By: Carolyn Beeman

At The Learning Tree, we believe that play is essential to early learning and that children learn best when they are enjoying and are engaging themselves in what they are doing.  Play promotes the development of social and cognitive skills, it helps children mature emotionally, and helps them to gain the self-confidence  that’s why we offer the children a wide variety of activities to choose from.  Our classrooms are arranged with different activity centers such as a blocks center, a dramatic play area, a reading area, and a manipulative center.  At The Learning Tree teachers use things that the children are interested in and turn those into activities to promote learning.

Our block centers are full of blocks of different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. We have cardboard, wooden, foam, and plastic blocks. Also included in the blocks centers are things like legos (of various sizes) magnatiles, train tracks, and so much more. The block center encourages physical development. Something as simple as picking up a block is helping a child practice their grasping and hand manipulation skills.  Even building a structure requires balance, a steady hand, and hand-eye coordination; therefore children are developing both their gross and fine motor skills.

Our dramatic play centers include things like kitchens complete with pretend food, dishes, various cooking utensils, aprons and towels. We have Dr. kits, Veterinarian tools, workbenches complete with child safe screw drivers, hammers, wrenches, pliers, tool belts, screws and tool boxes.  When children play in the dramatic play center they practice skills such as Social/emotional skills by acting out different roles and themes, working together  to keep the play happening. They are practicing cognitive skills by creating stories to act out and finding different solutions to solve different challenges that may arise. They enhance their language skills by talking to each other, asking and answering questions, giving directions, and role playing. The dramatic play center even enhances early writing skills, for example the child may be pretending a puppy is at the veterinarians office and needs to take medication, the child may then scribble out a  prescription  for the puppy.

At the learning tree you will find our libraries are warm, cozy and inviting. They are full of carpet squares and pillows so the children can nestle up with a good book.  Our libraries have a wide variety of books in each classroom and are ideal size for children to enjoy some peaceful alone time or hang out with one or two buddies. Giving a child the opportunity to explore  books stimulates the imagination, improves thinking skills, encourages language development, and provides children with the opportunity express themselves by  making up their own stories.

In our manipulative play centers you will see things like puzzles, play doh, crayons markers and paper, counters, magnets, board games,  peg boards, sorting materials, pattern cards, snap links, lacing cards, and so much more.  The manipulatives center provides the opportunity for children to practice many skills including fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and visual discrimination. Children will become more familiar with shapes, colors, and textures, and will begin to compare the similarities and differences of things. They will match, classify, and learn patterns. The manipulative center even offers a chance to practice creativity and problem-solving.

There are many different approaches to teaching, but at The learning Tree we believe it should be fun for everyone involved especially the children.