5. Develop oral Language
  6. Listen and take turns with peers
  7. Practice reading and writing 
  8. Practice comprehension skills
  9. Be independent in reading and writing
  10. Work on fluency
  11. Work on vocabulary

Computer/Technology Center Skills:

  1. Trial and error
  2. Digital literacy
  3. How to appropriately handle and use technology
  4. Reaching out and learning about the world around them
  5. Reading/math/science and any other subject you want them to study
  6. Dual language with digital stories
  7. Virtual stories and field trips

The Block Center allows children to work on:

1. Imagination

2. Trial and error

3. Oral Language 

4. Logic and critical thinking

5. Numeracy

6. Patterning

7. Measurement

8. Size

9. Geometry

10. Shapes, numbers, length, weight

The Housekeeping Center/Dramatic Play Area:

1. Imagination

2. Pretending

3. Different roles of a family

4. Relieve experiences

5. Cooperation

6. Communication

7. Language Arts

8. Math

9. Reading

10. Science

Different themes and materials can be added and changed in this area. Children can set up a pizza parlor or a flower shop. There are so many things that this center can evolve into. 

Art Center

1. Cause and Effect

2. Trial and Error

3. Experimentation with colors, textures, lines, space, and size

4. Thinking skills

5. Art stimulates both sides of the brain

6. Memory

7. Attention

8. Concentration

9. Fine motor skills

10. Boosts self-esteem


It is crucial to be able to point out what each center is doing to help children learn. When you know exactly why children are learning in this type of center, it will also help you to organize, gather materials and align with any learning for the week. You will also be able to show families and administrators why learning is so productive in your classroom and why centers are vital to a child’s learning. Remember that planning out centers in your classroom takes time and effort, but the children will thrive when they are able to choose what they are learning. It also provides time for the teacher to work with children, assess, model, and engage with children. 

~ Tisha