Dramatic-Play Area

Supply items that children see in their own homes, such as familiar kitchen utensils and child-safe tools, as well as dolls with blankets, plastic tubs, facecloths, cotton balls, and sponges for bathing them. Items such as cash registers, briefcases, and lab coats can represent the work of children's family members. Also try to include items that reflect the cultural backgrounds of children. Colorful, labeled storage bins where dramatic-play items can be stored create a sense of order and help children know where items belong.

Book Area

Be sure to have comfy floor pillows, a child-size rocking chair, or a small couch where children can enjoy their favorite books. Include children's favorite books on your bookshelves, along with titles that represent children's cultural backgrounds and families. Keep a classroom photo album that contains photos of each child in the group as well as pictures of children's families. Store tapes of children's family members reading stories, or books on tape that reflect the needs and interests of the children in your group, in colorful bins on a low, easily accessible table.

Art Area

At the beginning of the year, provide a few colors of paint for work at the easel, gradually adding colors as the year progresses. If possible, provide hooks with children's names above them for hanging smocks. Include soothing, tension-- releasing materials such as pliable clay and squishy sponges (which can be used for painting). Display children's artwork on walls in this area. Save one wall where children can post pictures from magazines that they find appealing, artwork created by their own family members, or posters from home they might want to share.

Block Area

Be sure the shelves for storing blocks are clearly labeled so that children feel comfortable returning them to their proper places. Provide space in the area so that children have the option of leaving their block structures up for a time-they may want to continue working on them for several days or save them to show family members. Offer small wooden traffic and safety signs children can use in the area to create a sense of order in the block communities and traffic patterns they create. Ask parents to bring in photos of their homes and keep them in the area. Children may want to recreate their homes with blocks and describe them.

Writing Area

include paper of all shapes and sizes, writing tools including crayons and thick pencils, stickers, envelopes, homemade blank books, and postcards. Encourage children to write notes to friends and family members as a way of communicating their worries or concerns or simply to communicate an I care for you" message. Children can dictate stories to you as a way to grapple with their fears and frustrations.

In addition to the materials in these areas, have a water/sand table on hand if possible. Sifting sand through fingers and pouring and dripping water are soothing, satisfying experiences for young children. The sand/water table also works well as a "get to know you" area at the beginning of the year. The table is so appealing, children will gather 'round, and work side by side.