Creating centers around your home is a great way to encourage discovery, in-depth learning and creative play. Some people think of centers as miniature “unit studies”.
Centers are related groups of learning resources that children can explore with little or no help from you. Each center is focused on a single topic or activity, encouraging exploration and discovery of that subject area. When centers are placed within easy access, they can attract curious minds and occupy hands for a long time.
Center learning gives a child extra time to spend on a subject while drawing on other academic areas at the same time. A center might offer the chance to do many different things, like reading, drawing , writing and dramatic play. Students might also begin asking questions, leading to even more study, sometimes in entirely different areas. Because of the connections that can be made, access to centers should not be limited to only young children; older students can benefit from centers, too.
Centers can be placed anywhere in your home where children can find them. The best places include corners of rooms, window sills, and low bookshelves. Centers can also be stored in drawers and bottom cabinets, as long as someone reminds the kids of where they are hiding.
Equipping a center can sometimes happen with things you already have around the house. You can also also buy or borrow resources that are related to the topic. Grouping related things together like this actually increases their value, because resources now become pieces of a giant learning puzzle, helping children to see relationships and dig deeper than with single resources alone.
There are many kinds of centers that you can create. Solar system, paper folding, light and sound, Shakespeare, insects, reptiles, rocks and minerals, poetry, sign language and weather are just some of the centers that can be put together. Possibilities are endless.
Learning in centers occurs over time. You’ll see your child engaged and hear your child talk about the things she has done there. You can measure progress by the number of readings completed, drawings made, or activity sheets filled out. Although it’s hard to quantify, you’ll notice your child’s interest level and understanding increase every time she spends time in the center area.
A side benefit of centers is meeting the needs of certain kinds of learners. Watching your child in a center can help you identify the kinds of resources he enjoys most and seems to learn from best.