Center activities are different areas of exploration and play set up throughout the preschool classroom. These “centers” allow children to develop their imaginations and gain everyday life experiences. Center activities may include subjects such as Dramatic Play, Art Expression, Language and Literacy and Science. These areas of learning inspire children to role-play real life encounters, create a masterpiece or make discoveries about the world.
Dramatic Play Center
The Dramatic Play center is usually filled with items such as costumes, props, puppets and a stage. This environment fosters student-directed exploration and play by allowing children to dress up and act out scenarios conjured up by their imaginations. Whether a child is reenacting everyday situations or acting out a fictional story, Dramatic Play helps to develop abstract thinking, comprehension and literacy, among other subjects.
Art Expression Center
Art Expression is often confused with the term “Arts and Crafts,” however, the two refer to very different ways to learn about art. Art Expression is process-oriented, allowing for several different outcomes based on the ideas of each individual. Arts and Crafts set a preconceived notion of the intended outcome. Artistic Expression encourages children to think innovatively and entrepreneurially by promoting creativity. Arts and Crafts teach children how to follow step-by-step instruction.
In the Art Expression center, children learn how to make their own mark on the world and express themselves in ways that can be appreciated. They learn to control their feelings and emotions and to release them in healthy, productive ways. In addition, maneuvering a paintbrush or crayon helps children develop fine muscle control and hand-eye coordination. They will also develop writing skills and dexterity, as well as perception of colors, shapes and textures.
Language and Literacy Center
A Language and Literacy center may have several books for students to read and activities to improve proficiency. Although most other subjects contribute to the competency of Language and Literacy, this center helps students to gain a deeper understanding. By reading on their own, or just simply browsing through a book, children begin to put letters together with their sounds.
When teachers read to students in the Language and Literacy center, phonological awareness begins to develop. Phonological awareness is the ability to comprehend the sounds in words, but is separate from word meaning. To build these skills, teachers will stop reading to ask questions about the story or the words they just heard read aloud, and have the students provide input. Having this skill allows children to detect syllables, rhyming words, alliterations and the like.
The Science center helps students to explore and understand the world that surrounds them. Here, children will learn about how plants grow, different animal species and about themselves. Science is everywhere, which makes it easy for students to make discoveries on their own and satisfies their needs to learn about the world.
The process of learning about Science welcomes trial and error, as all findings are seen as valuable rather than as a failure. Everyday life is the foundation of Science, therefore, it contributes to other subject such as math and literacy. Science encourages large group conversations, problem-solving and critical thinking.
Preschool Center Activities promote active, student-directed learning through play and exploration. Whether students are learning on their own or under the leadership of the teacher, all discoveries are vital to their comprehension of the subjects they will be learning in kindergarten.