When it comes to setting up your daycare classroom, figuring out the floorplan can be a big struggle. You might be asking yourself:
- Where should I put the blocks?
- If my room is too small, how am I supposed to have centers?
- Where can I put my dramatic play area?
- What centers should I have?
All of these are great questions, and we will discuss what centers to have, where they should go, and what should be in them all without losing your own aesthetic as an individual teacher.
Centers are important to the early childhood classroom because they allow children to safely and freely explore at their own pace. Engagement increases when children have choices in which they learn and play. This allows for small group interaction as well as individual exploration. It also allows for varied levels of learning, depending on what you have in each center. Centers help teachers stay organized as well as keep learning fun! If you operate with themes and units, it can be easy to organize with centers. Ultimately, centers foster play and creativity, which is what every early childhood classroom should do.
What centers should I have?
It is up to each individual center as to what centers you should have, but according to ECERS (Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale) — an assessment tool used in most daycares in the U.S. — it is important to have the following centers in each classroom:
- Dramatic Play
- Art & Music
- Science & Nature
- Math & Manipulatives
- Sand & Water
What should be in each center?
There are exhaustive lists to refer to where you can see what items should be included in each of the centers mentioned above. To see an example of a checklist, check out this link used in New Jersey education.
The most important thing to know when figuring out your inventory is to make sure that each center is diverse, clean, safe, and stocked. Each center should have books, toys, and materials that are diverse in cultures represented. There should also be diversity in ability so that different levels of learning can occur.
All materials should be clean and have no missing or broken parts for safety. Materials should be developmentally appropriate, and if they require supervision, make sure this happens.
All materials should also be well stocked. If you have 20 students in your classroom and only one doll in the dramatic play area, that is a problem. The ECERS assessment tool shows that in your blocks center, there should be three types of blocks and all sorts of accessories within the block area to foster a rich and creative learning environment. Some of you cannot simply achieve all of these materials overnight, but be sure to build it over time to offer best practices.
Where should I put each center?
When it comes to figuring out placement, there are many free websites that you can play around with to figure out your floor plan. Sites like RoomSketcher, myKaplan Floor Planner, and ConceptDraw are just a few examples of free resources where you can design 2D and 3D floor plans. This can help you give a birds eye view so that you aren’t overwhelmed when standing in your classroom.
Where you place your centers is important. There are centers that are considered quiet, centers that are considered noisy, and centers that are somewhere in the middle that we refer to as “buffers.” Centers like math, reading, and art can be considered quiet centers. Centers like blocks, music, and dramatic play can be considered noisy. Then centers like science, sand/water can be considered “buffers.” It’s important to not place quiet centers directly next to noisy centers. It is understandable that some classrooms are small and therefore do not have the luxury of being spaced out, but if you can help it, keep those away from each other. You can also consider having some noisy centers only open when the quiet centers are not being used if needed.
It is also important to place centers not only against walls. You will need to create boundaries using rugs and shelving so that it is obvious where centers end and where they begin. It will also allow for children to not have so much open space that it invites them to run. When creating the boundaries, just be careful of blindspots that shelves and different furniture can create.
What about desks and tables?
Small group structure is the most important and prominent part of early childhood education. Best practices would be that children would be eating in small groups and playing and learning in small groups. There will be times for whole group instruction, and that can certainly be done on the big meeting rug, for example. But for the most part, children should be working in small groups. There shouldn’t be 20 desks facing the front in a preschool classroom. There also doesn’t need to be seating for 20 children all at one time. Each child should have their own cubby and place for personal belongings, but since children should be doing most things in small groups, it isn’t necessary to have seating for all 20 children at tables and chairs.
There should be small tables throughout the classroom in centers for puzzles, math, writing, etc. There should also be rugs or mats so that children can play nicely on the floor if needed. Large pillows or beanbags in the reading area are necessary. Chairs should be size appropriate and in good condition. If it is possible for you to have separate tables for eating, that is great.
Sample Floor Plan Designs
There are tons of floor plans out there if you do a simple web search. But not all floor plans will be good examples. Look for spacing, organization, and small group setups. Here are a few that are great.
When it comes to daycare floor plans, keep it simple, organized, clean, safe, and fun. Make sure materials are accessible to students in centers, and make sure that you store away what you don’t use on a daily basis. Kids thrive in clean and organized spaces. When there is clutter, it does not promote a good learning environment. Even if your budget is small, there are inexpensive ways to declutter and organize your space that you can be proud of. This is your second home, so have pride in it and help your students feel welcomed and loved.