Play is an important part of child development. It is how children learn. Pure play is activity that is internally motivated and under the control of the child. The early childhood classroom is important in creating a comfortable zone that allows for imagination and individuality. Adults provide conditions and materials to influence how children play. It is the adults’ role to encourage play, not direct it.
Your child’s preschool classroom reflects the typical early childhood setting in which the room is divided into learning centers (interest/play areas) where the children can “play” and “learn”. Learning centers provide the children with the opportunities to take part in various activities that coincide with the Expectations, themes, and development of skills. In addition to the daily conversation, the following is a list and description of the learning centers (play areas) you should find in your child’s class.
Materials in this area will help the children develop an understanding of numbers, shapes, sizes, classifying, sorting, and matching. Activities in this area include items like number puzzles objects to count, measuring cups, number games, matching games, scales, and geometric shapes.
Everyday events and activities relating to health, science concepts, and nature are used daily in a preschool classroom. Topics for discussions include caring for living and non-living things, changing seasons and weather, simple experimentsproper hygiene. Items in this area may include replicas of animals, dinosaurs, and insects, puzzles, plants, fish, games and collections of natural objects (shells, rocks).
Art activities are those activities that allow children to create, discover, and express himself/herself. Activities are not designed to be good or bad, right or wrong; simply for individual exploration and expression. In addition to art activities initiated by the teacher, the preschool classroom has a designated art area. Items in is area include various types of paper, paints, markers, crayons, scissors, glue, buttons, foam shapes, clay, and other collage materials.
This area is designed so that children can listen to a variety of music, as well as following a story that has been recorded on tape or CD. In this area children learn proper care for equipment and can relax.
Table Toys and Puzzles
The materials in this area are designed to build fine motor skills (hand and finger movement). Items should represent a variety of small building toys and puzzles on different levels (with and with out handles, pre-fitted).
The block center allows children to be creative in their play while building a variety of skills (find motor, gross motor, hand-eye coordination). Safety precautions are practiced and the children are responsible for care and storage of the blocks. Toy people, animals, vehicles, road signs and maps may be added to enhance block play.
Dress Up and Pretend
Imagination is important for development. As in all other areas, dress-up and pretend allows the children to engage in self-expression and imaginative play. Children pretend to engage in a variety of activities that resemble real-life situations. The dress-up/pretend area may include a kitchen, grocery stand, puppet stand, small furniture, dolls, and utensils.
Music and Movement
Music and movement are daily parts of the preschool day. Movement activities are usually done in-groups and develop an understanding of skills like left/right and balancing. There may also be a separate music area in which the children can use simple instruments (maraca, tambourines, bells) and equipment (tape recorders, keyboards, materials to enhance dance). As in all areas, use of these items will develop individuality, exploration and responsibility.
Children like to play with sand and water. This type of play demonstrated skills like mixing, stirring, emptying, pouring, sifting, and splashing. A variety of materials can be used in these areas.
Here children look at books, simulate reading, and listen to stories. It is also a quiet area where children sometimes go to relax. There are a variety of books; magazines and other forms of print available for the children to look at.
Although preschoolers usually “write” in scribbles, drawings, and letter-like marks, this area allows children to express themselves and begins to build an understanding of literate behavior. This area usually has a variety of writing materials including paper, pencils, and markers, envelops, tape, and stickers.
This area has been designed to incorporate a variety of skills that cross all areas of development. Software in the preschool classrooms allows children to draw, play skill-based games, simulate experiences like driving, experiment with letters and numbers and make projects and stories.