Five Easy Learning Centers for HomeschoolAdena Foster
Learning centers are a great way to include younger children in your daily homeschool routine through independent work. I have found them to be a lifesaver while my attention is needed to assist older children. Learning centers can be as simple or as elaborate as you want them.
To have successful learning centers, I have found that it is best to allow the child access to the centers only at designated times. Often, I will send my son to a center with a timer set for ten minutes. The amount of time will vary from child to child. You don’t want him to lose interest by spending too much time so that there is no appeal to return the next day. Conversely you don’t want him to spend so little time that he becomes frustrated by being unable to complete an activity.
I am sharing some easy, and mostly inexpensive, ways to set up five different learning centers. A learning center can be arranged on a table, on a shelf, or even in a shoe box.
Fine Motor Skills Learning Center
Fine motor skills, while important, are often overlooked. I have found that my daughters naturally had great fine motor skills because they enjoyed coloring, sewing, drawing, etc. My boys, however, did not. Other than playing with LEGOs, most of their activities involved large motor skills such as sports. Their lack became evident when it was time to learn to write. All of my boys had terrible handwriting. I discovered that making them do some simple activities every day strengthened their fine motor skills and helped them to write more neatly as they had better control over the pencil.
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Items to include in your fine motor skills center:
- Lacing cards You can make these with old Christmas cards and a hole punch. Use a shoe string to lace through the holes.
- Kitchen tongs/tweezers and items to pick up with them If you use larger items like plastic toys, building blocks, etc., then use the tongs. Tweezers are great for smaller LEGO pieces, beads, buttons, etc.
- Prewriting and tracing pages
- Pencil grips that teach proper finger placement
Language Arts Learning Center
You can easily combine your language arts and fine motor skills learning centers if you need to consolidate space. I have always used language arts curriculum that incorporates movement, so I don’t find that I need as many activities in my learning center.
In my language arts learning center, you will find:
- Alphabet flash cards with a rice bowl Use whatever flashcards you have on hand, but I found it especially helpful if you can obtain the ones that have directional lines teaching how to form the letter. Children draw the letters in the rice. Once they know how to form the letters, it’s easy to use tiles from any word game.
- Picture books If you happen have a handheld recording devices or a voice app on your smartphone, it’s cute to let your children make up their own story for wordless books.
- Audio books I use my local library to check out audiobooks. There are also many apps that you can download audio books. Of course, many of these might take a little longer than the time you have allowed to spend in this center, so adjust accordingly.
Math Learning Center
Although math seems to be the one subject my children complain about working on, it is always one of the most popular learning centers! You can find many items to add to your math center at the local dollar store.
Some of the fun items that are in this learning center are:
- Items to sort These can be anything from Skittles to buttons or foam building blocks to counting bears.
- Geoboards and tangrams These are the most popular activity in our center.
- Play money I have flashcards that have an amount on one side and pictures of coins that you can make that amount on the other. The child matches the coins and as he gets older, he can use the coin pictures on the back to check his work.
- Interlocking cubes Have your child rebuild a replica of a pattern you have already created.
Science Learning Center
Our science learning center is the one center that I switch items out most often. I like to find items that tie into whatever we are learning at the time.
Sometimes you will find these:
- Magazines Our favorites include Zoobooks, Ranger Rick Jr. and Your Big Backyard.
- Magnifying glass
- Objects from nature Shells, rocks, leaves, feathers, even bugs are favorites.
- Animal flashcards You can find these online to print out and use as a memory game, matching pairs or matching the mature animal with its baby.
- Scales Digital or the balance type are fun for weighing and comparing.
Social Studies Learning Center
While the science center is changed more frequently, the social studies center changes usually twice a year. I try to have it reflect either what I am teaching the younger child or sometimes even what I am teaching the older siblings. When his older brothers were learning about the Revolutionary War, my youngest got to play with plastic soldiers at his learning center during our read alouds. Always during preschool/kindergarten years, I include dress up clothes for community workers.
I stock our social studies learning center with these fun items:
- Books about children from around the world
- Map puzzles
- Costumes for community workers
- Picture atlas
- Plastic figures to act out scenes
I hope these ideas will help you incorporate learning centers into your homeschool. It’s a great way to keep the younger ones learning and busy. What have you included in your learning centers?