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BrightStars, Rhode Island’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement system, assists families in finding care and recognizes and supports quality in early care and education programs.

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Interest Centers: Guiding Play with Intentional Learning Environments

According to the ECERS-3, an interest center is a specialized play area that is clearly designated for one particular type of play. It has sufficient space, and its materials are organized by type and encourage this specific type of play. The interest center gives a clear message of where materials can be selected, used, and then put away.  There should be little interruption in play from people walking through the space or play spilling over into the center from another area.  Multipurpose play areas are not counted as interest centers. 

The arrangement of furniture and materials in a room organizes the play space for children.  If materials are placed randomly without a functional organization, children will find it difficult to become involved in meaningful, sustained play.  To support productive play, the organization in the classroom should clearly convey to children where certain materials are accessible, where they may be used, and where they should be returned. 

Reflecting on your own classroom and room arrangement, how can you turn play areas into interest centers?

Remove items that don’t support the focus of the block area, dramatic play area, nature/science area, art area, cozy area, or defined reading center.  

Examine your room arrangement to ensure that blocks and dramatic play or popular areas have more space. 

How can a play area be adapted to make an interest center?  What would you need to add? Take away?

Make sure the interest centers are organized in a manner to support the type of play encouraged. 

For example:  The art center would have various art materials in usable condition, each type stored separately on open shelves, with a table nearby which to use them and a convenient place for work to dry.  The area might also include an easel for painting, with open cups of paint, brushes, paper held in place and easy access to drying space.  ­

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