If you read this blog, you’ll probably hear the word Centers a lot. A whole lot. That’s because I believe that setting up Learning Centers in your home is going to be one of the best ways to keep your kids on track developmentally, socially, and physically while they’re at home. It also gives them an easy to remember system that they can use to organize their toys and activities, and to keep them occupied and out of trouble. Not only does this help them, it also helps YOU! Wouldn’t it be nice to have children that play and stay occupied by themselves WITHOUT SCREENS? Yeah. It is. I love it. So here are a few things about Centers:
1. What Is a Learning Center?
A Learning Center is an area devoted to a specific type of activity or learning style. For example, a Puzzle Center is a spot that is devoted to just puzzles. A Library Center is a place where all of your little one’s books are located, easy for them to reach and peruse.
There are endless Centers that you can create, which is what makes this system so wonderful! If you have a child who is absolutely in love with trains, you can have a Railroad Center, an area devoted to designing tracks and playing with train sets. Children who love plants and gardening might love a Container Gardening Center. It all boils down to an area, or even just a set of materials, devoted to a specific activity.
2. Why Should You Make Centers?
Well, you certainly don’t HAVE to, but if you’re looking for a system to keep your child entertained and motivated to learn, Centers are going to be a huge part of that. Centers allow your child to explore and play safely and independently, while learning about following expectations and responsibility. They’re a great way to add a little bit of variation and structure to your child’s playtime, rather than just tossing all of their toys out for them and hoping for the best!
Centers also help your child learn to make choices, and gives them a chance to exercise their coveted independence in an easy to manage way. (Plus, they give kids something to do during play dates, or when you can’t play with them!)
3. Where Do You Put Your Centers?
Another awesome thing about Centers: you can set them up however you want to in your home. Most of my Centers are set up in my Family Room, so that my children can play and learn right in the most populated room in the house. However, there are some, like my Sand and Water Center, that need to be in an easy-to-clean area, so I set those up in my kitchen.
I know people who have set things up in their child’s bedroom, so that all of their things are located in one spot. Others have put them in the dining room, so that their child can work at the table on their Centers. It all is really up to your home and your space availability. The thing to remember is that each Center should be kept in a specific area, and should be easy to access for your child.
Now Comes the Fun Part
Now you get to pick your Centers! Like I said before, there are plenty of options, and you can easily choose Centers that are geared toward your child’s interests. There are a few that I like to start with, and we’ll go into more detail for each in the future.
I like to start with:
- A Library
- Dramatic Play
- Toys and Games
- Sand and Water
These are a good base to start from, and all are pretty simple to set up, once you’ve got your materials set. From there, you can add on new Centers as you think of them, or as your child gains new interests. For example, we’ve also got an Egg Washing Center (we have backyard chickens), and an Indoor Exercise Center.
Some Other Thoughts
There are some other things that you might consider having for each Center. For each play area, I like to include a label so that my children can easily put back their materials. I also like to include a set of Center Expectations for each, to help them understand what appropriate play looks like. That helps keep us from needing to buy new materials for Art every few days, and so on.
Check out our free, printable Center Expectations and Labels here!