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How to Get Children to LOVE Your Less Popular Centers



Imagine with me: You’ve got your preschool classroom all set up. The centers are stocked and ready to be used, full of materials you’ve purchased or made yourself. 

Everything is the best it could be, and you just can’t wait for your students to use and enjoy every single center in the classroom.

However, somehow, your kids just avoid certain centers. They don’t like them, don’t want to go near them, don’t even look at them…

Uh oh, Houston, we have a problem.

Does this sound familiar to you?

If so, this episode is for you, because in it, I’ll be discussing how to solve this exact issue!

Are you ready?

Let’s dive in!

Help, My Students Don’t Like My Math Center!

What do you do when your preschool students only gravitate towards “fun” centers like art and drama? And completely ignore the ones for math and literacy? 

This is the exact question one of our Trailblazer members, Jennifer, asked last week. 

Jennifer has incorporated an alphabet center in her preschool classroom this year. Naturally, she’s worked hard on it, purchased some materials, DIYed others, and set it all up perfectly. However, her students show very little interest in the center.

If you’ve been a preschool teacher for as long as I have, then you’ve probably had this experience too. It never feels good when you make efforts to create something fun for your kids, and they completely ignore it.

So, let’s change that, shall we?

Keep reading to learn how!

Preview Your Centers

If you have a class that you only get to teach a few days a week (which is the case of Jennifer), I suggest previewing centers with them every Monday. 

So, it would go a bit like this: 

“This week in the math center, we have this suuuuper fun Apple game that we played last week during small group time.”

Then I would take out the game and hold it out for all students to see, and I’ll “accidentally” remember something and say, “I remember that last week Zoe and Aiden really loved this game! Do you remember that too? Well, if you want to play the Apple game this week, it’ll be here.” and I’ll put it in one of the less popular centers, like alphabet or math.

And if I really want to take it a step further, I’ll remind my students of the game when it’s time to go to the centers. 

Think of Your Students’ Development

[Image quote: “Three year olds won't seek out more academic centers like alphabet and math because they're not ready for that type of complexity yet.” - Vanessa Levin]

From what we know about children’s development, whether that’s academic development, or the way their brains grow, there is a big difference between children ages three, four, and five.

Children learn different things at different ages, so it’s only natural that your three-year-olds are not as interested in academic centers as they are in blocks or dramatic play. They won’t seek out math or literacy centers because they’re simply not ready for something that complex yet.

So, always keep this in mind if you want your students to show interest in different centers.

Combine Your Centers

This is actually advice from another one of my Trailblazer students. She said that combining her writing and alphabet centers into one center completely changed the game in her classroom. 

Now, her students use both centers more often, and they can use materials interchangeably as well!

I like to combine my art and writing centers (because so many of the materials cross over) and it really piques my students’ interest.

Play in the Center

If your students really don’t want to use your more academic centers, make them more fun! Lead by example, and play in the center so that your students see how they can use the materials in them.

For example, if I see that my writing/arts center has been gathering dust, I’ll go there and “think out loud” to myself. I’ll make a birthday card or a greeting card, and my students will watch (yes, even when they don’t look that interested, they are). 

Sometimes, children don’t go to a center because they don’t know how to use the materials, and playing in it can help.

What About Manipulatives?

[Image quote: “I've always combined my writing and my art center because so many of the materials cross over.” - Vanessa Levin on why combining centers can help garner interest in less popular centers]

Another thing that Jennifer mentioned was the materials

She talked about how she spent a lot of money buying things and creating things. And she just wants to know how to utilize these materials in a way that her children will like. 

She wants to teach her students in playful ways, because she’s spent a lot of time prepping her centers and materials, and it would be a waste not to use them.

One of the things I like to mention to teachers is switching out materials in their centers. If we switch things out often, we can use the same materials over and over and keep interest high. 

I like to do this with the Learning Resources People Counters and use them in centers or during small group time.

This way my students can practice using these manipulatives and build a number of different skills.

I discuss all of this in more depth (and with a few fun demos too!) in the episode above, so make sure to watch it to learn more!