The importance of learning centres in the promotion of all-around development of the preschool child cannot be overstressed.
These centres, which are designated outdoor areas in a school, help children to develop an appreciation for nature, exercise their bodies, and form social ties (Ogunsanwo 2002, Osanyin 2002, Rivkin 2002).
1. The Water Table
This could be a large plastic bowl that is mounted on a stand. The water table should not be so high as to be out of reach for the child. It should come in attractive colors with toys placed in and around the water for children to explore.
To ensure safety, the edges of the stand and water bowl should be curved and smooth. Provision should also be made for water-proof aprons which children should put on when playing with water.
2. Sand Box
The sandbox may come in form of a wooden box mounted on an attractively colored stand. Like the water table, the sandbox should be at a child’s level and with curved edges.
Only clear dry sand should be put in the box for children to play with. The box should also contain toys for pouring sand. Sandbox promotes dramatic play among children.
3. The Mud Area
The mud area offers the children access to mud and water. Activities such as digging, planting, molding, cooking, and other types of creative play can take place when children explore with mud and water.
However, provision should be made for plenty of water for cleaning up after activities in the mud area.
4. Garden Area
This section affords children the opportunity to do some gardening. Spade should be made available for digging, planting, weeding, and harvesting.
Here, children can explore the soil for the components and their properties, insects, and other animals in the soil. The garden should be fenced so that the plants are well-protected.
5. Science Area
The science area should be equipped with materials that promote the development of scientific skills of exploration, curiosity, and inquiry in the preschool child.
The materials for this area may include magnifying materials, prisms, natural materials to examine and classify, plants to study, care for animals such as rabbits, and snails, aquarium for fishes etc.
Other Learning Centres
Apart from the ones considered in the preceding sub-sections, other learning centresmayebe designated and prepared in the outdoor learning environment.
These include the kitchen area, where children can stretch their imaginations on the art of cooking, and the Mathematics centre where there could be measuring materials, balance scales, rulers, graded and ungraded cups for liquids, and geometric materials.
When organizing the outdoor learning environment, it is essential to consider some factors one of these factors is the government safety requirement for space.
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The guideline states;
That an outdoor playground should be well-fenced, varying in size according to the enrolment of the schools, for security purposes. Where possible, prprovisionshould be made for further growth.
That the playground should be grassed and installed with facilities for climbing, jumping, pulling, handling, singing, balancing, rocking, etc.
That track of hard surface for pushing along wheel-toys should be provided. The facilities provided should ensure the safety of children.
Therefore, to meet government registration and approval, the available space should be satisfactory and adequately protected from hazards of traffic and children wandering away.
In conclusion, it is therefore important that children’s play take place in pra prepared environment that provides enough opportunity for learning through exploration and a lot of activity.
The environment must be carefully prepared so that children do not just move around the playground without acquiring any cognitive skskillsThe child’s play environment should be designed to teach children.
Outdoor play enhances the development of inquiry, exploratory, and suher skills as may not be possible inside the classroom area.
The outdoor learning environment may be designed to feature such centers as the water table, sandbox, mud area, garden area, science area, etc.