“Center time” is an important aspect of in-person early learning programs and it’s also something that you could also utilize if you’re homeschooling young children. This is particularly useful if you have several children, and you’re looking for a way to give them self-guided activities within a structured environment.
What is center time?
In early learning programs “centers” refer to various activities that have been set up around the room in order to promote productive individual learning. This could include but is not limited to activities such as; art (painting/drawing), block building, math games, reading, etc. Each is set up in its own designated location, called a center, to keep them separate from one another. “Center time” then simply means the block of time allotted for children to make use of these centers. Recommended center times can range from 20 to 60 minutes in most early education programs, although the exact length of time would be up to you.
Do I choose centers for the children?
Some preschool programs utilize charts and assigned centers to try to push children into doing every activity, but we find this to be unnecessary. Center time, in our opinion, is better treated as a time when the children can choose activities for themselves. However, while centers are choice time, you choose the activities you’d like children to focus on within them. An easy way to facilitate center transition is to manipulate the environment to limit how many children do a specific activity. For example, if there are only four chairs at the coloring center, then only four children at a time get to color. This keeps their activities structured, while still giving the children a fair amount of freedom to find their own interests. Likewise, allow children to move between centers as they like. Forcing them to complete projects could make center time feel like a chore.
How is cleanup handled?
Cleanup is actually one of the most important parts of center time! It’s a great opportunity to teach younger children the basics of cleaning up after themselves, and ensuring a tidy environment for the next user. This is something that every child should take part in, and teachers/parents should supervise to facilitate this process.
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