The Music Center in Child Care

Toddlers playing with xylophones

Music Supports Children’s Development

A music center is an important part of any child care program. Listening to music, singing, playing musical instruments, and moving to music are all activities that support children’s development across several different domains.

  • Language development: Children practice words and phrases in repeating patterns by listening to and singing songs. They also become aware of the rhythms of language and the patterns of poetry. These skills help them become better at understanding and producing language

The Sand and Water Center in Child Care

Child playing at water table

Sand and Water Play Supports Children’s Development

Sensory play – including play with sand, water, Styrofoam peanuts, bubbles, beans, dirt, and other materials – can be an important part of the child care classroom or family child care home. Children exploring in the sensory center are learning some important skills.

  • Math and science skills: Sand and water play introduces scientific concepts such as sinking, floating, and changes of state (e.g., dry to wet). Exploring sand, water, and other sensory

Planning a Successful Sand and Water Center

Girl playing at water table

The sand and water center, sometimes known as the sensory center, is a great place for young children to explore, experiment, and practice fine motor skills. Playing with sand, water, and other sensory materials helps promote development and teach math and science skills. This center provides the opportunity for children to explore with all their senses.

Setting Up a Sand and Water Center in Your Classroom

  • Location: The sand and water center, or sensory center, can be set up

The Manipulatives/Table Toys Center in Child Care


Multilink cubes

Manipulatives and Table Toys Support Children’s Development

A wide variety of materials used in child care and early education programs fall into the category of “manipulatives,” including different types of building bricks and toys, collections of objects for sorting, small dolls and animals, and many other types of toys. Manipulatives, sometimes referred to as table toys, are an important part of the early childhood curriculum because children can use them to practice a wide variety of skills. Some …

Planning a Successful Science and Nature Center in Child Care

Science center in child care program

Science in early childhood is all about prediction, exploring, and discovering answers to questions. Children learn scientific investigation skills through hands-on exploration and play. An effective science center should be a place where children can use their curiosity to manipulate and investigate objects from the world around them. They should have opportunities to explore “what if?” questions, to make guesses about what is going to happen, and to test out those guesses.

Setting Up a Science and Nature Center in

The Dramatic Play Center in Child Care

Pretend grocery store

Dramatic Play Supports Children’s Development

Engaging in dramatic play enhances young children’s development. Pretending builds social skills, makes children more aware of their own emotions, and encourages shared language and problem solving. As children play and interact in the dramatic play center in an early childhood program, they practice skills in the following areas:

  • Social/emotional: negotiating different roles and themes, cooperating to keep the play happening, acting out roles and situations
  • Physical: using large and small muscles to

The Science and Nature Center in Child Care

Children looking at bug

Science and Nature Support Children’s Development

Exploring the natural world through hands-on science is an important way that children learn. Hands-on science activities encourage children to observe and manipulate items from the environment, while making predictions about what will happen and then testing those predictions. Science allows children to explore, experiment, question, discover, and understand natural and human-made objects and forces. Experiments and activities with science and nature also stimulate children’s curiosity, encourage use of all five senses, and help …

Planning a Successful Book Center in Child Care

book center

Books are very important for young children. A book center can help stimulate children’s imagination and creativity while also building language skills. The book center is a great place for adults to read to children and for children to spend time looking at pictures and interacting with different books.

Setting Up a Book Center in Your Classroom

  • Location: The book center should be located in a quiet area separate from noisier activities such as block building and active play. 

Planning a Successful Dramatic Play Center in Child Care

Dramatic play area
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license. Photo posted to Flickr by Diane Bales on November 23, 2015 with title “Dramatic play area”.

Dramatic play allows children to express themselves and use creativity. It also introduces symbolic thinking and encourages cooperation among children. In a dramatic play center, children will often act out behaviors and actions they see in real life (such as shopping at the grocery store) as well as make-believe situations (such as a princess in a castle).

Setting

Planning a Successful Art Center in Child Care

Art center materials

In order for children to create art, they need an inspiring space. The art center should look like an artist’s studio, filled with children’s art as well as that of well-known artists. The art center should allow children to feel creative as they explore materials to express themselves. The art center also allows children to make their own discoveries, either independently or together, and to feel confident in the choices they make.

Setting Up an Art Center in Your Classroom