Centers: Why are they Important in the Early Childhood Classroom?

image via Pinterest

When I started teaching I knew centers were an important part of an early childhood classroom.  I knew we learned about them in college and I had seen them set up in different environments that I had observed in. I didn’t fully understand centers and why they were important until the second week of school my very first year.

To be honest, the centers in my classroom my first year, that first week were a wreck.  I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to implement them, what they should consist of or why I was having students “play” in them.  I learned a lot and I believe I had very engaging, differentiated and effective centers in my classroom.

Centers are an important part of a classroom environment because:

  1. They allow students time to engage in developmentally appropriate practice activities that are well thought-out and planned by the teacher.

    image via St. George’s Episcopal School
  2. They are either structured or non-structured activities that allow students to learn through their preferred learning modality (differentiated by the teacher for each student).
  3. Students have the opportunity to practice skills that are being taught in the classroom.  They get to observe, listen, questions, self-reflect and discover. 

    image via Hills & Dales
  4. All skills are developed: (fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, oral language, sensory-motor, social and higher order thinking, social and emotional intelligence etc).
  5. Students get to role-play different situations. 

    image via Horizons for Homeless Children
  6. Trial and error is appropriate in center situations.
  7. Teachers can change the activities and materials when appropriate and necessary depending on the organization and planning. 

    image via Sandbothe’s Kindergarten Sweeties!
  8. Centers can be themed and follow thematic units that teachers plan according to what student’s interest are.
  9. Children are self-motivated and are excited about taking on a new challenge that they have chosen for themselves. 

    image via Apple Tree Childrens Center
  10. Children get to create, build and construct.  They are able to build on previous knowledge and gain confidence in themselves.
  11. Children gain self-esteem and independence. 

    image via Education Station
  12. Centers help teachers re-teach and implement skills mandated by the state and school district.

Most importantly, play is the vehicle in which all children learn.  They get to pretend and try new things and ideas.  Children can make mistakes in an area where they feel comfortable to try again. Each center should include developmentally appropriate materials and ideas that build from what you have previously taught.  Go through this list and see what your centers may be lacking or other things that you are doing differently. Reflect on how to make your centers the best they can be!

This guest post was written by Tisha Shipley. Tisha has a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K and gifted 3rd–6th graders.

You can find Tisha online in these places: