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Best Practices: 13 Ways to Honor Play in Early Childhood Learning Centers

Written By: Jenne Parks

Publish Date: Jun 4, 2015


Early Childhood Product & Curriculum Development

As a former early childhood teacher, I am passionate about what is best for teachers and the young learners they educate. Thanks to the research and experience of brilliant historic figures and early childhood experts, I am REALLY passionate about the importance of play.

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein
Play is vital to healthy brain development. It is through play that children engage in and interact with the world around them. Play allows children to create, explore and learn how to master skills, conquer fears and develop new competencies. Accomplishing all of this through play enhances their confidence and builds resiliency for facing future challenges.

"Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning." - Fred Rogers

Learning & Interest Centers create an optimal environment in early childhood classrooms for experimentation, exploration, creation guessed it...PLAY! Learning & Interest Centers give children the hands-on experiences and play opportunities they need, which is why it is imperative to fill your Centers with the best of the best materials and products!

As a member of the Product Development team at Hatch Early Learning, one of my roles is to select and design products that will appeal to children and promote curricular content goals in a meaningful and interesting way. Early childhood products must be durable enough to withstand the rigors of classroom settings, fit seamlessly into learning & interest centers, and most importantly - support the boundless benefits of learning through play.

The following descriptions outline benefits of 13 distinct Learning/Interest Centers appropriate for early childhood classrooms.

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers

Block Play Instant Center Block Play
Block Center products are ideally suited to help children develop motor skills, hand-eye coordination, creative & divergent thinking, language & vocabulary, plus math skills galore; long-term predictive powers, problem-solving, spatial reasoning, patterning, and measurement!

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Science and Health Instant Center Science & Health
Exposure to science at an early age helps develop patience and perseverance (a lot of things in science don't happen overnight!); it teaches children about the world around them, as well as their own bodies, encourages talking and listening, sparks creative problem-solving (how can we help save the Earth, recycle more & use less), and is the perfect complement to the curiosity of young learners.

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Sensory Instant Center Sensory Play
Sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain's pathways; enabling children to complete more complex tasks. This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory and helps children learn sensory attributes (such as, hot, cold, dry, sticky, etc.). In addition, sensory play is great for calming anxious or frustrated children and provides opportunities for every child to succeed.

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Puzzles Instant Center Puzzles & Games
Puzzles and games often require children to make choices (should I try this, or would that work better?), plan next steps, and to work collaboratively. Completing puzzles or games can provide a sense of accomplishment that young children feel good about, in addition to the development of important problem-solving, cognitive, and fine-motor skills.

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Dramatic Instant Center Dramatic Play
Experts agree that dramatic play is an integral part of early childhood classrooms and in light of the many benefits supported by way of pretend play, we know why! Dramatic Play helps children practice skills such as problem solving, negotiating, creativity, organizing and planning, retelling familiar stories, application of newly gained knowledge, and mathematics. In addition, dramatic play promotes sharing, taking turns, cooperation, and impulse control and can help increase self-esteem, pride and accomplishment, feelings of safety and protection, and development of sense of self and individuality.

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Reading and Listening Instant Center Reading & Listening
Throughout toddlerhood and preschool, children are learning critical language and enunciation skills. Listening to books as they are read aloud reinforces basic sounds while constructing fundamental understandings of language. In addition, the products in our Reading & Listening Center provide experiences for children to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, and recognize cause and effect.

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Literacy Instant Center Literacy
Children who enter school with greater background knowledge and early literacy skills have a distinct and lasting advantage over those children who do not possess these skills (Snow et al.,1995) and with a strong commitment to building on these foundational skills, our Literacy products teach and reinforce phonemic awareness skills and alphabet recognition, as well as promote language enrichment and vocabulary development.

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Social and Emotional Instant Center Social & Emotional
Healthy social-emotional development in young children correlates with healthy cognitive development and therefore creates a strong foundation for future school achievement. In order to support the importance of social-emotional development, these products help children learn, understand, and practice basic social and emotional skills.

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Diversity and Music Instant Center Creative Diversity & Music
Our Creative Diversity and Music products are combined in a way that promotes integration through all learning centers (rather than pinpointed within one learning center). These products support the principals of multicultural education and provide a link to spatial intelligence, in that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together (similar to what happens when we solve math problems). In addition, this line promotes diversity of cultures, ethnic backgrounds and races, and supports acceptance, respect and positive self-regard in one's own culture, as well as the culture of others.

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Art and Creativity Instant Center Art and Creativity
Art & Creativity Centers inspire creative, open-ended thinking and encourage young learners to express feelings (with or without words), and to observe, describe, analyze and interpret as they practice problem-solving, critical thinking and multiple points of view. When children understand that there is not just one way to create art, creative experiences can help children blossom and flourish as creative planners and doers!

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Mathematics Instant Center Mathematics
In order to shape positive attitudes towards math, it is important to provide an engaging and encouraging climate for the children's early encounters with mathematics. We want young children to develop confidence in their ability to understand and use mathematics and to see mathematics as within their reach. In addition, positive experiences with using mathematics to solve problems help children to develop dispositions such as curiosity, imagination, flexibility, inventiveness, and persistence that contribute to their future success in and out of school.

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Dual Language Instant Center Dual Language
Dual Language Research supports the development of language and literacy skills for young dual language learners as a foundation for initial and ongoing academic success. Strategies to address the school readiness of young dual language learners include promoting language development in English (while still supporting the child's home language), as well as the development of social-emotional skills. Therefore, our products provide cultural and linguistic robustness for your young dual language learners.

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Active Play Instant Center Active Play
Active Play products enable children to learn and practice new movements, multiple patterns, and balance. These experiences provide healthy, valuable play that supports the development of gross and fine motor skills, fitness, strength, psychological and social health, cognitive functioning and coordination.

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"It is a happy talent to know how to play." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hatch Early Learning has made it easy to instantly create playful learning centers in your classroom, or to refresh the ones you already have.

Find Out How One-click Shopping for Instant Classroom Centers