Classroom Centers That Work

March 15, 2021

3.15.2021 Construction Theme, Room 5.

Want to build construction skills and concepts? Here are some ideas from Room 5 as they engaged in centers to address art, food, math, and fine motor skills in a building center.

Here’s what Mrs. Rebecca has to say:

Today at learning centers we finished a week-long construction theme with a building center for art. We used toothpicks and mini marshmallows to build houses or shapes. This fun activity helped develop problem-solving skills and fine motor skills. We also counted the number of marshmallows we used in each design. The building activity also was great for vocabulary like sticky, soft, and sharp. We had so much fun! 

— Rebecca Oliver

2.16.2021 Science and Engineering-Based Centers, Room 5.

Learning Centers can also be play centers – and vice versa. For example, the centers that were set up for Room 5 students recently were very much play-based. However, they simultaneously gave students the opportunity to grow their sense of scientific exploration and reasoning, and build together to solve problems.

In one center children built a marble maze, and then ran marbles through. Changes were made to the design to optimize the performance of the marbles. Ideas were shared and tried, leading to more changes.

A second center allowed students to play with a mixture of dry rice and beans of different textures, using fingers, spoons, and cone-shaped cups. Youngsters pretended to be creating special desserts and shakes, and delighted in outdoing each other with silly ideas, while also building concepts of capacity – how much the spoon will hold, carriage – using the spoon to carry the mixture to the cup and pour it in, and space – how full or empty is the cup and how fullness increases with each added spoonful.

At a third center, children interacted with each other and with action figures. They set up and improved on the “station” sets connecting and adding new areas found in the classroom space.

The fourth center provided a large number of cardboard building blocks which served to motivate the students to design in any way they wished together. There were opportunities for color sorting, patterning, directionality, and rebuilding in the case of toppling.

All four of these centers promoted skills with questioning, experimenting, and problem-solving, which are foundations for science and engineering at this pre-K level. Great job, kiddos, and teachers!

This is a great resource for more ideas for building activities:

as is our Pinterest board, “Concepts and Content Areas”:

1.19.2021 Chalk Drawings, Mitten-Number Bingo, and My First School Books, Room 5.

The youngsters in Room 5 recently had a chance to play Bingo to identify numbers. They used markers to color the number that was pulled by Mrs. Jill and had fun with their own creativity in the marking.

At the next table, students were using chalk and boards to draw a simple figure, a dog. Mrs. Kathy led them through the drawing of body parts and then told them about her dog. The children each did so also. In this way, they worked on early creative writing skills.

A third table gave space to work in the LWT (Learning Without Tears) My First Schoolbooks. 

It’s wonderful to see the students working so well, transitioning from one center to the next with ease, and building their skills in so many areas!

12.10.2020 Dreidels, Letter G and Shapes, Room 5

It’s the holiday season, and the first day of Hanukkah (which begins at sundown). So it’s pretty cool that the learning centers in Room 5 yesterday were themed around this holiday!

At one table, students worked at cutting on a straight line with a card-stock dreidel image, which they later decorated. At another center, they matched and labeled the shapes of the dreidels in a bingo like game. The third center had them working on letter formation in the Learning Without Tears books, and while this center wasn’t necessarily Hanukkah-related, it’s impressive how well these learners are doing with their skills.

Enjoy the gallery, and help applaud the progress that students are making this year.

11.18.2020 Sensory Centers with Animals, Room 7

Did you know that rice is a great sensory medium for children? It’s true. Uncooked rice can hide objects, become a writing canvas, or fill balloons to become squeeze toys. There are so many great activities you can use rice for.

Here we catch up with Room 7 as they are using rice to hide plastic animals. As the students cover and uncover the animals, their little fingers are experiencing different textures and practicing important fine motor skills. At the same time, they’re learning the names of the animals and what their sounds are.

10.2.2020 Learning Centers with an Apple Theme, Room 5

We talk a lot here about the myriad of ways that children learn and the importance of using practices and approaches that have research behind them for best effectiveness with students. When it comes to using learning centers in the classroom, there are many benefits for learners, and so many classrooms here incorporate them into the course of their days at school.

There are also benefits to using classroom themes and thematic units to teach, and hence, you’ll notice some wonderful and creative themes developed by the teachers and therapists to integrate and weave together a variety of concepts, skills, and subjects within a tapestry of common interest.

Take for instance the theme of Apples. It’s definitely a popular theme for this time of year, and several classrooms are working with it. Earlier this week, a visit with Room 5 found the students in learning centers around their classroom theme.

At one center, Mrs. Rebecca was leading an apple taste test. Students got to sample a slice each of a green apple, a red apple, and a yellow one. Then they voted for their favorite and assisted Rebecca in making a graph. This activity integrated healthy foods, colors, apple science, self-preferences, math, and statistics.

At another center, Ms. Jill helped students navigate their Learning Without Tears (LWT) booklets to work on the letter of the week: E. If you’re wondering why E and not A, the LWT curriculum goes in the order of handwriting readiness and development rather than alphabetical order. But APPLE has an E, and Elephants eat APPLES, so all is well.

At the final center, Mrs. Kathy and Ms. Lisa assisted the children with making an apple craft with the parts of an apple.

When finished and while waiting for all others to finish too, kiddos had a chance to visit the classroom library. Then it was time for Circle, and students found their spots for that.

Learn more about research behind using centers and themes in the classroom!

9.15.2020 – Purposeful Play Centers, Room 7

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

What a great quote, and so true. Children at play are learning very important things. They’re exploring, attempting, watching, and hearing.

At Crossroads, there are specific and measurable goals that are part of each student’s education plan, or part of the classroom lesson plans. When teachers plan their centers, they are purposeful in what play activities to offer to build the skills that are wanted for the students in their room.

Take a peek at a session in Room 7. With a puzzle table, and a variety of toys to choose from on the floor, there are enough toys for everyone, and the centers are close enough together that children can move from one to another easily. For these little learners who have just started at Crossroads, there’s also the benefit of getting comfortable and adjusted to being a member of a classroom and of a school.

This group of classmates is off to a great start of the school year. We can’t wait to see all of the gains they make this year!

2.19.2020 – Making Marks, Room 2.

Room 2 often has early learning centers for students to begin learning to play among peers. This whiteboard is equipped with dry-erase markers in various colors. Kids can practice making marks, nurturing their interest in writing for communication, and in creating images too. This little guy, accompanied by a classmate (not pictured) for much of the time he was working; both had a blast!

5.30.19 – Ideas for Classroom Centers.


Finding classroom centers that work for everyone can be challenging. What to plan so that students can work together on common activities, meet the needs and goals of a diverse group of kids, and also allow the staff to manage many children at the same time, doing different activities? Perhaps we can help! Here are 6 that are working in the classrooms at Crossroads Center for Children.

Fine Motor Center – From building with legos to working with PlayDoh, little fingers need activities to practice their fine motor skills.



Tons of other skills can be reinforced in learning centers, too! Children can make shapes, share colors, form letters, build and tall or short towers…. so many things while their fingers are busy.


More ideas for fine motor centers:

Dressing skills such as buttons, zippers and latches.

Learning Without Tears magna-doodles to practice letter formation.

Cutting with scissors


Using utensils – forks, spoons, knives

Using pencils, crayons

Car Center – Playing with automobiles and tracks is not only fun, but also involves strategic skills. When moving a car along a track children can learn about force affecting speed, and when using toys with ramps and slides, they can experience principles such as velocity and cause and effect. Sharing, turn-taking, and language skills are social-communication skills that come into play. Hand muscles can be strengthened by using 2 hands at the same time, as can eye-hand coordination by placing and moving cars.



Dress up Center – Got costumes or pieces of uniforms? Scarves, hats, ties? Putting them together to make a center is a blast for children. A great activity for a center can include not only the clothes but also kid furniture to expand the theme. For instance, dressing up like a chef and then cooking in the play kitchen is fun and allows students to explore roles and tasks. Dressing up like a police officer or fire fighter gives children a chance to pretend at rescuing their friends, and act out those roles. Teachers here are vigilant about sanitizing clothing and toys, and recommend that others do the same whenever kids are sharing items.


Puzzle Center – Another great center for kids is puzzles. There are so many different kinds of puzzles as well as numbers of pieces. Puzzles help develop cognitive skills like problem solving and memory. They can increase a child’s ability to do a little at a time and come back to it later. Shape recognition and the art of “flipping” and “turning” pieces to find the exact fit are also benefits of puzzle-doing. Puzzles work on fine motor skills, too, and turn out to be one of the leading activities for lifelong leisure enjoyment.

Art Center – Another great center is this one. It’s important to give kids opportunities to be creative, choose their own colors and materials and set their own goals.

Centers provide opportunities for students to work together to solve common problems or meet mutual goals. Along with that benefit is the independence and confidence that comes with acting as a part of a group. Children need to learn to do for themselves and each-other as they grow older, and centers can be great arenas for those needed skill-sets.

What are your favorite activities for centers? What are you going to try that we are doing? We’d love to hear from you!

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Super Hoopers in Room 5!

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