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Early Childhood Today

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Learning All Around The Room

Learning centers offer one easy route to addressing children's individual learning styles. Create charts with children's names and activity options and post them in each learning center. Children can check their names each time they work in a center and attach "smile-face" stickers on the charts to indicate which activities they enjoyed. Remember to check the charts frequently and keep a record of children's preferences.

Here are some ideas for materials you can include in your centers:

Library

Include books that show bright colors and loud sounds, books that tell stories, books that show different cultures and races. Blank books, in which children can write and draw are very important. Writing paper and an old typewriter give children a chance to express themselves "in writing." A cassette or CD player with stories and earphones allows children a chance to retreat into the world of imagination.

Math 

Objects that encourage children to count, compare, and record are valuable here. While the term "hypothesis" may never be used, we want children to manipulate, look, and manipulate again. Cuisenaire rods, dice, three-dimensional numbers, a scale, a magnifying glass, an egg timer, rulers, and magnets are great additions to this area. Include large thermometers so that children can take turns taking the outside temperature at certain times during the day and recording how it changes (by time and season).

Art

In addition to the painting and drawing supplies found in most classrooms, what about occasionally moving this area to a place where kids can draw in chalk on the sidewalk or an asphalt-- covered space? The vastly larger "canvas" that this offers is a broadening experience. Exposure to classic works of art-from Picasso to Van Gogh to Peter Max-displayed in the art area draws children's attention and provides them with inspiration for creating their own work. Ask children to create their own interpretations of the Mona Lisa or Starry Night-you'll be astounded at the results!

Manipulative and Large-Motor

Provide Legos(R) and straws for building. Look for materials that can be used for variations on the traditional "pick up sticks" game. Twister or hopscotch kinds of games (young children can simply jump to adjacent squares or to those whose color has come up on a card) work well in smaller spaces. Also, children can play catch with scarves (they don't go far and won't roll) if space is limited. If permanent marks cannot be made on a floor, consider using masking tape: It can be placed and removed on a daily basis and used to provide lots of motor-skill activities.

Music

Encourage children to listen and march to band music. Provide earphones and offer selections of music that go with the weather. Over time, children can begin to think about music that matches their (or their teacher's) mood. 

Science

Collect rocks, leaves, acorns, shells, or different types of soil that children can investigate, compare, and contrast. If possible, give children an opportunity to "adopt" a tree, taking them to visit their trees throughout the year. Invite them to observe how their tree changes from season to season, and compare how its appearance changes during different weather conditions. Collections are important here.

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