Activity Centers Help Young Children Learn
In my last column I talked about learning and the preschool/kindergarten child. I discussed
incorporating learning through a rich family life. Daily living is the best way for children to learn
if they have ample free play and an environment rich with material resources.
Now I would like to beyond those basic ideas and offer another fun way of helping your younger
child learn. It’s been long known that activity centers are a great way for young children to learn
many basic skills. Just visit any preschool center or kindergarten classroom and take a look at the
different kinds of activity centers that fill the classrooms. I’ll break down a few that you can use
for your own “school” and to help you come up with some centers of your own.
Housekeeping Center: It’s not for girls only. Take a trip to the toy store or discount store in your
town and buy a child-sized broom and dustpan. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a roll of
paper towels for cleaning just like mom does. This is a great place to put their toy kitchen, toy
tool bench, table and chair sets and any other “house” stuff you have at home. You can find toy
blenders, irons and other appliances at the store too or make them out of cardboard boxes and
markers. The housekeeping center is a great way to teach children how to work alongside each
other and help out with family chores.
Dress-Up Corner: This center can conveniently be located in a corner of your sewing room,
family room or laundry room. Get out those old clothes you haven’t worn in ten years and dump
them into a big box. Don’t forget hats, belts, shoes and handbags. For little boys get some of
dad’s old shirts and ties. For more fun, look for items for particular occupations like a
conductor’s hat, fireman’s helmet, doctor’s jacket and more. Dress-Up corner is great for role
playing or just pretending to be a grown up.
Reading Center: Children’s books and magazines make up the bulk of the reading center. You
can use a corner of your den or livingroom and add some bean bag chairs and pillows. For extra
fun, consider adding a blackboard for children that might want to draw some of the characters
from their stories.
Writing Center: You can work a writing center around your own desk where you do your own
writing chores such as writing checks and letters. Set up a small table and chairs or desk and
chair and supply lots of paper, crayons, markers, glue, scissors and paints. A teacher’s supply
store should have alphabet strips that show children how to print their letters. Hang one up above
their desk for practice time.
Art Center: The art center can co-exist alongside the writing center using the table or desk top for
creating. Make sure you include lots of paints, crayons, markers, glue, scissors and clay so they
can be free to express their creative side. Let your child spend lots of time creating on their own
but don’t forget to make include days where you come up with a specific art project you can do
side by side.
Science Center: In the nice weather this is as simple as going out into the backyard and clearing
off the picnic table. Do you have any unusual pets or fish in your home? Do you grow
houseplants or a garden? These are all possibilities for science projects. During the spring and
summer, catching bugs and putting them under a microscope is a great, simple science project.
Check out your library for books that offer simple water experiments you can do outside. When
the weather turns colder you can easily move the science center to a kitchen table covered with a
tarp to protect your table top.
Math Center: Most parents shudder when the word “math” is even mentioned but math can be
taught easily through everyday items in the home. Nearly everything and anything can be counted
or measured. Simple tools like rulers, measuring cups, measuring spoons, regular spoons and
thermometers are used in the math center. Keep these items in a big dish tub that you find in the
dollar store meant for soaking dirty dishes. Full the tub up and when not in use tuck it in a
cabinet or under a table in a corner. A delicious way to introduce measuring and fractions to your
child is simple to bake a cake. What better way to introduce fractions than following a simple
recipe? And what better reward after the project is complete than a slice for everyone who
worked so hard?
As you begin to implement these centers in your home, keep your child’s learning style in mind.
Though some of the centers you might have seen in classrooms look very polished and
interesting, they may be too much busy work for the home learning environment. And if your
child isn’t interested in an idea take that as your cue to be flexible and try something else.
Activity centers should provide your child with a fun way of learning basic skills that you will
build on as they progress in their education. But in addition to fun they should be flexible, what
homeschooling is all about, in order to keep your child learning happily all year long.
Families Online Radio
Listen to an Interview with columnist Christina Lorenzen about Homeschooling
Homeschool Legal Defense Association
Worldbook Offers a page with the typical course of study for children grades K-12
to help parents figure out what their child should be learning each year
Home School Transcripts
provides help to parents in putting together transcripts for college bound students