Pre-K Learning Centers


Learning Center Resources

NAEYC Article: Centering Your Classroom

Learning Center Video

What We Are Doing Center Signs

Printable Labels for Pre-K Learning Centers

Recommended Materials for Pre-K Learning Centers


What are learning centers?

Learning centers are clearly defined areas in the classroom grouped by topic that offer materials and opportunities for hands-on learning. 


What is the purpose of learning centers?

Research shows that young children learn best through engaging, hands-on activities; learning centers offer these types of opportunities. 


Why should I use learning centers in my pre-k classroom?

Offering engaging learning activities at centers can actually make teaching and learning more efficient and more engaging for children. - G.M. Stuber, 2007

Learning centers are considered a best practice in early childhood education.  Arranging your room into effective learning centers is also part of the TEA Pre-K Guidelines:

"Children learn effectively when working in separate, set-apart learning areas.  These are not places to go for playtime activities after the “important” instruction. In small-group learning areas, the children cement the instruction with guided exploration and hands-on experience. With a little creativity...[you] can have effective learning centers. Every learning area should have:

  • Fun, playful and purposeful activities,

  • A literacy connection,

  • Writing materials, and

  • An opportunity for conversation (language) with an adult or another child.

Developmentally appropriate programs... provide a variety of firsthand experiences and help children acquire symbolic knowledge by representing their experiences in a variety of media, such as drawing, painting, dramatic play, and verbal and written descriptions."

-TEA Pre-K Guidelines

What are the benefits of using learning centers in pre-k?

Playful learning balanced by purposeful activities means more engaged learning and fewer behavior problems (Perlmutter & Burrell 1995).

From: No Limits to Literacy for Preschool English Learners by Theresa A. Roberts

Oral language competencies at preschool and earlier have a strong relationship with later language and literacy achievement.

Classroom Contexts for Language Development:

There are several contexts for language development that can be capitalized on daily in order to maximize oral language opportunities for preschool English learners:

  • Storybook reading

  • Individual conversations

  • Learning Centers

  • Classroom routines and transitions

Language Development during Center Time/Learning Centers:

  • Learning Centers specifically structured to promote language and vocabulary development are more effective for language development than others not so designed (Morrow, Schickendanz, 2006)

  • Centers that will most effectively promote language and vocabulary include a variety of materials and resources designed to actively engage children in language development activities. 

  • It is imaginary or pretend play that is most associated with language development and social skills (Fisher, 1992).

Characteristics of Learning Centers that Promote Language Development:

  • Is clearly identifiable and “bounded”

  • Has specific purpose

  • Motivates children to use language (e.g., little purses or telephones in dramatic play center)

  • Has activities specifically designed to promote language use (e.g., menus and note pads for order taking in dramatic play center)

  • Provides pictures of key vocabulary words with written text.


What learning centers I should have in my classroom?

See Picture Examples of Learning Centers

  • Science Center: The science center is a very high interest area.  The items in this center encourage hands-on exploration. 
  • ABC Center: The ABC center should provide children with opportunities to explore literacy and letters.
  • Writing Center: In the writing center children are free to explore a wide variety of writing materials independently.  The materials are readily available to the students and encourage creativity.
  • Puzzles & Games Center: Puzzles are important for developing critical thinking skills.  Games promote cooperative learning and problem solving. 
  • Playdough Center:  The playdough center promotes the development of fine motor skills. 
  • Math Center: Materials in the math center encourage exploration and discovery, they can also promote the development of fine motor skills. 
  • Dramatic Play Center: Important skills are learned in this center, such as socialization, peer interactions, problem solving, sharing, and oral language development. 
  • Block Center: The block center promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills in addition to sharing and problem solving.
  • Listening Center: A listening center promotes vocabulary development, pre-reading, and listening skills.
  • Computer Center: A computer center promotes hand-eye coordination, math, and pre-reading skills in addition to basic computer skills.
  • Sand & Water Table: (can be incorporated with the science center) A sand and water center promotes the understanding of quantity, weight, and measurement in addition to fine motor skills.
  • Classroom Library Center:  Advances pre-reading skills and concepts of print.
  • Others:
  1. Flannel board: Promotes oral language and re-telling of stories.
  2. Pocket Charts: Promotes literacy, pre-reading, and math
  3. Dollhouse: Promotes oral language development

When should my students go to learning centers? 

The answer to this question will depend on your schedule, full or half-day.  There are many opportunities for students to go to learning centers in a full-day program.  In a half-day program the opportunities must be strategically worked into your schedule. 

Graphics courtesy of Angela's Doodle Pad