Rotation Ideas for Preschool Centers


Transition times, or the times when children move from one learning center to another in a preschool classroom, can often be very stressful for teachers. Children are moving around the classroom and it feels chaotic and rushed. Often, this is when teachers begin to notice inappropriate behaviors. To cut down on these transition troubles, try having a plan in place to make your transition times as peaceful and as easy as the rest of your preschool day.

Small Group Movement

  • One technique for rotating children through learning centers in the classroom is to spell out the daily plan ahead of time. During your morning circle time, tell children all of the learning centers that they will be participating in during the day. Split the children into small groups and dismiss them from circle time directly into the centers you mentioned. Allow the groups to spend 15 to 20 minutes at each center before moving on to the next one. This method will ensure that all children participate in all centers each day. This method works best with very large groups of preschoolers and when utilizing centers where children will be able to play and explore without a lot of adult supervision. You must be available to patrol through each center as well as watch the clock and help children move from one center to the next at the appropriate time.

The Clothespin Method

  • The clothespin method works best with older preschoolers who are able to count effectively and are able to choose centers with little adult help or intervention. Place a sign at each center that displays the name of the center as well as the number of children allowed to play in that center at any time. For example, make a sign that says "Blocks: 5." This will tell children that only five children at a time may play in the block center. At the beginning of the school year, assign each child a clothespin with his name on it. This clothespin is his ticket into the learning centers. If a child would like to play in the block center, he will take his clothespin and attach it to the "Blocks" sign. If there are already five clothespins on the blocks center sign, he must choose another center to play in.

Special Assignments

  • Play a secret agent-type game with your preschoolers in order to keep them rotating through centers in an orderly manner. This may take a bit of planning, but the children will enjoy the game and you will like how easy transition times feel. Take pictures of each learning center in your classroom and make enough copies for each child in the class. Prepare an envelope for each child in the class, labeled with her name. Before children arrive for the day, place three photographs in each envelope. Use a dry erase marker to write 1, 2 or 3 on each picture. Tell children that these envelopes contain their special assignments for the day. Hand these out during your morning circle time and dismiss children from circle time directly to their first assignment of the day.

Transition Songs

  • In order for children to begin to anticipate moving to another center, and therefore cutting down on inappropriate behaviors, try singing a transition song. The song does not have to be anything fancy, just a few simple bars sung to a familiar tune that children will know signals that it is time to move to a new area. For example, sing "It's time to clean up, it's time to clean up, it's time to clean up this morning! It's time to clean up, it's time to clean up, it's time to clean up today!" to signal to children that they need to begin cleaning up the center they are playing in before moving on to the next activity.


  • Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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