Eight Low-Prep Play-Based Learning Centers

I’m a huge believer and promoter of play-based learning. It enhances child development in so many wonderful ways. Watching my kids create strategies to solve problems and use their imagination never ceases to amaze me!

This week my middle child finished his PreK (year 1) curriculum, so I decided to create a full week of play based learning (no seated bookwork). Most of these centers can be used or adapted for my youngest (1-year-old) as well, so it’s a win-win!

Ideally, these stations could be used for 15-20 minutes at a time with breaks and/or rotations. Most are designed for individual play. I did this to ensure I have a bit of time to work with my oldest on her core studies in the mornings. Each station uses very little preparation, which is great — we’re all busy, right?! I created all of these within minutes with a few items just stashed around my house.

*Please note, not all of these stations are ideal or recommended for children under three. Please use sound judgment in decided if each center is right for your child. Adult supervision is highly recommended for each one.*

Read on for eight great, low-prep play center ideas!

Read Books to the Dolls/Stuffed Animals

Put a couple favorite dolls or stuffed animals into a basket with a few board books. Even though our littles aren’t reading, they love looking through the pages and pretending to read. This is actually an important part of the learning-to-read process called Emergent Reading!

Magnetic Tiles or Toys

All our kids no matter what their age adore these magnetic tiles and people. We received them as gifts, but you can find them online or in most toy stores. No magnetic toys? What about a baking sheet and fridge magnets? Voila — a new and easy play center!

Mini Dress Up Kit

Fill a small container with toddler-safe things to wear. Shoes, plastic bracelets, a break-away necklace, sunglasses, hats, etc. My daughter especially loved this one today.

Sticker Books

Sticker books are a number one favorite in this house. I think Usborne Books has the cutest ones! We have this one and this one.

Scissor Practice Station

Create straight, zig-zag and wavy lines with marker on pieces of scratch paper. Add a pair of kid-safe scissors for an easy-peasy cutting practice station! You could even add a small waste basket for your toddler to sweep the snipped paper into afterwards!

Construction Zone

Place several blocks near a flat surface and let your child’s imagination go wild! We added a plastic hard-hat just for fun. 🙂

Pom-Pom Sorting

Use a sectioned container or empty egg carton for your child to sort large, colored pom-poms into. Need something a little more advanced? Try this pom-pom push activity for enrichment!

What play-based learning centers do you frequently use and love? Share if you know someone who’d love these ideas!


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