Center Signs that Work Harder

When it comes to play-based learning, sometimes it's hard to see what children are actually learning.

Think about it, in a center where children are sitting and doing worksheets or workbooks, we can see the learning outcome.

More importantly, parents can easily see what their child is learning and often it comes home in the backpack.

But, in a play-based classroom (the best way for children to learn) this learning isn't as easy to see.  It takes a trained eye to see what benefits and results can come from centers or hands-on activities - not much of which is coming home in a backpack.

So, it becomes our job to communicate the amazing, endless learning opportunities that play-based learning can bring.

There are many ways to communicate the benefits of play to parents.

But, let's just focus on one- Center Signs.

In a play-based classroom you need more than just a label on a wall.  

When parents, administrators, observers or visitors come in they look around. ...

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Pizza Shop Dramatic Play

Kids love pizza! I created this Pretend Pizza Shop in our Dramatic Play Center for my little pizza eaters! My littles love to pretend to be Chef’s in the Pizza Shop. I love that they are working together, negotiating roles and role-playing. Another bonus to this Pizza Shop set is the students are writing up order forms and tickets as they play! Check out what we have in this Pretend Play Center:

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Some props I have included in this Pizza Shop:

  • Play Pizza (wooden Melissa & Doug and some plastic sets)

  • Pizza Cutters

  • Cups

  • Plates

  • Utensils

  • Child-sized aprons

  • Pizza pans

  • Pizza toppings (came with the Melissa & Doug set)

  • Pizza boxes (clean, new)

  • Parmesan Cheese container (cleaned)

  • Placemats

  • Tablecloth

  • Pizza Order Forms

  • Menus

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Want to create your own Pizza Shop?

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Construction Zone Dramatic Play Center

I love to create new experiences for my preschoolers. Creating a Construction Zone in our Dramatic Play center was another one of these experiences! This construction theme expands on a love that many children have - building!

Things that I included in this Construction Zone Drama Center:

  • Toy tools (hammers, screwdrivers, screws, saws)

  • Toy construction hats and vests

  • Safety goggles

  • Variety of blocks

  • Safety cones

  • Measuring Tape

  • Golf Tees

  • Foam pieces or Cardboard boxes

  • Printable signs and labels

  • ‘I Can Build’ cards

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Before opening the center, I modeled how to use the golf tees and the child-sized hammers. I only allowed students to hammer the golf tees into the foam pieces or the cardboard boxes - not the blocks.

Students got to work very quickly and I found them making buildings with the blocks, measuring their structures and working together. They also did a lot of hand-eye coordination practice when they hit the ‘nail’...

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Process Art- Beyond the Paintbrush

Do your preschoolers love painting?

Painting at the easel or the table is a core activity that preschoolers love doing.

Painting with paintbrushes is beneficial, but we, as early childhood educators can take painting a step further.

Move beyond the paintbrush and invite children to paint with unusual tools.
When children paint, they are opening a world of creativity by using their senses to create.  

When children are challenged with unusual painting tools, children must make choices on how to use the tools.  They predict how the tool will re-act and plan-out on their project within the constraints of their canvas.

That is a lot of problem-solving!

On top of problem-solving, painting with unusual tools makes those fine motor muscles adjust and adapt to get the desired result.

But, what kinds of unusual tools can we present to children to paint with?

Here are just a few ideas:

Take a look around your house or classroom... you can find lots of great tools!


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How to get your Writing Center Rockin'

Writing in the Early Childhood classroom is important.

Even though preschool writing may not look like traditional writing, it is an important part of the literacy process.

But, have you ever struggled with getting your preschoolers to go to the writing center?

Yep, me too. When given the choice, my traditional writing center with pencils, pens and paper was not too appealing when up against a sensory tub full of sand or a grocery store in the drama center.

My traditional writing center was just not cuttin' it.

The goals I had for my writing center are for children to get a writing utensil in their hand and make marks that are meaningful to them.  I want children to enjoy this experience and I want to throw a little fine motor in there too.

So, I knew- it's time to start changing it up!

My plan was to draw them into the writing center with new, exciting and different materials.  I knew that if I could draw their attention in, they would come and write- as a...

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Preschool Spaceship Dramatic Play  

This Preschool Spaceship Dramatic Play Center idea is far out… way far out! Encourage your students to blast off into space to learn and imagine what a world beyond ours holds!

To create this Spaceship drama center, several different pieces were put into play.  First, the rocketship…the most important part! I took two large boxes and cut the bottom and a door from one box. I then, placed the other box on top of the first box and taped together. I added some tin foil and a countdown graphic to the outside. On the inside I added spaceship control graphics found in the Spaceship Dramatic Play Pack.

The second piece of this pretend play center was the outer space wall. I found a space themed tablecloth at the party store and taped on graphics of the planets, stars, constellations and rocketships to invoke imagination.

The last piece of this center were the helmets (also found at the party store) and the Outer Space Observations form. I placed the form on a small...

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Baby Care Center Dramatic Play

In my classroom this year, I have lots of students who love to play with baby dolls. I wanted to enhance that love by creating a pretend play area where students could be little caregivers!

I already knew that I had students that would love this area, but I was surprised at some of the students who fell in love with caring for babies! Mu students that love rough and tumble play, also found caring for baby dolls engaging.

Through play children imitate behaviors that they see. So, it was no surprise that children with younger siblings jumped right in and knew what to do. These students became peer models to those who weren’t quite sure what to do with a diaper!

When preparing this center, my goals were to help students practice compassion and selflessness. To learn to care for another in a gentle way. Based on my observations - this is exactly what this Baby Care Center is producing!

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Some props that I have provided in this Baby Care Center:

  • bottles

  • ...

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Preschool Beach Dramatic Play

Here in Missouri, we (sadly) aren't even remotely close to a beach.  Most of my preschoolers have never even seen a beach!  So, creating a pretend play beach and ice cream shop was super fun for my midwest kiddos!

To create this Beach drama center, several different pieces were put into play.  First, the beach.  I bought a child-sized pool and filled the pool with plastic ocean animals and letter fish that I created.  You can see the letter fish in the photo below.  Children used a fishing pole (I just used a large cardboard roll, string and a button magnet) to fish for the letter fishies.

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The second piece of this pretend play center were the beach props. I included things like a beach chair, beach towels, empty & clean sunscreen bottle, sunglasses, sand buckets and floaties.

The last piece of this center was the Ice Cream Stand.  Who doesn't love to eat ice cream by the beach?!  We used a plastic ice cream...

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Preschool Rainforest Dramatic Play

 I love the way that a dramatic play center can take preschoolers to another place.  In this Rainforest Tours Pretend Play Props, children took a jeep tour to look for rainforest animals and also pretended to be animals!  The creativity and team work witnessed in this center were amazing!

To create this Rainforest Tours drama center, several different pieces were put into play.  First, the jeep.  I took our Melissa and Doug Market Stand and added some green paper, cut circle and rectangular lights and added a bumper.  Students used a green foam floral wreath as a steering wheel (it was just what I had on hand!).

The second piece of this pretend play center was the rainforest wall.  I attached green butcher paper to the wall, added photos of rainforest animals and covered them with large and small green leaves.  I bought my leaves, but you could easily make them from construction paper.  You can see part of the wall in...

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Preschool Art Center Storage  

The art center has so many supplies.... crayons, glue, scissors, stencils, stickers, paper.... well, the list goes on and on!

In the past, I placed my art center materials in small organizers on top of the table.  But, with so many supplies taking up the table space, my students struggled to find enough room to spread out and create!  Plus, I hated the dis-organization of it all.  Yes, I had labels on most everything...but things just seemed to get thrown in the tubs and not organized during clean up time.

So, when I saw a rolling cart full of beautiful rainbow drawers at my local Sam's Club, I knew exactly what I wanted to use it for!  

Hey Art Center...get ready to get organized!

Here is my new art center storage!  I love the organization of it all!  

My rolling cart has 10 drawers - so I did double up some supplies.  I also love that the drawers pull all the way out so students can take a drawer of supplies to the table if...

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