Play provides the foundation for academic or "school" learning. Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our preschool program. Play is the work of young children.
Young children learn best by doing. Learning isn't just repeating what someone else says; it requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in. 
 We encourage children to be active and creative explorers who are not afraid to try out their ideas and to think their own thoughts. Our goal is to help children become independent, self confident, inquisitive learners. We're teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool, but all through their lives. We're allowing them to learn at their own pace and in the ways that are best for them. We're giving them good habits and attitudes, particularly a positive sense of themselves, which will make a difference throughout their lives. To foster this learning, staff provide developmentally appropriate activities throughout the preschool environment.
When you enter our preschool classrooms, you will witness play and learning taking place at the following classroom centers:


Blocks, especially hardwood unit blocks, are standard equipment in a Creative Curriculum classroom. Wooden blocks naturally appeal to young children because they feel good to the touch, are symmetrical, and invite open-ended explorations. When children construct, create, and represent their experiences with blocks, they grow in each area of development.

  1. Literacy: Literacy expands children's vocabulary and language by talking about their buildings. Introduce new words (e.g., front-end loader, cylinder, arch) as they use blocks and props. Invite children to talk about their work (e.g., "Tell me about your building." "Where do your cars go when they run out of gas?").

  2. Math: Teach number concepts by suggesting that children put away blocks in sets ("Everyone take three blocks at a time to put away"). Ask number questions ("How many square blocks would you need to make one as long as this double-unit block?" "How could you divide up the ramps so each of you has the same number?").

    • Math Expansion - Nurture children's interest in measurement by offering materials such as string and rulers so children can measure their buildings.

  3. Physical Science: Encourage children to explore physical science by providing balance scales, pulleys, mirrors, and pipes. Take an interest in children's explorations of blocks (e.g., how smooth they are, how heavy, which ones stand up best).

  4. Life Science: Expand children's knowledge of life science by adding plastic or wooden animals so children can build animal homes such as farms, zoos, caves, or cages. Provide artificial plants and flowers to encourage children to create different animal habitats.

  5. Earth and Environmental Science: Promote understanding of the earth and environment by providing telephone wires and pipes as props for building and talking about how electricity and water get into buildings. Include natural materials such as rocks, acorns, shells, pinecones, and twigs to use in buildings.

  6. Social Studies: Encourage learning about spaces and geography by talking about roads children are making and where they go. Display maps and help children to figure out how to reproduce their neighborhood with blocks.

Explore concepts related to people and how they live by learning about different stores and jobs in the neighborhood. Provide props that show people engaged in a range of jobs. Display books and pictures about how people live and work and talk with children about them.

  1. The Arts: Promote drama skills by encouraging children to use block structures as the setting for dramatic play. Provide props such as hats, empty food containers, or a steering wheel to use with hollow blocks.

Nurture the visual arts by allowing time for children to create original designs and structures with blocks. Suggest that children draw pictures of their structures as a way of preserving them.

  1. Technology: Help children explore basic operations and concepts by including ramps, wheels, and pulleys. Talk with children about what makes a building stable.

Provide technology tools for children to use to take pictures of block structures and display them. Help children to create building plans on the computer that they can recreate in the Block Area. 

Dramatic Play

In the Dramatic Play Area, children break through the restrictions of reality. They pretend to be someone or something different from themselves and make up situations and actions that go along with the role they choose. When children engage in dramatic play they deepen their understanding of the world and develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

  1. Literacy: Encourage children to explore print and letters and words by placing writing tools and paper in the Dramatic Play Area (e.g., note pads, prescription pads, eye charts, posters, stationery, and envelopes). Participate in children's play to demonstrate the uses of writing. Encourage children to use writing tools and paper as part of their play. Offer props such as telephone books and empty food boxes with labels.
  2. Math: Guide problem solving by helping children to find solutions to problems they encounter (e.g., what they can use for food, how to make a balance scale, what to do if two children both want to be the doctor).
  3. Science: Encourage children to explore physical science by providing balance scales, eggbeaters, kitchen magnets, can openers, timers, and fishing rods (without hooks).
  4. Social Studies: Explore concepts related to people and how they live by providing props that encourage children to role-play family life and different kinds of jobs. Display photographs of families and community helpers.
  5. The Arts: Promote the visual arts by providing materials children need to make their own props for dramatic play, such as cardboard boxes, collage materials, construction paper, scissors, paint, and markers.
  6. Technology: Raise children's awareness of technology by including old cameras, calculators, different types of phones, typewriters, and computers in the Dramatic Play Area. Talk with children about how these objects are used.

 Toys and Games 

Includes manipulatives, puzzles, collectibles, matching games, and games with rules that children can play at a table, on the floor, or atop a divider shelf. These materials offer children a quiet activity that they can do alone, with a friend, with a teacher or a parent volunteer, or with a small group. Children strengthen all areas of their development as they play with toys and games.

  1. Literacy: Enhance children's vocabulary and language by talking with them as they play with toys and games. Discuss, for example, the pictures on the puzzles or the truck they are building with Legos. Introduce new descriptive words like shiny, dull, pointed, curved, rough, and smooth as children play with collections

  2. Math: Encourage children to explore patterns and relationships by providing collectibles such as keys, buttons, or small cars so children can copy, extend, or create their own patterns. Offer open-ended materials such as interlocking blocks or links, pegs, colored cubes or tiles, and magnetic shapes and figures to develop patterning skills.

  3. Science: Use puzzles and games that feature plants and animals as an opportunity to talk about life science. Comment for example, when children sort a collection of plastic animals according to where the animals live--the farm, the zoo, or the ocean.

  4. Social Studies: Teach children about people and how they live by encouraging them to work cooperatively and solve problems together. Give children positive feedback for following the rules of a game, sharing, and taking turns.

  5. The Arts: Encourage development in the visual arts by including open-ended construction toys so children can represent their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a concrete way.

  6. Technology: Promote an awareness of technology by including toys with moving parts such as gears, hinges, or wheels. Help children make a connection between these toys and objects they see in their surroundings.


The Art Area is a place filled with materials that children can enjoy on a purely sensory level. Here children can create and represent their ideas in a visual form. On a table or the floor, at an easel or a workbench, children draw, paint, knead, cut, glue, and put together unique products of their own choosing. Sometimes they simply explore the materials and enjoy the process. At other times they create designs or make something that represents a real object, place, or living thing.

  1. Literacy: To help children expand their vocabulary and language through art, introduce them to words describing art elements such as color (warm, cool, bright, dull), line (straight, zigzag, wavy, curly), shape (round, square, oval, diamond), space (near, far, inside, on top of), and texture (smooth, rough, bumpy, prickly). Ask questions that encourage children to express their thoughts and feelings through art.

  2. Math: Invite children to explore geometry and spatial sense as they use three-dimensional shapes in sculpting and constructing. Talk about the shapes children use in their paintings. Use positional words-over, under, inside, next to-as you talk to children about their creations.

  3. Science: Increase children's awareness of earth and the environment by having them observe the use of shadow in fine art and then trace their friends' shadows in chalk while playing outdoors. Create art using various items from the earth such as clay, sand, dirt, or water.

  4. Social Studies: Promote children's knowledge of people and the environment by creating art that will beautify the environment at school. Encourage children to conserve materials by reusing clay, drawing on the backs of used paper, and keeping tops on markers.

  5. The Arts: Link art to drama by providing children with art supplies they can use to make backdrops and costumes for a puppet show or dramatic play.

  6. Technology: Help children to develop an awareness of technology by teaching them how to use woodworking tools such as hammers, saws, and drills. Point out how carpenters use these same tools to build everything from houses, to outdoor decks, to picture frames. 

The Library Area

An attractive space with soft furniture, beautiful picture books, and writing materials can be an oasis in the classroom-a place to get away from more active interest areas and relax. In the Library Area children develop the motivation and skills necessary to read and write. As they hear stories read aloud every day, look through books on their own, listen to story tapes, retell familiar stories, and make up their own stories, they also have many opportunities to grow in all areas of development.

  1. Literacy: An attractive space with soft furniture, beautiful picture books, and writing materials can be an oasis in the classroom-a place to get away from more active interest areas and relax. In the Library Area children develop the motivation and skills necessary to read and write. As they hear stories read aloud every day, look through books on their own, listen to story tapes, retell familiar stories, and make up their own stories, they also have many opportunities to grow in all areas of development.

  2. Math: Promote an understanding of measurement by pointing out comparative words in books, such as an "enormous turnip" or a "teeny tiny woman." Emphasize time concepts by stressing words such as "a long, long time ago," "tomorrow," "in a little while," or "many days later." A book such as The Tortoise and the Hare will talk about fast, slow, and the passage of time.

  3. Science: Encourage children to use informational books in the Library Area to learn more about plants and animals, core topics of life science. You can incorporate all areas of science into a cooking activity after reading Stone Soup. Children learn about healthy foods for the body (life sciences), how to boil water and use kitchen tools (physical science), and about stones (earth and the environment).

  4. Social Studies: Promote an understanding of people and how they live by reading stories from other lands or about different occupations. Share books that will help children deal with their feelings and emotions and that show them examples of friendships. Books can help illustrate how people are alike and different. Provide opportunities for children to write a letter or a get-well card or a thank-you note to a parent.

  5. The Arts: Nourish a child's interest in music by reading picture books based on songs such as "This Land Is Your Land" or "Down by the Bay." Encourage children to explore drama and dance by dramatizing familiar stories.

  6. Technology: Encourage children to experiment with basic operations and concepts of technology as they use simple word processors or computers to read interactive stories such as the Living Book series. 

The Discovery Area 

Young children wonder about the world around them. They think to themselves: I wonder what will happen if I push this button; I wonder what the bunny feels like; I wonder why my plant died; I wonder how I can make a bigger bubble The Discovery Area is a place to find the answers to these kinds of questions with few right or wrong answers. It is a place to spark curiosity and wonder using new and interesting materials. In the Discovery Area, children can use their senses to touch, feel, taste, smell, and see. They can act on objects and observe what happens next. You can help nurture children's curiosity. When you join children in the Discovery Area and pose questions or wonder aloud, children respond by using their thinking skills to investigate and explore. In the Discovery Area, all areas of development can be enhanced.

  1. Literacy: Help children gain a knowledge of print by recording their experiences and their discoveries on charts. Draw their attention to letters and words used in the Discovery Area (e.g., "Puffy's name starts with a 'P,' just like yours.").

  2. Math: Strengthen children's number concepts by guiding them in counting objects such as leaves, pets, rocks, and shells. Help them develop one-to-one correspondence skills by planting one seed in each container or feeding each rabbit one carrot. Make comparisons of quantities (e.g., "You have more small rocks than big ones."). Introduce estimating-making a good guess-to help children gain a sense of numbers (e.g., "Do you think four more shells will make the scale even?").

  3. Science: Teach children about life science by including plants and animals in the Discovery Area. Discuss how plants and animals live, how they grow, and how they move. Help children develop an understanding of the difference between living and non-living things. Lead them to discover more about their own bodies by looking at a cut finger under a magnifying glass or by listening to a heartbeat with a stethoscope.

  4. Social Studies: Teach children about people and how they live by helping them to work cooperatively to solve problems and involving them in developing rules for using materials safely. Relate their experiences in the Discovery Area to the world of work (e.g., "A tow truck uses a pulley just like the one you are using, only bigger." "A dentist uses a tiny mirror just like this to look at your teeth.").

  5.  The Arts: Encourage children to explore the elements of the visual arts by mixing colors and feeling textures. Talk about the beauty of nature-the patterns in the leaves or the design on a butterfly's wing. Provide drawing tools, clay or wire for children to use the arts to represent their discoveries.

  6. Technology: Introduce the basic operations and concepts of technology by providing broken toys or small appliances children can take these apart and see how they work. Select a software program so children can learn more about living creatures, like ants or birds.  

Sand and Water Play 

Play with sand and water involves sensory experiences that appeal to young children. They need little introduction to playing with these materials. While sand and water play can delight the senses, it also can challenge children's minds and promote all areas of development.

  1. Literacy: Read books and other texts about sand and water play. Some recommended titles are: Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear by Nancy White Carlstrom; Bubble Bubble by Mercer Mayer; In the Middle of the Puddle by Mike Thaler; The Quicksand Book by Tomie de Paola; The Sand Castle by Shannon Brenda Yee, Thea Kliros, and Brenda Shannon Yee.

  2. Math: Teach measurement by having children observe how many teaspoons of sand or water are needed to fill measuring cups of varying sizes.

  3. Science: Introduce children to firsthand explorations of physical science by giving them props such as ramps, gutters, funnels, and sieves that they can explore with sand or water.

  4. Social Studies: Help children gain an understanding of people and how they live by encouraging them to role play with dump trucks, bulldozers, and rakes at the sand table.

  5. The Arts: Encourage children to use water to make music by showing them how to blow air over a partially filled bottle of water. Play soothing nature music, such as sounds from the ocean, near the water table.

  6. Technology: Guide children to think about people and technology by talking about how they move sand and water (bulldozers, waterwheels, paddle boats) and provide similar props for play. 

Music and Movement 

Music naturally delights and interests children. An early childhood program that includes time for music and movement provides an outlet for children's high spirits and creative energy. Music and movement experiences help develop both sides of the brain-an important finding in recent brain research-and contribute to children's social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development.

  1. Literacy: Strengthen their phonological awareness by singing songs that are full of rhymes and repetition.

  2. Math: Teach concepts of measurement, especially time, as you or the children in your group move quickly and slowly, or hold a note for a long time. Make comparisons in movement activities, for instance, by taking long steps, short steps, or making yourself as tiny as a bug and as big as a giant.

  3. Science: Explore physical science by experimenting with rhythm instruments or found objects to make sounds. Encourage children to find ways of making high and low sounds, loud and soft sounds. Investigate the earth and environment by creating musical instruments from objects found in nature. Use streamers during movement activities to see how things move in the wind.

  4. Social Studies: Learn about spaces and geography as children participate in movement activities (e.g., go forward, backward, to the side). Teach about people and how they live by inviting a professional musician or dancer to your class. Draw children's attention to the part music and dance play in people's lives. Explore music and dance from other cultures. Enhance an understanding of people and the environment by creating musical instruments from recyclable materials.

  5. The Arts: Explore music by providing opportunities to listen to and appreciate a variety of musical styles. Provide musical instruments for creative self-expression. Include music throughout the day so children can join in group singing.

  6. Technology: Help children develop an awareness of technology by learning how different instruments make sounds. Learn from a local musician how sounds can be changed or distorted using technology such as a mixer on an electronic keyboard or how the sounds of an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar are different. 

Cooking Experiences 

Cooking is fun. It's also a natural laboratory for helping children to develop and learn. When children participate in cooking activities, they learn how food is prepared and how it contributes to their health and well-being. They also form eating patterns that can last a lifetime.

  1. Literacy: Expand children's knowledge of print and letters and words by developing and using recipe charts and cards and picture cookbooks with children. Point to the words as you read the chart from left to right and top to bottom. Draw children's attention to the words on food containers and boxes. Offer children alphabet cookie cutters or show them how to form dough in the shape of letters.

  2. Math: Involve children in solving problems about number concepts by posing challenges for them to solve. For example, ask children how they could divide the bowl of dip they made so that everyone in the group can have some. Give children practice in developing one-to-one correspondence by having them set the table for the same number of children as there are chairs at the table.

  3. Science: Involve children in solving problems about number concepts by posing challenges for them to solve. For example, ask children how they could divide the bowl of dip they made so that everyone in the group can have some. Give children practice in developing one-to-one correspondence by having them set the table for the same number of children as there are chairs at the table.

  4. Social Studies: Ask parents to share their family recipes to expose children to people and how they live. Supplement these family treasures with recipes that you have collected reflecting varied cultures and customs, regions of the United States, and climates.

  5. The Arts: Promote drama by pantomiming the movements of various cooking activities such as moving legs like an eggbeater, being a kernel of corn popping, or a piece of bread in a toaster.

  6. Technology: Challenge children to explore gadgets and other technology tools. Pose questions such as, "How would you open cans without a can opener?" or "How are an egg beater, a wire whisk, and an electric hand mixer alike and different?" 

Computer Play

The Computer Area is a place where children can have fun while exploring the many exciting things that computers do. Children use computers to investigate questions, solve problems, and explore and manipulate objects on a screen. This work supports development in all areas.

  1. Literacy: Expand children's vocabulary and language development by introducing them to software that labels vocabulary with pictures, written words, and the spoken word. A program such as the Let's Explore . . . series (Humongous Entertainment) verbally identifies an object when the child clicks on it.

  2. Math: Promote children's understanding of measurement using programs such as Richard Scarry's Best Math Program Ever (Simon & Schuster Interactive). Here, children use measurement to determine who won a sledding race.

  3. Science: Introduce children to life science on the computer. Children can use Internet web sites to learn about plants and animals. The National Zoo (www.si.edu/natzoo) introduces children to the zoo's many inhabitants. Some zoos and aquariums have live web cams that allow children to view animals in real time.

  4. Social Studies: Help children to understand the concept of history-people and the past-by asking them to bring in their baby pictures. These can be scanned and shown in a PowerPoint slide show alongside current photos of the children.

  5. The Arts: Use the computer as a medium for children to experiment with color, shape, and design. Children can use the tools available in a graphics program such as Kid Pix Deluxe 3 (The Learning Company) to create visual arts.

  6. Technology: Children learn the basic operations and concepts of technology when you show them how to use computers. Children's literature such as Patrick's Dinosaurs on the Internet (Carol Carrick) give children insight into the working of this technology. 

Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is essential for children's health and well being. The sense of peace and pleasure children experience when they take in fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs, and watch a butterfly land gently on a flower is immeasurable. What is very evident is how much children enjoy running, jumping, climbing, and playing outdoors. The time children spend outdoors every day is just as important to their learning as the time they spend in the classroom. For teachers, the outdoors offers many ways to enrich the curriculum and support children's development and learning.

  1. Literacy: Teach children jump rope rhymes and clapping games to promote phonological awareness. Have them tune into the sounds and sights around them: how the horn on a car sounds vs. the horn on a truck or bus; identifying animal sounds-crickets, birds, mosquitoes, frogs, and dogs.

  2. Math: Encourage children to explore patterns and relationships by noting the patterns on caterpillars, flowers, and leaves. Suggest making a design with the leaves or shells a child has collected. Play follow the leader and have children replicate a movement pattern such as jump, jump, clap, jump, jump, clap.

  3. Science: Promote understanding of the earth and environment by learning about trees and plants in your outdoor area and planting a garden with children. Explore shadows: what makes them, how they move, how long they are. Encourage children to collect all sorts of rocks and compare them; examine dirt from different locations; measure puddles after a rain and see what happens to them; collect litter and recycle. Study the seasons and the changes that occur in each one.

  4. Social Studies: Explore concepts related to people and how they live when you take walks. Identify what stores are in your neighborhood and what different kinds of houses, or visit a construction site.

  5. The Arts: Promote growth in dance and music by encouraging children to use their bodies freely outdoors; bringing music outside so children can dance and move to the different beats; encourage children to move like different animals.

  6. Technology: Provide technology tools for children to use outdoors such as binoculars, pulleys, microscopes, thermometers, magnifying glasses, cameras, and a digital camera if you have computers in your classroom.