This post is part of “The Center Approach” series. Click here for an introduction to the series.
In the first post of our series, “The Center Approach,” we learned why using centers works with preschoolers. Now, we will focus on how to make it happen and “Make It Fun”!
The Make It Fun section of the weekly curriculum for both 2-year-olds and 3- to 5-year-olds offers three activities that introduce the Bible story learning for the day while inviting the children into the room with something fun to do. There will always be a movement activity, a game, and a role-play or investigation activity.
There are several keys to organizing these three activities into centers. First, if your space allows, label each area with a sign that the preschoolers can “read.” For the movement area, use a picture of a child jumping. For the game area, use a photograph of children playing a board game. For role-play, perhaps a picture of costumes, and for investigation a picture of a magnifying glass. Or, you can even just label your centers by color with pieces of construction paper. You could create a yellow, orange and red center. By labeling each center, you make it easy for leaders to give directions and preschoolers to understand where they are to go.
Second, create clear boundaries for each center. The game center can be set up on a table or a specific area of the floor. The role-play/investigation activity can be set up in a home living area, a corner of the room or a table. The movement activity will require the largest open area of your space. All of these spaces can be designated with masking tape on the floor and strategic furniture placement (shelves, room dividers, etc.). The key is to position them in the same general area each week and to give as much space as possible between centers so that preschoolers can easily identify them as three different centers.
Finally, you need to decide how your small groups of children will transition from one center to the other. Will you have a leader with their group move together from one center to the next? Or, will you have each center supervised by a leader that stays in that center as the children move? That decision may be determined by the amount of space in your environment and the number of leaders.
Additionally, it is helpful to create a signal that lets the preschoolers know it is time to move to the next activity. Choose a favorite clean-up song or create your own words and sing them to a familiar tune. Clap your hands three times, tap each child on the shoulder, ring a bell—just be sure to keep it consistent each week. Think through the activities in advance and decide how much time can be spent in each center. Remember, this is only the beginning of the fun for the day; allow plenty of time for Make It True, Make It Stick and Make It Real.
Do you already use the center approach in your preschool environment? What do you do to ensure that Make It Fun is both organized and well, fun?