Preschoolers learn best when engaged in hands‑on activities that allow them to explore and discover new things. That’s why preschool learning centers are so important! These centers provide a variety of activities that help children explore different areas of the classroom learn new skills. They also allow children to have fun while learning! The more fun students find activities, the more likely they are to stay engaged. The more engaged they are, the more they are learning! Center time also helps children develop social skills – another important part of early childhood education.
Even though preschool is meant to be fun, it is also where kids are first introduced to the skills that are important for school readiness. These skills help each young child be prepared for kindergarten – and beyond! Preschool learning centers can be a lot of fun but they also provide important educational benefits.
At Tender Loving Care, children have the opportunity to experience the following learning centers daily;
Dramatic Play Kitchen Blocks Trains
Manipulatives (Math) Science Book Nook Tablets
Water Table Sensory Table Gross Motor Art Center
Writing Center Quiet Center Wood Working Music
Another way we keep children engaged in the learning centers is to add thematic items throughout the year. Items related to the weekly topics help students make connections across different areas of learning. It also helps children understand how learning applies to their life in many different ways.
The classrooms also rotate large items such as restaurants, the baking center, the grocery store and other large items into the kitchen center. The garden center hot chocolate center are also some of the large items rotated into the dramatic play center. Blocks and Animation Station have a large selection of large toys that are rotated in each week to keep children’s attention over time.
How does playing with blocks help a child's development?
Physical development – Block play promotes the development of spatial awareness and develops hand‑eye coordination as children reach for, lift, move and build with blocks, strengthening their fingers, hands and arms. Blocks develop skills in early numeracy such as patterning, size, geometry, measurement, classification, quantity, weight and length. Blocks develop early scientific knowledge such as balance, space, gravity and stability. There is also evidence that complex block‑play and construction play is linked with higher mathematical achievement.
In Block Center children are:
* Using our fine and gross motor muscles
* Mathematical thinking such as, classifying by shape, size and color
* Experimenting with balance and forms
* Using our imagination and self expression
* Testing our ideas
* Self esteem by bringing their ideas to life
* Cooperation and social emotional growth while sharing and taking turns with building materials
* Recognizing quantity and number concepts
* Discovering modes of transportation
Block play offers an open-ended and creative learning experience. It gives children freedom to explore, take apart and rebuild any creation they can think of. There are endless possibilities, whether a child is playing alone, with a friend or in a small group. Blocks are such simple items with so many benefits.
“When you see me building in the block area,
Please don’t say I’m “just playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play,
I may build houses or bridges some day.
How does the computer center effect a child's development?
With technology and interactive media, learning becomes a multisensory and interactive experience! They promote learning and development when used intentionally and within the framework of developmentally‑ appropriate practice to support learning goals and expand educational opportunities for all children.
Children’s individual screen time is limited to 15 minutes per day as required by Arkansas State Licensing Regulations.
Computers contribute to children's intellectual development, and bridge the gap between concrete and abstract thinking. As children explore cause and effect, create patterns, solve problems, and discover solutions, they learn to do on a screen what they have already mastered through hands‑ on learning.
Advantages of Computers:
* Introduces educational skills
* Teaches spatial and logical skills
* Prepares children for future computer use
* Increases self‑esteem and self‑confidence
* Boosts problem‑solving skills
* Stimulates language comprehension
* Improves long‑term memory and manual dexterity
* Develops fine motor skills
* Enhances pre-writing skills
* Advances pre-reading skills
How does art help a child's development?
Using art tools helps children develop small muscle coordination and control. Children can practice thinking skills by experimenting with color, texture, and design. Art gives children an opportunity to express their ideas and feelings, relieves tension, and provides limits for self‑discipline.
Art activities build on children’s observational skills, and help them gain confidence, promotes feelings of self‑worth and helps develop their creativity and imagination, as well as offering them time to relax. Art is an avenue for self expression while developing eye hand coordination and color recognition.
Concepts learned in the art center:
* Color, line, shape and form
* Color creation from the mixture of colors
* How to form 3 dimensional objects
* Vocabulary development as they describe their creation
* Fine motor development as they hold and control various tools
* Pattern recognition
When you see me up to my elbows in paint,
Or standing at an easel, or molding or shaping clay,
Please don’t let me hear you say, “he’s just playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play.
I’m expressing myself and being creative.
I may be an artist or an inventor someday.
How does the Book Nook help a child's development?
Preschool reading centers are a wonderful way to help develop literacy and language skills in early learners. This center focuses on listening, reading, and writing activities that will give children an opportunity to explore and learn through hands‑on participation. Providing access to a variety of literacy tools, such as reading and writing materials, books and reference resources, and phonics activities can spark imagination and inspire an interest for education in young students. Becoming familiar with the alphabet, focusing on letter recognition, building vocabulary, and strengthening reading and comprehension skills are just a few of the many benefits the reading center.
In the Book Nook children are:
* Learning pre-reading skills
* Developing language skills
* Sequencing events
* Recognizing that letters have meaning
* Learning to take care of books
* Learning to follow directions
* Experiencing quiet moments
* Learning to create their own stories and use their imagination
* Connecting stories to their pictures
* Working independently
* Gathering information
* Developing a love for books
Providing a collection of books that are of interest to early learners such as storybooks, picture books, nursery rhymes, and factual books that are related to thematic topics allows children to select books based on what they are interested in at the time.
When you see me sitting in a chair “reading to an imaginary audience,
Please don’t laugh and think I’m just playing.”
For you see, I’m learning as I play,
I may be a teacher someday.
How does the sensory center effect a child's development?
Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving and creativity. It helps to build nerve connections in the brain’ s pathways which leads to the child's ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
The Sensory Center helps children develop the following:
Language skills: Children’s language skills develop naturally through sensory play.
“When a child participates in any sort of play, sensory included, they’re learning through experiences in their environments and learning different ways to communicate emotions, wants and needs,” By engaging the senses, your child will learn how to describe what they’re doing and how it feels, eventually using more descriptive words to communicate.
Fine motor skills: Sensory play can help your child develop fine motor skills like tying their shoe, writing and zipping their coat. Through tactile play that focuses on building, pouring and mixing, your child builds on their ability to use small muscle groups and coordinate movements.
Tactile (hands-on) play is a great way to provide opportunities for a child to work on his/her fine motor skills in a fun way. Allowing children to freely explore small sensory contents like dried pasta, dry cereal, rice or even slime or play dough can strengthen and build their fine motor skills.
Cognitive Growth: Asking questions, thinking about how things work, doing experiments and analyzing results are all part of healthy cognitive growth. It’s how we learn something new and figure things out.
With sensory play, children work on problem‑solving skills. It encourages them to explore how to play and engage with different mediums as well as how to maneuver challenges they encounter, like how to get rice from one container to another or how to stay balanced on a swing.
Calming effect: Your sensory system can help you calm down. This is particularly important for children as they develop. Sensory play can be used to help regulate your overall arousal level. You can use it to stimulate a child who might be a little sluggish. On the other end, sensory play can help a child who might have hyperactivity or trouble paying attention.
Fosters social interaction: By engaging in sensory play with siblings or peers, your child begins developing social skills. It helps them learn how to communicate, troubleshoot problems and learn to adapt to how others play.
How does the water center effect a child's development?
Water play activities help to develop and strengthen children's gross and fine motor skills. Children enhance their gross motor skills, coordination and physical fitness through lifting, pouring, carrying and splashing, while actions such as squeezing help to develop the small muscles in a child's hands.
Develop Motor Skills: Water Play increases Motor Skills
Kids water play provides the opportunity to develop fine and gross motor skills across all age ranges. Actions like pouring, scrubbing, squirting, stirring and squeezing are all important movements that lead to increased fine motor skills and hand‑eye coordination.
Introducing children to new water‑related textures (slippery, slimy!) and temperatures can be an amazing sensory experience and will also help them master their pincer grip. This can lead to them having no trouble at all holding a pencil at school. Moving the water pump in our outdoor play area is one of our preschoolers favorite activities, and it sure helps to build those arm muscles!
Problem‑Solving Skills: Water play allows the exploration of new substances and gives children the opportunities to make discoveries. Observing a branch or paper float or sink will teach them, in a very practical way, how and why things happen. But above all, it encourages them to use their imagination and develop creative thinking, which plays an important role in problem‑solving.
Language Development: The benefits of water play are endless – one of which being all the new words that can be learned. Imagine the discussions you can have with your child while you are having fun with water. The conversations to be had using new words such as basin, damp, depth, drain, flow, drenched, drizzle and sieve are endless!
Social‑Emotional Growth: Another benefit of water play in early childhood is that it can both invigorate and calm young children, with gentle water play providing sensory benefits and allowing children to unwind, order their thoughts and relax. When presented with a tranquil and repetitive activity, such as scooping, pouring or simply running their hands through water, it can open up their senses and encourage them to focus on one activity.
Further importance of water play is its encouragement in role playing and crucial social skills like cooperation and sharing. They learn to work with one or several children, to take turns and share the space and accessories with their friends.
Science and Mathematics Learning: Water brings fun! We use water play to teach basic mathematics. It introduces children to terms such as Full, Empty, Half, Less. Science is everywhere around us. Children can measure, compare volumes, observe motion, count the rocks in the basin and notice the flow change as we move them. All of these concepts are part of the curriculum.
Water play allows children to explore and interact with each other. New experiences and discovering new things within shared spaces offer a great opportunity for social development. As children play, they will be excited to communicate their discoveries to everyone around them.
How does the kitchen center effect a child's development?
In the Kitchen Center children are encouraged to explore and experiment when problems arise in the kitchen. For example, they learn to substitute object for missing ingredients. Counting, weighing, sorting and measuring ingredients in the kitchen can help a child grasp mathematical concepts like numbers, measurements and time.
The following are skills learned in the kitchen center;
* Language and communication
* Pretend play and imagination skills
* Independence and confidence
* Social skills and cooperation
* Fine motor skills
* Visual recognition
* Number recognition
* Planning and organization
Cooking and the kitchen center encourages children’s thinking, problem solving and creativity. It also allows children the opportunity to use the knowledge they have and apply it by counting, measuring, following a sequence, following directions and identifying cause and effect.
When you see me cooking or tasting foods,
Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is just “play.”
I’m learning to follow directions and see differences.
I may be a chef someday.
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