Diversity and Equality: From the Classroom to the World 

Diversity and Equality are becoming increasingly important topics in current times and will continue to be the main theme in our children’s development. Understanding these topics helps the kids to admire the difference in individuals, treat everyone with respect, and build the necessary skill to communicate/work with different people in the future.

Diversity is the differences between humans and what make us unique. It includes physical characteristics such as ethnicity, gender identity, disability, physical or mental ability, and intangible values such as class, culture, religious beliefs, language, and many more. Teaching children to recognize and respect individual differences is the cornerstone to promote diversity.  

Equality is believing in the right of everyone to have equal treatment, and access to the same resources and opportunities. Inclusion is the practice that embraces both the concept of diversity and equality, by making sure that everyone is treated fairly and being respected regardless of their differences. An inclusive classroom is where students can feel a sense of belonging – knowing that they are loved for who they are. 

 Teaching children about diversity can start with letting kids know/explore unfamiliar cultures. Here are a few fun activities that children can both play/learn about the world around us: 

I. Holiday – Every day!  

  • Take the nice shoes out. Put on your best outfit. Because it is a holiday today! We recommend researching, choosing, and enjoying festivals that represent the cultures of the world. Examples: Chinese New Year, Diwali, and Hanukkah. Celebrating the holidays from your students’ cultures is also an effective way to make them feel involved and proud of their roots.
  • Dressing in traditional clothes of the culture chosen. Encouraging children to do the same on their holiday. Learning about the selected culture’s traditional clothing. Around the world figures are the writer’s favorite. They are chunky, soft, friendly-looking figures that are dressed in beautiful cultural outfits. They are great for creative play and are wonderful tools to let children know about the details of diverse cultural outfits. 
  • Serving food/snacks or letting children play with food set from the culture chosen. What is a party without food? Introducing kids to the foods of the world is a fantastic way for them to learn about different cultures, and food is just always a great theme. The Sushi Set (See picture below!) includes several types of sushi, and a wooden board so children can serve sushi to others. An excellent introduction to the famous dish of Japan. 
  • Making crafts of different objects that represent the chosen culture. The Tepee Craft Kit is a great tool to help educate children about the history of Indigenous people.  

II. Fun, spontaneous ideas.

  • These fun activities can be done anytime and will help children to develop empathy, and respect for other people. 
  • Play music from different countries: Select children’s songs, or famous songs with relaxing/positive messages from different countries. The songs can be played in the background while students work or have fun. Encourage them to take part in the playlist and put in their own recommendations! Introduce children to different musical instruments of the world. Multicultural Rhythm Set includes musical instrument toys from various South American countries, and we are sure that it will keep the atmosphere always festive! 
  • Arts of the world: Art is a fascinating topic and always will be. Explore dances, paintings, literature, and other forms of art around the world.  
  • Use the bulletin board: decorate the bulletin board with information about a distinct culture: images of locations, simple words of the natives, food pictures, events, and locations on the map. Change the bulletin board monthly to a different culture for more variation. Crayola Holiday Series is a great fit for these activities as they have colours that relate to symbols, and customs of the holidays around the world such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Diwali, Halloween, … Let the young ones have the joy of decorating the bulletin board! 
  • Play Trivia: After learning about different countries, it is time to test students’ knowledge. The key to every trivia is fun, so make sure to hand out prizes for correct answers to increase friendly competition! Around the world paper collection is a complete set of gorgeous papers that include 48 unique patterns in African, Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Australian Aboriginal cultures. A compelling prize for students who like crafting, decorating, or collecting cultural pieces. 
  • Games from around the world: Research and introduce children to international games, from board games to outdoor activities. 

III. Equality – Start from the classroom first. 

  • Teaching children about Equality from an early age is a wonderful way to help them build valuable traits such as empathy, love, understanding, and consideration for other people.
  • Pronounce & remember classmates’ names: Try to encourage students to practice saying and remembering their classmates’ names correctly. This activity will help children build relationships and make the classroom environment more inclusive. 
  • Increase awareness about other countries’ living standards: Using the Explorer Globe to teach children about world problems. Let one volunteer point to any country in the world and spend time learning about that country’s living standards. Do people have access to school? Do they have access to food, and clean water?
  • Let children know about organizations that are dedicated to bringing equal opportunities to everyone such as World Education – a non-profit organization that improves people’s lives through education, social and economic development. This is a great introduction for children to social studies – the study of people in relation to each other and to the world in which they live.
  • Depending on the ages of the children, explain to them the idea that not everyone is equal in the world, and each of us can contribute to a better society by treating everyone around us equally. 
  • Bring your culture to the classroom: Give students an assignment to bring an item/items that represent their culture to the classroom. Then have them present in front of the class about the item and why it is important to the chosen culture. If students cannot bring an item, have them make a presentation about what they are most proud of in their culture. It can be anything: arts, food, traditions, … 
  • Guest speaker: Invite people from other cultures to come to the classrooms and share their experiences. Children will be fascinated by the stories, the traditional outfits, the difference in customs, and of course, the languages. Kids will also learn about different living situations, and sometimes even the feeling of the individual when being discriminated against. It will be an unforgettable and thrilling experience for them! 

IV. Using tools/objects that promote inclusion in daily learning. 

  • Diversity and Equality do not need to be reminded of or taught daily. We recommend using products that represent different races in daily teachings to let the idea implement seamlessly. 
  • Playtime can also be both educational and fun! We have a range of dolls from different races to choose from. Female Doll, Indigenous is a good option to let children play with and let them get used to different races of people. Possible Family is also our line of products that include sets of family figures from various races that enable several types of imaginative scenario play. 
  • While teaching children about emotions and feelings, we recommend using Children’s faces from around the world puzzle. It includes award-winning photos that depict children from different races showing various emotions. It is a great tool to learn about emotions and introduce children to different faces and features of people. 
  • Introduce children to different careers using Multiethnic Career Puppets. These puppets depict multiethnic men and women in non-sexist career roles, so children can learn about jobs without prejudice and discrimination. 
  • Around The World Set includes 48 beautiful pieces that replicate iconic landmarks of the world such as Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza. Let the young ones be mesmerized by some of the world’s greatest civilizations, as well as teach them that each culture has dazzling treasures to be proud of.   
  • Indigenous Peoples of Canada Book helps educate children about First Nations in Canada. This book specifically looks at the Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibway), and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and also includes an educator’s guide to teaching Native Studies in the classroom. 
  • Reach Across the World Rug is big, comfortable, and has drawings of 20 children dressed in cultural outfits, with the world map in the background. Not only does it look charming and delightful, but it can also be a great tool for teachers to bring the idea of diversity to children. “Many countries, many children, but only one world” is the message. 

Learning about Diversity and Equality should be a delightful and stimulating experience, as kids get to discover the beauty and uniqueness of distinct cultures and learn how to treat people fairly. Encourage students to have open conversations – about topics such as living standards, various customs of people, or simply the question of why each of us is so “different” from another. Take them on a journey to explore the beauty of cultures around the world: food, landmarks, arts, and let them know that every culture in the world is beautiful and full of pleasant surprises. Make the classroom an inclusive environment where everyone is valued by their opinions, background and teach children to treat everyone equally.

How we Remember Together: Educating Children on Remembrance Day

poppy, Remembrance Day, Canada,education, crafts, arts.

On November 11th each year, Canada commemorates Remembrance Day, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. It may also be commonly known as Armistice Day. 

On Remembrance Day, Canadians take time to honour the men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace.  

The poppy flower is the symbol of Remembrance Day. In his 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields,” Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian poet, soldier, and physician, paints a piercing, evocative image of poppy flowers growing on the makeshift graves of those fallen in the Battle of Ypres.  

Today, the poem continues to be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada and other countries throughout the world. The poem, written after the death of a close friend, was first published in Punch magazine and led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead. 

The importance of talking about Remembrance Day with children: 

Celebrating holidays in every culture focuses on teaching traditions, history, and the reason a group of people cares for one another. Remembrance Day is the time to talk to children about the importance of honouring the history of Canada and the previous generations of Canadians. For many, this is the time when the older members of the family have a chance to share their personal stories. 

Holidays build a strong bond in a family and community, promoting feelings of security and belonging. The seasonal nature of some holidays creates a sense of predictability and comfort in the familiar for young people.  

At the end of October – the beginning of November children will see poppies on the lapels of the people around them, and the Poppy Boxes in stores across Canada. Talking to them about the history of the day can help them make sense of what they observe around them. 

Gaining accurate and respectful understanding of Remembrance Day, broadening their worldview, and creating a context for their experiences can become powerful learning outcomes for children.

Commemorate Remembrance Day with children of different ages: 

If your centre chooses to include Remembrance Day activities in your curriculum, there are several ways you can do so.  

For preschoolers and school age, focusing on veterans could help educators to discuss the idea of service and peace without broaching the complicated topic of war. Remembrance Day also gives us an opportunity to talk about the privilege of living in a safe country, and how those serving in the Canadian forces provide support and assistance to those in need overseas and at home, for example, during natural disasters, such as blizzards, floods, etc. such as during the 1997 Red River Flood. 

To encourage youth to participate in Remembrance tradition, The Royal Canadian Legion created a Teaching Guide in order to assist Canadian educators, by providing them with brief notes on Canadian history and its important symbols, Remembrance songs and poems, as well as suggested activities. 
Remembrance Day, education, children, graves, veterans, poppies.

The teaching Guide offers several craft activities that can be offered to children of different ages. 

  • Draw or paint a poppy and put it on your window 
  •  Craft a paper poppy
  •  Paint a poppy on a stone to put on the gravesites of Canadian Veterans

Remembrance Day Activities & Crafts

Remembrance Day, poppy, education, craft, children, Canada, veterans, sympathy, education, crafts, art.

Remembrance Day Craft Kit: 

Our convenient Remembrance Day Poppy Craft includes materials for 50 poppies – tissue paper and chenille stems – as well as a teaching guide. Watch the video below for easy-to-follow instructions. 

Video: Remembrance Day Poppy Craft

Activities for preschool and school-age children: 

To engage a child in an activity, we can set up what is called a ‘provocation’ in the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Similar philosophy is behind the painting/drawing trays in the Montessori approach. Debra Honegger from Journey into Early Education defines a provocation as “deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children.

Teachers provide materials, media, and general direction as needed, but the children take the ideas where they want. This allows children to develop skills of creativity, inventiveness, and flexibility in thinking, planning and reflecting.”  

Open-ended, process-based activities promote children’s creativity and individuality, foster their sense of self, and allow them to explore and express themselves freely. 

Loose Part Poppy 

Remembrance Day, loose part poppy, arts, crafts, children, education.

Offer a child a frame with a pipe cleaner or two, for stems, and a variety of materials (pom poms, buttons, beads, foam shapes, pieces of felt, wood, etc.) in green, red, and black – and watch them create a poppy. Each flower will be unique! Some might even work in 3D! 

Process based art opportunities allow children to create independently. Through free exploration they learn the physical properties of the materials, their own abilities, and are not limited in their experimentation. Such opportunities foster children’s sense of autonomy and trust in their own creative abilities. Process art is child-driven, and the result of such experience is unique and individual for each child. 

Suggested Materials: 

Remembrance Day Suncatcher  

It is traditional to display poppies on our windows on Remembrance Day – and what better way to let children’s creativity shine but with a vibrant suncatcher? 

Remembrance Day, sun catcher, education, children, crafts, art, learning, diy.

Prepare a flower-shaped frame made of black paper and glue an insert of tracing paper inside it. Provide the child with plenty of tissue paper pieces, the middle piece (a circle of black paper with a fringe, cut with scissors by a teacher or the child), and a glue stick.  

Attach the completed poppy to the window – and watch the sunshine and glow through it! 

Suggested Materials: 

Activities for the younger ones: 

It is challenging to come up with an activity for infants, especially when trying to start a conversation on such a complex topic as the history of service and commemoration. At the age 0 to 18 months, children perceive the world on a sensory level. They are attracted to bright colours, new textures, and so on. We can provide the youngest children with the experiences that they will grow to associate with the season and Remembrance Day. 

Sensory play is important for children, because it provides fun and engaging experiences, while allowing children to explore, experiment, and make observations. It is proven that sensory play helps to build nerve connections in the brain; encourages the development of motor skills; supports language development; encourages ‘scientific thinking’ and problem solving; and can involve mindful activities, which are beneficial for all children. 

Remembrance Day Sensory Bin: 

Remembrance Day, education, children, sensory bin, poppies, Canada, infants.

Offer the child a bin full of red, green, and black, age-appropriate materials with different textures, to touch, squish, and poke! 

Suggested Materials: 

Those who choose to commemorate Remembrance Day and to observe it in childcare centres, emphasize the importance of the conversation about the past, so we don’t forget its lessons and can continue learning from it and growing, remembering and honouring the sacrifice of those who served and continue to serve in the times of war and peace. 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
    That mark our place; and in the sky 
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 
We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
        In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
        In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae

Social-Emotional Learning through Literature

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a methodology that can help children of all ages to better interpret emotions, fully engage with their feelings, and show empathy and compassion for others. Through emotion regulation and decision-making, SEL helps children to build meaningful relationships, reach their goals, and have more understanding of the world around them. 

Social-emotional learning is a key to becoming a great learner in early development. It’s the process of children uncovering their own emotions while simultaneously becoming aware of the emotions of others. Social-emotional learning helps develop empathy and compassion, helping them become better leaders and better humans. It is a critical point of personal growth that educators can amplify through lessons and conversations. 

The connection between literature and SEL does not get enough attention but is just as important as STEAM learning, dramatic play, and many other areas of early learning. Literature is a wonderful opportunity to help SEL shine, through studying, discussing, and engaging with each other. SEL fits seamlessly into any school curriculum and can be an innovative part of any classroom.  

What are the five types of social-emotional learning skills?  

There are five SEL competencies that are applicable to the classroom, home, and community. 

-Self-awareness – ability to identify emotions, develop a growth mindset, and recognize strengths and weaknesses.  

-Self-management – having ownership of regulating emotions, controlling compulsions and achieving goals.  

-Social awareness – the ability to see things from the perspective of others, appreciate people’s varying abilities, put an emphasis on diversity and show empathy.  

-Relationship skills – this includes but is not limited to communication skills, problem-solving, and resolving conflicts with others. 

-Responsible decision-making – thinking before making a choice and ensuring you are aware of the consequences. 

All five of these types of ideologies help students to live their best lives emotionally and teach them social skills that can support them throughout their years of schooling and onward.  

two children sitting with yellow smiley face balloons

What books can I use to form connections with SEL and literature in my classroom? 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today is an award-winning and heart-warming book that encourages positive behaviour as children see the importance of expressing kindness, appreciation, and love daily. This book highlights the effects of our actions and words on the well-being of others and ourselves. 

book cover of Have You Filled a Bucket by Carol McCloud

The Understanding Differences book set is a wonderful series about children of various abilities, such as children with wheelchairs, leg braces, and those who are deaf. Educating children on disabilities is crucial for inclusivity and embracing differences. 

The Focusing on Feelings book set helps children gain a better understanding and introduction to feelings that may be not so pleasant, such as loneliness and isolation. These four books include The Very Long Sleep, The Cloud, The Lost Stars, and Momo and Snap are NOT Friends. These books are gentle but effective in illustrating dark and sad emotions, helping children put a name to their feelings. 

The Emotions Book Set features four different emotions; angry, sad, happy, and scared. These books use big, full-colour photos and rhythming text to illustrate kid-friendly situations and feelings. 

The Way I Feel is a great book about how feelings are not necessarily good or bad; they just simply exist. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. Strong, colourful, and expressive images that go along with simple verses help children connect the word and the emotion. Through this book, children will learn useful words and will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in their life.  

Dealing With Feelings… contains eight different emotion books: Happy, Jealous, Worried, Shy, Sad, Proud, Angry, and Caring. Each book in the Dealing with Feeling series looks at a different emotion commonly experienced by young children. The books help readers to identify their emotions and provide tips and advice on how best to express and deal with them.   

What products can I use to integrate SEL in the classroom? 

The Feelings Friend helps open a window into children’s emotions. It comes with an assortment of facial features in its front pouch. It can be used to connect facial expressions, comes with cards, and has a detailed usage guide included.    

The Self-Regulation Stones are designed to help children express their emotions when they can’t find the words to do so. Choosing an image that represents their emotions enables them to represent how they’re feeling, what triggered this feeling, and how it can be managed constructively. Recognizing an emotion and understanding it more fully will enable healthy self-regulation, supporting children’s development and engagement with others. It is very useful for mindfulness activities inside or outdoors. 

The Express Your Feelings Pocket Chart is a visual tool used to help identify & share emotions. Every day students enter the classroom feeling slightly different with different emotions. They may be excited to come to school, or they may have had a tough morning at home. This pocket chart allows students to identify their emotions and share them with their teacher in a safe way. They can also choose to flip over their craft stick for a more private experience. It helps children identify and express their daily emotions in a safe and productive way. 

Emotiblocks comes with a set of characters with interchangeable pieces which enable children to freely create likeable characters: there are over 100 possible combinations. This game comes with activity cards and is an entertaining tool to help children become familiar with the main emotions. 

Emotiblocks game for kids

How can I make SEL fun? 

There are lots of ways to have fun with SEL. When children are comfortably introduced to SEL in an entertaining way, they are more likely to indulge themselves in their learning. That’s what makes the Emotions Detective from Miniland such a great tool. Emotions Detective is a cooperative game with which participants will discover how to control their moods. It includes cards that on one side conceal an everyday action and on the other shows a scene that provokes anger or sadness. The little detectives will have to find out what it is all about to then come up with solutions that lead to a positive feeling.  

The Mindful Kids activity is a boxed card deck that includes 50 creative mindfulness games, visualizations, and exercises split into 5 categories that help children feel grounded, find calmness, improve focus, and practice love and kindness. It comes with tips on individual cards, easy-to-follow instructions, and 8-page instructional booklet show modifications that make these activities inclusive for children of all abilities. 

Making SEL a visual concept is made easy and fun with the Good Behaviour Buckets. Students learn how to fill their buckets with kindness, attentiveness, and other positive social-emotional skills with these Good Behavior Buckets. Positive behaviours land in the sunny orange bucket, while negative behaviours land in the stormy purple bucket. Stick the 30 pre-printed social-emotional behaviour stickers onto fun trackers (suns, hearts, and stars for good behaviours; clouds, lightning bolts, and raindrops for challenging ones) and start tracking! 

buckets for good behaviour with compliments for kids

The All About Me Feelings Activity Set is a fun game designed for social-emotional learning. Learn all-new social-emotional learning skills with these feelings-filled counters! It helps kids start talking about happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, and more! Counters are also good for sorting, matching, and counting fun.  

Discover and explore emotions in art class with the Mix and Match Emotion Stencils. Each ethnically diverse boy and girl represents a basic emotion. Start by tracing each of the stencils and discuss the emotions they represent. Students can create more subtle emotions by mixing elements. There are over 30 different combinations! 

Teach emotions recognition, dexterity, and coordination with the fun fishing game, Emotions Fishing. The magnetic fishing rods pick up the faces which have stainless steel parts that won’t rust in water or sand. It includes 18 different emotions pieces, 4 magnetic fishing rods, 6 of each emotional expression (happy, sad, angry, upset, worried and surprised) in 3 skin tones. 

small child playing a game of fish with faces instead of fish

How can I involve SEL in English discussions?  

Change the way you are asking questions. Instead of asking factual questions to determine whether the class was participating, ask more opinion-based questions encouraging your class to describe the emotion of the characters in your study. For example, instead of “what struggle does the main character face?” try “when the main character is struggling, how do they deal with it?” “How would this situation make you feel?” This prompts children to think critically and emotionally, helping to connect and uncover their own feelings.  

Encourage first impressions. When reading a story as a class, ask them about their expectations for the novel and then follow up afterward to see if their initial expectations were met. Ask about their emotional state while reading and encourage them to open up. This is a great exercise in comparing before and after emotions and showing the difference between initial impressions versus after. This exercise can help show students that it is important not to judge a book by its cover – in a literal sense – and to have more compassion.  

Positive affirmations and journaling. A terrific exercise in SEL, having students write a journal and asking them to write nice things about themselves and note how they are feeling each day can help students find a reflective hold on their emotions. This is a great way to familiarize themselves with their feelings and boost self-esteem. Writing positive affirmations for children encourages them to have a positive thinking process and constructive mindset. It can do wonders for children’s self-worth. Just like humans internalize negative messages, they can internalize positive messages for themselves too. Some good examples of positive affirmations include, “I am strong”, “I am important”, “mistakes don’t define me”, and “I am kind”.  

Promoting active listening. Social-emotional activities require cooperation and listening in group settings. Teach students to use the SLANT strategy; sit up straight, listen, ask and answer questions, nod your head, and track the speaker with your eyes. This helps engage children and provides tips and skills for listening and engaging in conversations that go beyond the classroom. 

Create a vision board. Art meets SEL with this fun and interactive activity. Cutting up pictures and magazines and turning them into a personalized board of goals, dreams, and favourite things into a clear picture of hopes for the future is a creative and enjoyable way to display aspirations. It helps kids figure out what they want to do, inspires them, and keeps them accountable for their goals. Did they strive to eat more fruit this week, or spend more time outside? The vision board is a perfect way to illustrate accomplishments and aim for the sky with weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.  

small girl making a scrapbook

What are some inspirational items I can add to my classroom to promote SEL? 

The Emoji Expressions Rug is great as children love to express their emotions through emojis. With Emoji Expressions in the classroom, you can encourage children to get in touch with their feelings and either share with others or discuss privately with you. 

Yoga Mats are great to store in the classroom for relaxation and de-stressing activities. These are lightweight and durable mat and provides a stable, non-slip surface. They also roll up for easy storage. 

The Grow For It! Mini Bulletin Board Set is a beautiful way to encourage students to blossom with a whole garden of encouraging phrases. Its unique metal flowers add the perfect finishing touch to and display. It comes with 8 inspiring signs, 2 blank signs, and 8 flowers.  

The best part of social-emotional learning is that it never gets old – not only can it be used in all stages of life, but it is also never too early to start the realization and practice of emotional regulation. It encourages children to develop as an individual, a learner, and as compassionate friends. It also can help the classroom become a more welcoming and enjoyable place filled with kindness.  Who knows – you might even watch your students begin their journey to becoming the best versions of themselves.  

young kids sitting on a swing

Back to school – Back to Learning!  

It’s that favourite time of year again – get ready for the freshly sharpened pencils and brand-new backpacks. Sometimes after a long summer playing in the sun, learning brains can have a hard time bouncing back. Students of all learning abilities and styles need some time – and resources – to adjust to a new learning environment. Back to school can be difficult; lots of students and teachers alike are nervous and feel uncomfortable about starting a new year. Preparing properly for a new year with the right resources, products, and information can help put your mind at ease.  

As educators, it’s important to make every student feel included and encouraged when participating in class. Inclusive education is all about how we develop and design our schools, classrooms, and programs with the right tools so that all students can learn and participate together. This can come to life when neighbourhood schools support learning and contributing to all aspects of the life of the school and all students. 

How can I help students adapt to their new learning environment?  

Using inclusive resources helps create an environment that ensures successful learning for all students and encourages students to fully participate in learning activities. Students all have unique needs when it comes to learning, so providing options for all students to achieve the best possible is a must have.  

-For young students especially, representation is important. Offering dolls with different abilities and ethnic backgrounds can help young ones feel included. The friends with diverse abilities helps teach about positive and inclusive attitudes towards those with physical challenges. 

The Down Syndrome Baby Dolls are a wonderful resource for little ones when it comes to inclusion. These anatomically correct dolls raise awareness of diversity and inclusion with differing types of people. They promote values of acceptance, equality, and integration within your class. It helps educate children and makes them aware of various abilities and disabilities while teaching them to be respectful and inclusive. 

-Students can have a hard time focusing during class, which is where bouncyband can certainly come in handy. Bouncy Bands enable kids to have an outlet for excess energy while working, alleviating anxiety, hyperactivity, and boredom, and increasing focus and performance. Extra focus can lead to higher grades and better performance! The patented design keeps the bands elevated for continuous silent use, preventing them from distracting other students. Inclusive education options like this are important to keep leaners engaged. 

a small child using an alternative seating arrangement for inclusive resources (band for bouncing legs)

Bean bag chairs are a great way to set up a safe space for relaxing and reading. Bean bag chairs are lightweight and are great for individual or social seating, and their cover features double stitched seams for durability. With many colours such as red, sky blue, sage, grey, and deep-water blue, there are so many options and sizes to choose from. You are sure to find the perfect option for your classroom! 

-The touch and match board is a fun activity to help visual perception skills and tactile awareness. Students can match the different textures in these counters with their corresponding textured surfaces on the board for a great multi-sensory experience. 

-The Classroom Cruiser is a great tool for self-regulating through movement without disrupting the class. It features an adjustable seat, backrest and handlebars, so students can maintain good posture while they pedal, a quiet drivetrain, an enclosed flywheel and a built-in display to track distance, speed, time, RPM and calories burned (batteries included). It’s light enough to move from space to space, making it the perfect addition to your class. 

a bike for riding in the classroom to aid with focus

The Adjustable Wiggle Stool is a fun seating solution that comes in six different colours. Since it is adjustable to different heights it grows with your students, so you never have to worry about sizing. They come with an extra-thick padded seat that allows for comfortable all-day use. The tamper-proof adjustable height reduces distractions and help promote a focused environment. The rubberized non-skid base is angled for improved posture and provides stability, even when over-tipped. The integrated handles allow for easy carrying, even for smaller children!  

What products are must-haves for back to school?  

You really can’t go wrong with the Create-A-Space Storage Centre. It brings an easy, convenient way to organize and present everyday materials in the classroom. This bright and cheerful set includes a circular tray with 8 colourful containers. Organization is key for starting up a great new school year! 

an organizer with craft supplies

The sorting and craft trays can help keep your arts and crafts table clean with this useful product. You can use it to contain paint, water spills, and sort and count activities. It’s also a great place to store art while its drying. 

It’s a great idea to provide lots of arts and crafts supplies. Construction paper is a great base to start, with scissors, pencils, and stamps as great tools to add on. It’s simple and fun and can keep children occupied for hours. 

The Classroom Caddies are an organization essential. Perfect for storing supplies for grab-and-go use, it features a comfort grip handle, made with stackable impact resistant plastic, and it is completely washable and dishwasher safe. It can be used to sort paint supplies, pens and pencils – it even comes in handy for carrying your snacks. 

The Time Timer is a wonderful tool for structure in the classroom. Time management is a skill that children will use for the rest of their life and setting a time limit for activities and discussions can help encourage them to get things done. Even better, Time Timers don’t have a distracting loud ticking sound! 

Looking for fun rewards for good behaviour? Look no further than the Treasure Chest Rewards.  Recognize a birthday or special achievement and be sure to bring lots of smiles! Children will enjoy choosing between 4 sticky lizards, 14 rings, 4 erasers, 4 stampers, and 2 smiling face balls to commemorate their accomplishment. 

First day at school ideas to encourage a positive environment:  

Children may be prone to first-day jitters; not only are they getting to know you, but they are also getting to know their classmates and new environment. The first day is the perfect time to use an ice breaker and ask students to share about themselves in order to help them feel more welcome and at home. 

Play some games. What better way to get students talking to each other than games! Play something light-hearted and fun, like Jenga or Bananagrams. This also helps children become more comfortable with each other. 

four children in a classroom playing a game

You can’t go wrong with first day arts and crafts projects! Help the start of the new school year go smoothly with a fun and creative art project. A simple and classic one would be creating name tags for their desks. Encourage creativity and allow them to be themselves! 

Conversation cubes can help spark discussions on the first day and beyond. They feature 36 engaging questions about student experiences and perspectives, with questions like “What are you most proud of?” and “Who is the bravest person you know?” It comes with an activity guide which makes it a great fit for breaking the ice to start off the first day of the new school year. 

Encourage children to introduce themselves to the class. It helps build emotional intelligence, build confidence and public speaking skills. Ask them to share something special such as their favourite colour, book, movie, or food. This can help bring children out of their shell – and they are usually very excited to talk about things they are interested in! 

Write a “Welcome to my Class” letter to all your new students introducing yourself. Share some interesting facts about yourself to help get the conversation started and share your personality with your new students. 

Tips for starting the new school year the best way possible: 

Plan and think ahead. An easy way to increase stress? Leave things to the last minute. In order to allow your classroom to shine, make sure things are planned before the day of. This goes for anything – lessons, class decorations… it always helps to think of a plan ahead of time and a schedule to assure that you won’t forget things. Make sure to keep an organized classroom – have a place for everything.  

Establish a classroom culture. Update (or create) classroom rules while preparing your new space. Discuss these rules with your new students and establish them into your routine. These should also be posted somewhere in the room, perhaps with visual schedules to help reinforce to remind students of this information. Make sure students know that your classroom is a safe space and a space to grow. Keep a sense of humour! Start each day with a joke or riddle to help ease students (and yourself) into the school day. 

a smiling young boy holding books and an apple on the first day of school

Set Goals.  The best way to measure success is to set and review goals. Don’t want those papers you have to mark to pile up? Set a goal to have half of them done by tomorrow, and the next half the following day. Setting goals helps to establish new behaviors, helps guide your focus and helps you continue these habits overtime. This helps motivate you and provide you with momentum to get stuff done!  

Reflect on the previous year. Whether the previous school year was the best (or worst) one you’ve ever had, use it as a learning tool. Teaching can be a lot of trial and error, so think about the things you implemented in the classroom that worked in the past, and the things that didn’t turn out as well as you thought they would. Moving forward, experience gives you some insight into how to create the best classroom experience for your new students for years to come. 

Decorate to set the tone. Children respond well to positivity, and this is no different when it comes to the aesthetic of their environment. Putting up motivating posters can help the mood and energy of the room to create a happy and productive atmosphere for learning!  

a smiling teacher on the first day of school

Connect with co-workers and parents. Your coworkers may have lots of ideas and experience when it comes to preparation for September. It never hurts to bounce and share thoughts with each other, just like it doesn’t hurt to connect with your student’s parents either. Another tip – don’t only contact them about disciplinary situations with their kids. Feel free to share the good stuff too – like how polite their child acted or how hard they’ve been working. It always feels nice to be appreciated for the things you do right, instead of only being scolded for the things you’ve done wrong. Recognize good behavior!  

Remain flexible. Sometimes, things happen that are out of our control. It’s best to stay calm and do your best to adapt to new challenges. Have backup plans just in case for things that worry you to help ease your mind. Don’t be afraid to reach out of your comfort zone and try new things – how else will you figure out what works for your students? 

four children running on the first day of school with backpacks on

Here are some words of wisdom from anonymous teachers about starting a new school year: 

“Above everything else, focus on building positive relationships with your students.” 

“After disciplining a student, don’t carry it over to the next day. Treat every new day like starting over – everybody has bad days, and no one likes to be reminded of them.”  

“Be consistent. Keeping things structured and in order helps make it easier for children to trust you.” 

“Don’t take student behaviour or parent misunderstanding personally.”  

“Remember to cultivate kindness and love at the beginning of the year. It’s the most important thing you will do all year!”  

“Build relationships with everyone – office staff, janitors, parents. You never know when you may need assistance!” 

“Make a personal and meaningful connection with each student every day. This could be as simple as greeting them at the door or giving them a high five before they leave to go home.” 

“Always make eye contact with your students and build up their confidence with compliment.” 

“Find friends in other teachers and keep them close. Veteran teachers can give some great advice and guidance.”  

“Stay positive, have fun, and keep trying!”   

two children holding hands with backpacks

Improving Sensory Play for Early Development

Early development is one of the most important stages of growing up, and sensory play is a huge part of the journey. Sensory play is a big step in development as it not only helps children learn how to use their senses but also helps their blooming confidence and independence as they transform from an infant to a small child. There are lots of ways to improve sensory play in early development, and with the right products, the right information, and the right tools, you can make sensory play one of the best and most important parts of your centre. 

There are lots of ways to improve sensory play in early development, and with the right products, the right information, and the right tools, you can make sensory play one of the best and most important parts of your centre. 

Why sensory play? 

Sensory play helps progress many types of development, from hand-eye coordination to correlation. Sensory play isn’t just beneficial for children who have difficulty with sensory integration or are neurodivergent, sensory play is beneficial for every child. Sensory play is the beginning of children taking in the world around them and understanding the correlation between touching, feeling, playing and learning.  

Not only does sensory play help encourage senses and correlations, but it also benefits imagination, creativity, and independent thinking. It promotes brain and language development and encourages cognitive growth. Play through touch is a remarkable thing, and it helps to stimulate children as they become excited about learning. 

When it comes to sensory play, we usually think of the senses that are initially activated; taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. There are other equally important functions that we commonly miss; like body awareness and balance. Sensory play helps build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways which lead to the children’s ability to take on new tasks and skills. Safe to say, it’s a lot more than just play!  

a small child has sand on your hands from sensory play

Sensory play helps build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways which lead to the children’s ability to take on new tasks and skills.

Here are a few things that sensory play can help in early development: 

Imagination. Through sensory play, children create stories and ideas engaging their imagination. They may not be able to express it through words, but they can with screams, laughter, and movements. Sensory experiences help develop the ability to talk about what they are doing and the observations they are making with their hands-on learning. 

Hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is the ability to move your hands while being guided by the eyes. This is a fairly important skill, as it is needed for many things such as making a cup of tea, grasping an object, or simply tying a shoelace to name a few. Using your hands for sensory play is great practice for other skills. 

Adaptability. Sensory play also teaches children the feelings they like and don’t like, and how to better adapt to situations. It focuses on problem-solving through analyzing experiments. It is a great process for little ones to discover new things and figure them out.  

Fine and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills focus on building lower-body muscles useful for things like jumping, running, and even riding a bike. Fine motor skills are more focused on the muscles in the hands and arms, like writing and colouring. Encouraging sensory play helps develop these muscles their growing bodies need to develop strongly. 

Child is using a pencil to write in class

How do I support sensory play?  

Offer children choices with different toys. For the younger ones, hold out two different choices of toys and allow them to pick which one they want to play with. This helps budding problem-solving skills as they start to figure out how to make decisions and manipulate the toys. 

Arrange a sensory station. Nothing beats a classic sand or water table! This allows an environment dedicated to sensory play. It is a perfect place to try both new activities and those tried and true – perfect for playable sand, clay, water, sensory stones, and basically anything under the sun. There are so many different options when it comes to sensory play and different tables and stations.  

small children playing with a sensory table

Sensory tables come in all different sizes and heights for different ages. Some sensory tables contain multiple tubs, which can allow two children to play side by side in different sensory environments simultaneously. See-through tables are a great option for being able to play with water since you can closely monitor the water level and it includes a see-through acrylic cover to prevent splashing. The tables are able to wheel and move around, which is perfect for a busy centre that is always changing. 

Another fun idea for a station is a light cube. This really stimulates the sense of sight and helps light up the imagination, but can encompass other senses as well. Recommended to be placed in a quiet location like a reading area or playtime corner, it can also be used as a piece of furniture. It comes with a battery and remote that can be charged, which prevents the need for keeping the cord around, preventing it from getting tangled or tripped on. It comes with an easy-to-clean surface, a long-lasting LED light source, and is very sturdy, perfect for enduring years of use! When it comes to light cube activities, the possibilities are endless.  

A light up cube with toys on top of it

Sensory play products by age: 

Earliest Steps. These products are for the earliest steps in children’s development, ages 1-3. These products help children learn skills like fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and sensory stimulation. Children at this age are focused on learning about the world around them, and sensory play is a perfect opportunity to let their earliest discoveries grow and flourish.  

Sensory balls. For the early years, sensory balls are the perfect start for early development. Children don’t need much guidance when it comes to sensory balls. You’ll find them often teething, squeezing, and holding these sensory balls as it helps soothe and comfort them. Enhancing sensory stimulation in both tactile and visual ways help develop children’s motor skills.  

Sensory tubs. Sensory play doesn’t need to be complicated! All you need are a few simple household items, like rice or beans, and let their small fingers take them on their own unique journey to discovering textures and patterns. Encourage tactile discovery, social interaction, and development of fine motor skills with this double sensory table. This lightweight low-profile play table features 2 roomy tubs so toddlers can explore multiple sensory items at once. 

Dimpl Digits. Dimpl Digits is the perfect early learning sensory toy. All children have to do is touch, push, pop, and learn! It features squishy, silicone bubbles that captivate the fingers in a way that makes it impossible to want to put them down, while simultaneously opening a unique new avenue for learning. On one side, the bubbles are embossed with numbers 1 through 10, each accompanied by its matching word in English. Flip it over and you’ll find the words written in Spanish, plus dots to feel and count! 

a child playing with a colourful sensory toy

Later learning. These products are great for the next stage in children’s early development, ages 3-5. This stage is heavily focused on awareness, language development, and adaptability. This is a great time to integrate social interaction with sensory play, as it helps children develop conversation skills and interpersonal skills. It helps them become team players and work better with others. 

Sensory Play Set. The Sensory Play set comes with tons of basics for simple sensory play. It includes sorting trays that are perfect to hold different sensory stones and toys. It features 12 tactile stones for sorting, 12 sensory stones, 6 speckled sound-making eggs, 16 threading pebbles with laces, and a set of 8 sensory play animals. 

Jumbo Eye Dropper.  The Primary Science Jumbo Eyedroppers are a wonderful addition to sensory play. Children can use it to experiment with cause and effect while building fine motor skills! Plus, it comes with a convenient stand. 

The perfect add-ons for sensory fun:  

Coloured sand. Not only is coloured sand super fun and aesthetically pleasing, it’s also super mesmerizing and keeps children entertained with it for hours. It features eight different colours so children will have lots of fun switching things up and rotating new colours. You don’t need anything special; simple objects like shovels or cups are more than enough to get their imagination going! 

Transparent Tactile Shells. These are wonderful for early development sensory play, as it engages multiple senses and parts of the brain. Children can use three of their five senses (sight, sound, and touch) to explore these shells and engage in sensory play. It is ideal for light box play. It features 6 different tactile surfaces in 6 different colours (red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple). 

Water beads. These are beautiful for sensory exploration. Soak these multicolored water beads in water and watch them expand to become bouncy, squishy sensory beads! Once expanded, let children play with the beads to feel their texture for a sensory experience that encourages quiet focus. This sparks creativity and builds fine motor skills as children count and sort the multicolor beads. These nontoxic beads expand in water and then shrink in the sun so they can be used over and over again. 

hands holding water beads

Sensory Play for Everyone with EduShape 

EduShape is the perfect place to start when it comes to sensory play. Throughout the years, Edushape toys have consistently incorporated high educational values while supporting a child’s healthy social and emotional development. 

Young Brix. Young Brix is a fun way to start a STEAM approach to sensory play. Now young architects can enhance their creativity from an early age. The soft, flexible and oversized brix are ideal for open-ended and constructive play. Young Brix are flexible soft and easy to hold and work with. It comes with 9 shapes, including triangle, circle, trapezoid and more. 

Shake, Listen and Match. This is a super fun sound-based memory game. Help children discover pairs of tones and find out how good their sensory perception is by finding the pair of bells that sound the same. Linking, matching, and connecting pieces encourage the growth of logic, and reasoning skills are just a few of the helpful lessons learned through the game. Easy-grip pieces assist in the development of fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s a perfect activity to play alone or together, working together to create a race track or other scenes. 

Sensory Snap Beads. These multicolour soft texture plastic beads. It includes reusable storage jar, and comes with 14 beads. Each safe-to-wash and easy-to-clean bead measures approx. 9 cm x 5.5 cm. 

a small girl plays with a long sensory toy

Sensory Play Activities:  

Playing music. Did you know that infants can recognize the melody of a song long before they understand words? Playing any kind of background music or sounds is great for little ones to start to familiarize themselves with their sense of hearing. Encourage them to reciprocate rhythms by clapping or tapping objects. 

Pouring from container to container. This is a perfect example of practicing real-life skills in sensory play! Fill up a large bucket and fill it with small cups, bottles, and containers. Using these containers, guide children to practice pouring one cup of water into another cup of water. Bring out a funnel to assist in pouring. This is a fun way to introduce children to pouring, and it is a wonderful example of how sensory and hands-on play can assist in learning new life skills.  

Beading. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, beading offers children the chance to run their fingers through a collection of various beads with unique textures, colours, and patterns. For older children, the bead treasure box is a perfect option as it comes with beading thread and over 3,500 assorted coloured beads. For smaller children, it’s better to start with larger things to thread, such as the count and lace stones. In addition to fine motor skills, these are also designed for shape and number recognition. Children sort the stones by colour and shape (circle, square, hexagon), then count, order and thread them together. 

Children can learn and experience so many different things through sensory play, but the things they learn to go beyond tangible and measurable skills. Children develop a stronger sense of confidence, strength, and essentially discover the world around them on their own. Sensory play is an important part of creating milestones and memories in early development, and helping children embrace their brave new world. 

a small child with braids in her hair smells a flower

Sensory play is an important part of creating milestones and memories in early development, and helping children embrace their brave new world. 

The Importance of Educating Indigenous Culture

Raising awareness of human rights issues has been crucial to making progress on educating future generations. In order to move forward, we must reflect and educate on the past.  Learning about Indigenous Peoples, places, experiences, and history is an important step forward for each Canadian to take on the path to reconciliation.   

“Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth.”

What is the purpose of June 21st, or National Indigenous Peoples Day?  

June 21st is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. For many centuries, the first inhabitants of Canada would celebrate the arrival of the gorgeous summer weather and the excitement of the new solstice, which is why it is celebrated on the first day of summer. It is celebrated as a sacred and spiritual day and a great opportunity to acknowledge the powerful contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.  

Who are the Indigenous People of Canada? 

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, there are three categories of Indigenous people in Canada; Inuit, Métis, and First Nations. The Inuit people primarily inhabit the arctic northern regions of Canada. Métis people are of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry and live mainly in the Prairies and Ontario. First Nations people were the original inhabitants of the land now known as Canada, often occupying territories south of the arctic. As of 2016, 4.9% of the Canadian population identifies as Indigenous.  

“As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. “

Tools for Teaching  

Inuit Stories Series. The Inuit Stories Series are five children’s books featuring beautifully illustrated legends from Canada’s northern communities. Four books (Fishing with Grandma, The Legend of the Fog, The People of the Sea and Siuluk: The Last Tuniq) were written by Indigenous authors and one (Painted Skies) written by a field botanist who lived in Iqaluit. This is a great way to introduce children to stories from Canada’s northern Inuit communities. 

five books about Inuit culture

Wheel of Life Rug. The Wheel of Life Rug depicts a traditional Indigenous Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel emphasizes a holistic approach to maintaining balance and equilibrium in life. It is an equal circular shape, which represents constant movement, change, and growth. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of connection as it represents reason, emotion, belief, knowledge, and how they all come together to create a harmonious and peaceful balance. Each of the colours represents different things, from earth elements to directions to groups of people. It signifies interconnectivity and different interaction of physical, mental, and spiritual realities. 

a traditional Indigenous medicine wheel

The Sharing Circle. The Sharing Circle is a book about a young boy named Matthew who cherishes his First Nations culture. It includes seven children’s stories about First Nations’ spiritual practices and culture. It is a great introduction to the symbolism and legends of First Nations’ heritage, and it was written by Mi’kmaw children’s author Theresa Meuse and beautifully illustrated by Mi’kmaw illustrator Arthur Stevens. 

The Sharing Circle book, stories about First Nations Culture with an image of a dream catcher and other Indigenous items

Teepee Craft Kit. A Teepee was a common way of housing that First Nations used for shelter and warmth. They were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and some were even big enough to hold 30-40 people comfortably. They were created with buffalo hide fastened around very long, large wooden poles that were up to 15 feet in height. Sometimes, these homes were arranged in a circle so that young children could play in the center with their mothers still able to watch nearby. The Teepee Craft Kit can help educate children about the history and culture of Teepees while enjoying an exciting craft project. It comes complete with everything you need to make 24 tepees. 

A Teepee craft featuring beads paper, crayons and more

As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. We have a responsibility to be good allies to the Indigenous community and to help spread a word of acceptance, awareness, respect, and reconciliation. It is crucial to encourage the next generation to be accepting and encouraging members of the community. Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth. 

Here are some additional helpful resources for educating children on Indigenous topics: 

Encouraging Aboriginal Cultural Identity at Home and in Child Care 

We Learn Together: A resource guide for bringing Canadian Indigenous Culture into the classroom 

How We’re Teaching Indigenous History to Our Kids 

National Indigenous Peoples Day: Talking to our Children