Overview of Centers | Preschool & K5 Subject Resources
During His earthly ministry, Christ set aside time to show His love to children and to point out the value of a child’s heart (Luke 18:16). At BJU Press, we recognize the importance of loving, teaching, and training children. We have developed a full line of age-appropriate early childhood materials to help teachers make each child’s first classroom experience delightful and meaningful. Understanding our educational approach is key to enjoying the full benefit of our early childhood materials.
An enthusiastic teacher who loves children and understands their thinking and development will thrive with our materials. Our materials are designed so the teacher can tailor materials and activities to meet each child’s individual needs.
Our materials work best with a schedule that is consistent enough to give the children a sense of security, yet flexible enough to adapt to different needs and interests. The time allotted for individual and group activities is adjustable depending on the attention span of the children. As the children mature, time spent on each activity can be extended.
Your schedule may include large blocks of time for indoor and outdoor learning and smaller blocks of time for routines such as restroom breaks, snacks, lunch, and naps. We have designed the materials with these factors in mind.
Children learn best when they are involved in activity—their play is their work. A setting that allows them to observe, explore, interact, play, and discover is vital for their development.
BJU Press materials are designed to provide large group activities, small group activities, and individual activities that correlate with unit themes. For large-group teaching we suggest an informal “Circle Time” with the children sitting on the floor. Small group and individual activities may take place in classroom centers. Centers are especially effective for promoting age-appropriate, fun, and interactive learning.
Setting up and Managing Centers
At the beginning of the year, you can generate excitement by introducing the children to a different center each day. Explain the center’s theme and how to use and store the items in the center. Then allow time for the children to enjoy and explore the centers.
- The number and placement of your centers will depend on the size of your room and the resources you have.
- If you are planning a center with specific needs, such as a water or light source or carpet or tile flooring, choose the locations for those special centers first. Arrange quieter activity centers such as the Book Center away from noisy areas like the Blocks and Home Living Centers.
- If your space is limited, prioritize the centers that best meet the needs of the children. Rotate and/or combine centers for added variety.
- Organize materials in the centers so that they are easy to use and maintain.
- Teach the children that every toy has a place and that each toy needs to be replaced before moving on to another activity. Encourage the children to ask if they are unsure where to put something. Explain the importance of caring for things God has given.
- Remind the children to take turns and share as they interact.
- Introduce one or two centers a day as you begin the year.
- Gradually increase the total number of centers.
- Items for the centers may be purchased, collected, or donated.
- Improvise to minimize cost. For example, large plastic tubs positioned on plastic tablecloths may be used in place of a sand or water table.
- Materials in the centers can be changed on a rotating basis to meet the children’s learning needs and to provide challenges and enrichment.
- Replenish and recycle materials. Keep centers free of distracting clutter and remove any broken or incomplete equipment.
- This center exposes the children to a variety of art media, offers creative experiences, increases observation skills, improves memory and imagination, and helps develop hand-eye coordination.
- Suggested equipment and materials: easels, washable paint and finger paint, brushes, newspaper, craft and construction paper, paint shirts, dry racks, crayons, colored chalk, sponges, modeling clay.
- This center provides opportunities for muscle coordination as well as creativity. Children will develop individual and social skills in reproducing real-life and pretend situations through cooperative play with blocks. Children also develop perceptions of size, weight, and shape when playing in this center. Labeling shelves with outlines of the block shapes will assist the children in knowing where to return the blocks as well as provide practice in their ability to recognize shapes and symbols.
- Suggested equipment and materials: plastic and/or wooden blocks. Intersperse additional items that relate to the theme being taught such as family figures, wheeled toys, sets of farm and zoo animals.
Book and Media Center
- This center provides a quiet area for the child to look at books on a variety of topics such as the alphabet, counting, poetry and rhymes, and the unit themes.
- Print awareness, picture reading, and correct use and care of books are some of the educational values of a Book Center.
- Listening skills and attention span are improved when children use the listening aspects of the center.
- Rotate and change the books and media to correlate with unit themes such as family life, animals, plants, transportation, seasons, and holidays.
- Suggested equipment and materials: bookcases, throw rugs, cushions/beanbag seats, small rockers; a CD player with 2–4 earphone sets; audio picture books
Home Living/Dramatic Play Center
- Young children often act out real-life situations through dramatic play. This center allows them to improve language and social skills as they role-play.
- Suggested equipment and materials: child-sized furniture and accessories; dolls, doll clothes, bed and blankets, strollers; grocery carts and play food; dress-up clothes and accessories; tool bench, play tools; doll houses, people, and furniture; trucks, cars, play garage, road/town rug. Rotate the items in this center according to the unit themes (family, community helpers, animals).
Fine Motor Skills/Math Center
- Children need lots of opportunities to use the fine muscles in their hands and fingers. Provide them with materials that will encourage comparing, sorting, sequencing, and cutting to help develop those small/fine muscles and improve their eye-hand coordination. Also provide opportunities for children to practice counting and number recognition.
- Suggested equipment and materials: sand/water table; beads and string; items to count and sort; puzzles; lacing cards; stacking beads or blocks; blunt scissors with good cutting blades; newspapers and magazines for cutting practice; egg cartons and items for sorting; easy board games; peg boards; muffin tins for sorting; and sensory cards with sandpaper letters or numbers. Rotate these manipulatives according to the unit theme (e.g., flowers, plastic insects, plastic Christmas ornaments).
Large Motor Skills Center
- Children are encouraged to develop their large muscle skills in this center. The ability to manage their bodies in a variety of physical skills is a great asset to young children. Large muscles can be exercised inside the classroom and outside on a playground.
- Suggested equipment and materials for inside: large hollow building blocks; indoor climbing gym; indoor plastic slide; low to the ground balance beam; plastic wagons; indoor plastic or wooden rocking boat or teeter-totter; hula-hoops
- Suggested equipment and materials for outside: swings; slide; jungle gym; tricycles; wagons; balls.
- A Science Center provides children with opportunities to investigate, observe, and touch real-life objects.
- Suggested equipment and materials: plants; fishbowl or aquarium with fish; magnifying glasses; magnets; ant farm; pictures, books, and displays of nature items (e.g., shells, rocks, leaves).
- Children demonstrate an eagerness to investigate how things work and are able to listen and learn through interactive games.
- Suggested equipment and materials: educational software; headphones; a working computer and keyboard as well as a demonstration keyboard for sensory development