Do you feel like your classroom is a WWE arena? Experiencing some challenging behaviors or struggling to set up the classroom to balance both active and quiet spaces? You’ve come to the right place! Let’s talk about Loud and Active Learning Centers.
Just like you, children need opportunities to stretch, move and experience their muscles throughout the day. Research shows that almost 12 million children in the U.S. are in some type of child care program. With these staggering statistics, children need a place to get their “sillies” out and move their bodies. If you don’t provide this space, children will make up their own! Climbing on stacked cots, running around the classroom, or throwing blocks can all point to a need for active play. So, as teachers, how do we set up the environment and make the most out of these displays of gross motor skills?
Benefits of Active Play
Studies have shown that children who engage in active, physical play throughout the day, have better physical fitness and coordination, lower rates of obesity, longer attention spans and better cognitive development. Children are naturally inclined to wiggle, jump and move their bodies. It’s how they learn to explore the world around them. By providing opportunities inside and outside the classroom, children learn to self-regulate, control their bodies and explore their environments.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Opportunities
When in doubt, get them out! Children thrive in outdoor environments. Having opportunities to explore nature, run, jump, tumble and “get dirty” allows for their brains to make new connections. Though the weather may be a factor, it’s important for kids to investigate the outdoors throughout the day. READ: Creating an Amazing Outdoor Play Area
Setting up the classroom environment so that children are invited to move their bodies can be difficult if you are limited on space. Consider keeping active play areas separate from quieter spaces, like the library or writing nooks. Active areas can be disruptive and distracting to children focusing on fine motor tasks. Read more about enhancing Gross Motor Skills
What are some of those “active” indoor centers?
Providing a variety of blocks to build and manipulate not only promotes children cognitively, through problem solving or spatial awareness, but they can also be opportunities to move their large muscles too! Think about not only different types of blocks but the weight and size of the blocks as well. Bring in other toys, like people, animals, or tools, such as tape or rulers, to maximize other learning opportunities. Read more about the benefits of Block Play.
From sand to water play, children are moving their bodies in the sensory area. Dumping, pouring, scooping, and digging, all are skills children experience in sensory centers. The Cleveland Clinic states that sensory play “helps build nerve connections in their brain’s pathways, which can help your child complete complex tasks. ‘When your child engages in sensory play, they’re helping their brain develop and learn from certain aspects of their environment.” Read more about Ideas and Benefits of Sensory Play and why children Need Water Play.
Music and Movement:
Dancing builds confidence, physical strength and social-emotional skills. Plus, it’s really fun! Moving to music, playing instruments, and singing songs allows children to express themselves in new and interesting ways. READ: Don’t Forget to Dance.
From creating a culinary masterpiece to expounding on parenting skills, dramatic play is active play, all the way! By role playing, children are empowered to make choices, resolve conflicts and act out their feelings. It is an important and popular learning center in many classrooms. Read more about Dramatic Play: What It Is and Why It’s Important.
Young children learn best by experimenting with their environment through hands-on activities and play. Loud, active play engages their senses, develops brain connections and moves children’s bodies in natural ways. Let’s make our classrooms exciting and inviting to all types of rumblin’ tumblin’ fun!
Gilreath, A. (2022). Child care study: Kids are more active when adults join play. The Hechinger Report. https://hechingerreport.org/sedentary-child-care-workers-lead-to-sedentary-toddlers/
HealthEssentials. (2022). What is sensory play? the benefits for your child and sensory play ideas. The Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-sensory-play-ideas/
Kaplan Early Learning Company. (2022). Setting Up Your Preschool Learning Centers. https://blog.kaplanco.com/ii/preschool-learning-centers
Kolmer, C. (2022). 30+ Essential US child care statistics (2022): availability, cost and trends. Zippa: The Career Expert. https://www.zippia.com/advice/us-child-care-availability-statistics/
WGU Ohio. (2021). Dramatic play: what is it and why it’s important. Western Governors University. https://www.wgu.edu/blog/dramatic-play-what-is-why-important2111.html#close