The Significance of Play Areas in Centers

by Tonia Haines, Center Director at Day Early Learning at Fort Harrison

Play is the most important and valuable way that your children learn. Through play, children explore every area of cognitive and social emotional development. When adults join in play with children, the learning experience can be further enriched. What some adults may not understand is how learning happens when all they see is “playing.”

As adults, we often skim over the little things that are learning opportunities because we already know the concepts, but children have not yet learned them. What better way is there to figure out the world than to be actively engaged? To break it down, here are just some of the things that can be learned with toys and materials in classrooms or at home.

Block AREA

Children are learning math concepts such as size, shape, and problem solving.  How will they know that the building will fall over unless the weight is evenly distributed without trying? When cars and people are added to block area, traffic signs and houses can be added to enrich the experience.

Dramatic PLAY Area

Children often imitate what they are seeing at their own home. Kitchen items such as a stove, refrigerator, sink, food, and dishes are the most common items seen in this area. Baby dolls and accessories are also popular. This allows children to be the “grown ups” and run the household. This teaches them social skills as they work with each other to figure out the roles within the area. The dramatic play area is also the most common and easiest area to add materials for further learning.

Reading Area

This is much more than just reading for children. This is where they figure out that words have meaning, and how a book works. This area is especially important for infants and toddlers to have as they are just beginning to explore their world. As children get older, they will use the books to learn as they hear them read over and over again. It is important to have some sort of print in every area of the classroom, so children can see that books relate to all different subjects. In many of our classrooms you will see items labeled to further the connection of the written word and the object.

Manipulative Area

Great for fine motor skills and math concepts. Home manipulatives can be as simple as an empty water bottle and things that will fit in it. Items can be counted as they are dropped in, sorted by different attributes, or tested to see if they can fit into the bottle.

These are just some of the ways learning is done through play in classrooms or at home. There are so many more ways that children are learning through play every day, which is why this is such a broad topic. Remember, when your child says they “just played” all day, they actually used their minds and their bodies to engage. That is what learning is all about, and actively engaging through play is the best way for learning to take place.

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