Children of all ages enjoy hands-on learning and preschoolers are no different. Providing an opportunity for your students to take charge of their own learning through exploration, creativity, and working closely with each other in small groups helps to develop their self-esteem, encourages socialization and offers them a chance to express themselves while obtaining new information.
This guide of center ideas and dramatic play themes will provide you with the necessary teaching tools to create a successful learning environment complete with fun!
The What, Why and How of Early Learning Centers
Learning centers in the preschool classroom have been designed to create interactive learning experiences for students for years, but why are they so important? What are the benefits of these small learning areas? Learn how to organize and setup your classroom to make learning in small groups and centers fun. How do students learn through play and exploration? These articles will provide you with the insight into this methodology, including how to assess learning in this environment.
- An Overview of the Early Learning Center
- Using Small Groups in Preschool
- Developmental Purpose Behind Dramatic Play
- The Many Things Preschoolers Learn Through Play
- Components of a Preschool Classroom
- Preschool Learning Centers: A Setup Guide for Teachers
- Setting Up Toddler Learning Centers
- How to Create an Orderly Learning Center
- Learning Center Documentation
It’s Reading and Writing Time
Reading and writing is a large part of the curriculum at the preschool level. Skills such as alphabet identification and writing, reading comprehension, literary connections, name writing, number writing, and even journaling are all touched upon and to some degree emphasized more than other subject areas. These are the necessary skills to communicate and gain knowledge in life so developing writing and reading/library centers with activities to practice these skills will highly benefit your students.
- Preschool Reading Centers: The Reading Nook
- Library Center Ideas for the Preschool Classroom
- Organizing a Preschool Classroom Library
- Setting Up a Preschool Writing Center
- Writing Center Activities for Preschoolers
- Preschool Journaling
- Let’s Practice Writing Your Name!
- Learn How to Write the Alphabet
- Preschool Number Writing Ideas
How Does That Work? Science Centers
Science is the perfect subject for setting up learning centers where preschoolers can explore, experiment, and collect data all while gaining valuable information regarding their surroundings. They will discover the wonder of magnets, study the concepts of sink or float, explore why things melt and how our five senses can help us learn. These science center ideas and activities will transform your ordinary students into little Einsteins in no time!
- How to Setup a Preschool Science Center
- Science Center Ideas for Teaching Seasons and Weather
- Magnet Activities for Preschoolers
- Preschool Sink or Float Activities
- Preschool Sensory Table Ideas
- Ideas for Preschool Sensory Play
What Can I Make? Art Center Ideas and Materials
Independent art activities such as coloring, cutting, gluing, tracing, drawing, etc. are all ways for students to put their creativity to good use by crafting something that has value to them. Providing a wide array of art materials and even creating art kits for center time can help your preschoolers to put Picasso to shame!
- Using a Preschool Art Center
- Shape Tracing Activities and Ideas for Preschool
- Creating Activity Kits in Art
- Art Materials for Preschool
- A List of Materials to Keep in Preschool Art Area Closets
Themed Center Ideas
Often times, teachers create learning centers based on themes they are covering in class. These articles touch on themes including the farm, the city, the winter, the summer, ducks, birds and more. With these themed centers, they will learn math skills, listening skills through reading, fine motor skills through crafts, science concepts, social skills and will have the opportunity to play games and sing songs.
- Creative Farm Center Ideas for Preschool
- Ideas for Toys for a Preschool City Theme
- Winter Theme and Learning Centers for Preschool
- Quack! Quack! Ideas for a Duck Themed Center
- Center Ideas for Teaching About Birds to Preschoolers
- A Day at the Beach for Preschoolers
- Preschool Summer Clothes Activities and Center ideas
- Let’s Go on a Picnic! Theme and Center Ideas
Dramatic play offers a chance for preschoolers to use their imaginations, encourages social skills, and helps them to develop a sense of community and awareness of their surroundings. Some students may enjoy pretending to be a store clerk while others may enjoy playing the role of a postman or woman. Teaching children the concepts of cooking, healthy eating, laundry skills, money handling and even the purpose or meaning of uniforms, will help them to better understand the roles of the people in their everyday lives such as their parents and community members.
- Ideas for a Preschool Kitchen Center
- Laundry Centers for Dramatic Play in Preschool
- Let’s Go Shopping! A Preschool Grocery Store Theme
- Setting Up a Supermarket Center
- The Flower Shop: Dramatic Play for Preschool
- Preschool Dramatic Play: Pet Shop Fun
- Preschool Dramatic Play: Candy Shop
- You’ve Got Mail: Dramatic Mail Box Play
- Preschool Dramatic Play Center Ideas for The Seasons
- Dramatic Play Theme: Preschool Bugs
Extra Materials and Center Transitions
Some learning centers may just exist to create and opportunity for free play or independent learning using general age-appropriate materials and objects. Here you will find articles discussing activities for items such as puzzles, blocks, sand, water and other manipulatives that will provide them a tactile learning experience.
You will also find a few ideas for transitioning between centers, from circle time to centers, and ideas for center clean up that will eliminate the “put away” pouts.
- Preschool Activities for Blocks in the Classroom
- Using Manipulatives to Teach Numbers and Letters
- Fun Puzzles for Preschoolers
- A Sand and Water Day for Preschool Students
- Hands-on Play with Sand and Water Activities
- Clean Up Transition Song for Preschool
- Teaching Pre-Kindergarteners to Move to Centers
Preschool learning centers are great methods for getting your students to take charge of their own learning. Whether they choose to work on an art project, practice their writing skills, or maybe just want to whip up something in the play kitchen, your little ones will love all of the activities and ideas presented here. If you have some center time fun ideas from your classroom that you would like to share, please feel free to comment below. The more the merrier!
- Author’s teaching experience and research