Learning centers are a purposeful way of dividing up your classroom into different subject/learning areas. The location of each learning center, placement of any furnishings or equipment, and easily available materials give a clear message to the child about what is to take place in that area.
Establishing the centers requires some initial planning, work, and possible expense, but once they are established they save time and money. For example, you don't want to place the reading area (quiet and comfy) near the block, music, or dramatic play areas (loud and active). You also probably want the art center on hard, easy-to-clean floors and near a sink, but the science center near a window or other source of natural sunlight.
Learning centers capitalize on children’s natural need to explore because they are given the chance to gain experience by trying out their own ideas in a hands-on way. Once established, you can write your lesson plans according to each learning center to make sure you're offering something to enhance each subject. Then you can easily set up your planned activities for the morning/afternoon in each corresponding center, and children can play in whatever center interests them.
Discipline problems are reduced because groups are limited to a number which can reasonably function in each area.
Classroom management is easier since children are in the area of their choice and interest.
Children are engaged in hands-on activities as they explore and experiment.
Caregivers can support children by supplying the resources as they learn by themselves.
Caregivers can determine, by observation, the progress of the children.
Caregivers can easily determine what items need to be added to each area that will encourage children in further discovery.
Children understand classroom rules more easily when they apply to specific areas.
Each area contains only the essentials that allow children to control and create.
The purpose of the area is clear and understandable to children.
To learn more about planning learning centers in your child care environment, see Keys to Planning Successful Learning Centers in Child Care. To learn more about specific types of learning centers, check out the following articles: