Keeping kids engaged and active in preschool is a challenge for many daycare providers. We wanted to provide daycare providers with wonderful ideas for keeping kids active in both mind and body with learning centers and games. We tapped Nancy James, Director of the MTSU Child Care Lab. Nancy James provides a host of great ideas that help at the preschool (3-5 year olds) facility:
The MTSU Child Care Lab is center-based, meaning the children get to choose to play in different centers during our Interest Center time which takes up about a third of our 10 hour day. At this time, the children get to choose what centers to play in (we do have a number limit such as 3 can play in the block area, 4 at the art center, 2 at the water/sand table, etc.). They have a name card (this month it is shaped like a pumpkin) and have to put their name on a small poster at the center they play in (it has Velcro). When they decide to change centers, they clean up their activity and then take their name to another center as long as it is open.
The teacher’s role is to monitor the room and set at different tables, especially those tables that may have a teacher-directed activity in it that day (ex. would be at the Science table if we put in the center an activity such as a cooking experience or something that calls for pouring/mixing). The teacher also interact with children by holding conversations about what they are doing and help when they need help (or an argument is about to get out of hand).
In Tennessee, we have the 3-star program which suggests types of centers to have available throughout the day. We have several in our one room for a multiage preschool program:
Science (which includes social studies, health, environment, space, etc.)
- Math (numbers, shapes, colors, big/small, patterns, etc.),
- Language Arts (letters, rhyming words, opposites, phonics, reading readiness games, etc.)
- Painting Easel
- Water/Sand Table
- Cozy Area (with books)
- Dramatic Play (such as housekeeping)
- Blocks (large free standing blocks-don’t connect – with accessories such as people, vehicles, animals, etc.)
- Music (various instruments and a CD player/headphones for children to listen to books with songs and nursery rhymes),
- Manipulatives or Small Toy (such as Legos, puzzles, connector toy, lacing toys – anything that could exercise their finger muscles)
- Art (such as different types of paints, materials to create pictures such as feathers, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, etc., cutting, glue, etc.),
- Woodworking table (we have Styrofoam piece with golf tees that they can hammer into the Styrofoam, measuring tape, toy tools, hardhat, safety glasses, etc.). We also have smaller type play areas such as a box of Barbie and ken dolls with accessories and a puppet theatre with puppets. There should be wiggle time especially after instruction times when they need to sit still and listen to instruction or a story.
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