Art Center for Preschoolers

Art Center for Preschoolers
Easel with shelf

Art Center for Preschoolers

The art area in a child care center can be one of a child’s favorite spaces. Just imagine, mounds of crayons, boxes of colored pencils, makers in every color, plain paper, glue, plastic scissors, magazines for cutting or tearing, construction paper, examples of 3D creations, art displayed, paints of all kinds, clay, easels, smocks, and many other selections. All the items are an invitation to create.

Art Center for Preschoolers
This is an example of a carousal painted by a child.

Provide Plain Paper and Paint

Young children have a natural gift to create. I once walked by a child that was swirling her paint around-and-around on the paper. I could see multiple colors going in a vivid circle. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” I asked. She shared that it was the way she felt when she rode the carousal. After she talked about her experience, I understood her art.

Let Children Explore

Children love to experiment with colors and textures. It is not about the product to them. Just as you are ready to display one of their paintings, you discover that the child has painted over the picture to see what the color red looks like painted over white. “Look! I have a pink picture,” a child might say.

Free Choice Experiences

At the art center, children enjoy being self-directed not teacher directed. You might say, “Would someone like to paint a snow scene or use the cotton and glue to complete a snow picture since we just read the Snowy Day?” At least this way, you have given the children an idea about what to do at the art center. But, it should not be restricted to that one plan. You may want to have realistic pictures of snowy scenes. But, it is important to give children control over their creations.

Art Center for Preschoolers
Example of what not to use: Pattern for a snowman

My Mistake

As a young teacher, I use to provide step-by-step directions on making something such as the snowman on the right.

Children feel comfortable looking at a view outside of their window and trying to draw it. But, caregivers that provide a pattern will dampen creativity and cause stress.

In my early years as an educator, art time for me was to provide the children with patterns. I instructed them on every step. I then displayed all the projects around the room. The only development areas that were enhanced were perhaps fine motor skills and following directions.

Through Research an My Own Observations

I read research papers and articles and listened to many lectures from professors and speakers on the subject of art for young children. While believing the experts, it took my observations with groups of children to convince me that children need the opportunity to explore at the art center. At first, children may make messes. But, creativity begins to explode when they realize that they are in the driver’s seat. Therefore, my philosophy is adamant on process versus product.

What Does the Space Look Like?

The art center can include shelves for holding items and an easel for painting larger pictures. There should be plastic bins for holding markers, colored pencils, etc. You will need a storage space for scissors, paper, etc. The space should be attractive with good lighting. Make it a wonderful place that elicits creativity. Children love beautiful spaces filled with color. Add fresh flowers, pine cones, sea shells, and other objects in nature to add to the area. It is important to change the natural items often because children love novelty. The space should be in close proximity to water for cleaning up spills and washing out brushes.

Some Supplies

Some suggestions for art materials are: white drawing paper, ribbons, pieces of cloth, , finger paints, crayons (a huge assortment), hole punches, Popsicle sticks, paper doilies, peel-off shapes, markers, yarn, pom-poms, craft buttons, paste, glue, construction paper, tissue paper, newsprint, scissors, masking tape, sponges, stamps, stamp pads, rolling pins, play dough, cookie cutters, drying rack, painting aprons, mixing jars, and more.

In this space, many developmental domains are enhanced.

  • Physical development -Children develop fine and large motor skills. This includes the development of eye-hand coordination, and arm, hand and finger muscles.
  • Cognitive development – Through visual discrimination, children will learn to identify colors. Also, it takes a mental plan to design their picture or art project.
  • Language development- Children love to talk. Encourage multiple children to share the space to enhance language development. As the teacher, walk around and invite the child to discuss their project. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” You can add vocabulary by making statements like, “I love those purple lines that you added. I like those circles that you placed on the page.”
  •  Emotional Development- Children will feel happy about their art projects in a classroom where the teacher doesn’t put restrictions on their work. Many of the art activities are therapeutic. Think about pounding clay as a way to get-out hostility.
  • Social Development- it is important to encourage conversation and have multiple children in the space together.
  • Creative Development- Encourage children to create. It is fine to give them ideas. But, don’t provide examples of things that have been made from patterns. For example, you could provide several snow scenes photos. But, it will stop their creativity when the teacher posts several snow scenes that she made with blue paper and glitter or a snow man that has been made by the teacher.

Finding Supplies

Art Center for Preschoolers
Art Storage

There are many good online supply companies. I ordered from Kaplan, as an educator. Their website provides some start-up advice when setting up an art center in an early childhood environment.

1. Decide on the Size and Location of Your Art Center

It is important to set-up the center based on the size and location. Try to accommodate two or more children to ensure that language skills are developed. It is important to plan the center near a water source for easy clean-up. It can get noisy; therefore it would not work near the book center or other quiet areas.

2. Pick out the Appropriate Furniture for Your Space

It is important to have areas for easy clean-up. Double-sided easels take up less room than two easels. You will need shelves and cabinets to hold paints and tables for making projects. Add a drying rack and bulletin boards for displaying art.

3. Facilitate Easy Clean Up with Splash Mats and Aprons

Make sure that floor services are easy to clean. You may want a splash mat. Have art smocks or aprons to protect children’s clothing.

4. Find Convenient Art Storage Solutions

There are a variety of art supplies available, so it’s important that the materials you choose for your art center are organized and placed in appropriate storage containers. Art caddies, scissor racks, and art tubs are great storage solutions for materials that children need to easily access.

5. Choose a Variety of Art Materials and Tools for Children to Use

You should offer a variety of diverse art materials based on different levels of ability in your classroom’s art center.

I hope this article on the art center for preschoolers has been helpful.

Wanda Wyont, MA

Wanda is an experienced educator and has spent years working in preschool. After graduate school, she taught early childhood education at the college level. She has written numerous articles and has spoken to many diverse groups on a national level. Recently, her second children’s book, Barkley’s Great Escape, was published.

Learning Centers in Preschool Provide the Tools for Learning

Learning centers in preschool provide the tools for learning
Learning Centers

Learning centers in preschool provide the tools for learning.

According to research, the advantages of  learning centers in preschool provide the tools for learning. The early childhood classroom (ages 2-5) are a huge factor in children’s development. Classrooms are usually set-up so that children can be engaged with exploratory activities.

Materials Purposefully Planned

In an ideal setting, the materials are purposefully planned. Changes are made often. The schedule allows large blocks of time. I recommend an hour in the morning and the afternoon. The classroom teacher’s role is to move from center-to-center  encouraging, challenging, and supporting learning. Perhaps, the child care center’s philosophy has a weekly theme. This is a good way for the classroom teacher to add accessories to the different interest centers that go with the theme. New items increase the interest.

Some Suggestions for a Theme on Pets

  • Add pet figures to the block center
  • Stuffed animals and dress-up clothes like a  veterinary or zoo keeper
  • Books on pet scattered around and especially at the book center.
  • Pictures of animals and animal shaped molds to use for the clay at the art center.

Learning centers in preschool provide the tools for learning, but the teacher has an important role.

The teachers are note takers and keep good records about development. The site from the NC Division of Child Development  provides more detailed information. Think of the teacher as the stage manager.

Ideal Classroom Includes the Following Learning Centers

The classroom is divided-up with different learning centers. I would suggest always having books, blocks, art, housekeeping/drama, and math/manipulatives open. But, I had other centers only during the AM Free Choice time. As children are arriving in the morning, it may be difficult to supervise the water table, for example. The interest areas or centers that I would suggest are:

  • blocks
  • computer
  • manipulative/math
  • books
  • writing
  • art
  • music
  • science
  • dramatic play
  • large motor

Self-Directed and Free Play

For children to know and understand how to direct themselves they need to be able to recognize what is available to them. From the picture above, you can get an idea of the how to use shelves or dividers to space the learning centers.

Don’t Assign

With free choice centers, teachers allow children to make their own choices of where to go to spend their time.

The teacher may say at the morning circle time:

  1. “There are pet accessories in the block center if you would like to work on a Veterinary Clinic or Zoo.”
  2. “I have some “fake” fur in the art center if you would like to draw a pet and glue this fur on your picture.”
  3. “I’ve put some stuffed animals, zoo keeper clothes and a veterinarian jacket in dramatic play if you would like to go there.”

While the teacher may give the children ideas to do at the center, the children should feel free to choose their own play.

Let Children Make the Selections

Children learn best when they are interacting with items that interest them. The items at the center should meet all the developmental levels in the classroom including special needs and multicultural. According to the author of Preschool Appropriate Practices by Janice Beaty, the child must be able to trust their environment by experiencing the following: 1. awareness of the choices available; 2. an interest in the materials (change items, often); 3. Freedom to explore; and 4. time to get deeply involved.

A Typical Schedule

7:00-9:00 AM – Arrival, greetings, and a limited number of learning centers open.
9:00-9:15 – Morning Snack
9:15-9:30 AM – Teacher Directed Activity or Circle
9:30-10:30 – Self-Directed -Learning Centers
10:30-10:45 – Clean-up, Bathrooms, Preparation for Outdoor Play
10:45-11:45 – Outdoor Play
11:45-12:00 – Preparation for lunch
12:00 -12:30– Lunch (The classroom teacher should sit with the children and model good table manners.
12:30-2:00 – Nap time for children that need a nap. All children do not need naps. The schedule should be individualized for the non-napping children. The space should include an area for quiet activities during this time.
2:00-2:15 – PM Snack
2:15-2:30 – Teacher Directed Activity
2:30-3:30 – Self-Directed -Learning Centers
3:30-4:30 – Outdoor Play
4:30 – 6:00 – Departure and Limited Centers Open for Play

I hope this article on Learning Centers in Preschool Provide the Tools for Learning, was helpful. I would love to read your comments.

Learning centers in preschool provide the tools for learning
Barkley’s Great Escape

Wanda Wyont, MA

Wanda has over 25 years of experience working with individuals from preschool to college. She has authored and presented articles on the subject of children in multiple venues throughout the country. She recently published her second children’s book, Barkley’s Great Escape.