How can early childhood providers effectively implement learning centers in their programs while considering various factors such as program type, curriculum, and available space?
When introducing learning centers to an early childhood program, it's important for providers to consider multiple factors to ensure successful implementation. The type of program and curriculum being used play a significant role in how learning centers are integrated. For example, play-based programs tend to have a smoother transition to learning centers, while academic-focused ones might need to address challenges of buy-in from administration or convincing stakeholders about the academic value of play. Regardless of program philosophy, all can adapt learning centers to suit both program and child needs.
Providers should also navigate parent and administrator expectations. If the program already employs learning centers, it's likely that both parents and administration are receptive to the concept. However, for those with structured schedules, creative planning is essential to carve out time for learning centers. Educating parents about the benefits of learning through play is key, especially when tangible evidence of learning might not always be brought home.
Considering children's age groups and interests is crucial. Learning centers offer flexibility to cater to various age levels, from toddlers to early elementary students. Providers should tailor centers to meet children's developmental needs and interests, fostering engagement and independent exploration. Attention to available space, materials, and scheduling is also vital. A well-thought-out routine, allowing adequate time for centers, ensures children's engagement and smooth transitions. While the ideal timeframe is about an hour, any amount of center time, even shorter durations, can be beneficial for young learners.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course Designing Effective Learning Centers for Young Children, presented by Amber Tankersley, PhD.