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

Loose Parts for Literacy and Numeracy 

Loose parts are not a new concept; children have been playing with loose parts for centuries. Since the beginning of time, children have used their creative little minds to create something out of nothing. What exactly are loose parts, you may ask? Loose parts are one of the finest forms of imaginative play. Beginning as a remarkable term coined by Simon Nicholson, loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, built, taken apart, rearranged, or combined in multiple ways. The purpose of loose parts play is that the child oversees the direction, and learning is left open-ended. Have you ever given a child a toy, but they seem to have had more fun playing with the packaging it came with? That is a perfect example of loose parts play!  

“The purpose of loose parts play is that the child oversees the direction, and learning is left open-ended.”

Perhaps the most remarkable part of loose parts play is that it can be combined with so many things when it comes to learning. Loose parts are all about connections and forming relationships with different objects to learn all about exactly what they can do – and what they cannot do. Loose parts leave no stone unturned; from language to math to art, the opportunities are infinite. 

 Here are some ways you can incorporate loose parts in literacy and numeracy: 

Literacy 

Loose parts can help with reading and writing proficiency through various activities. One of the best functions of literacy with loose parts is storytelling. Children creatively play with loose parts to encourage symbolism and sequence, which boosts their ability to understand literacy in many ways. Children will create stories with the individual items and tie them together to create a world beyond imagination.  

Symbolic play can look different in so many ways; one example is acting out stories they are familiar with. For instance, using small loose parts such as craft sticks and pipe cleaners to act out classic fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This helps with literacy, memory, and pattern recognition since they are remembering a story and acting it out themselves. If you want to be less specific, give them a theme such as nature, animals, or places and watch the incredible stories and scenery they create. A small stone can become a jewel stolen by an alien, and a tree block can become a magic wand; the potential is endless. 

Numeracy 

Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. Especially to children, numbers matter; for instance, how many gifts are under the tree, who had a longer turn, how old they are, how many sleeps until their birthday, and many other numerals are particularly important to little ones. However, studying numeracy presents its fair share of challenges as well. Geometry, fractions, and operations are a few of the common difficulties in early mathematical learning. That is where loose parts come in; they are a great physical and tangible representation of concepts that children often struggle with.  

play stones with numbers on them

Number pebbles and word pebbles are great for use in sand, water, or the outdoors! They are durable and great to inspire children to explore and the numbers and letters engraved on them. They can be used to teach counting, sorting, the alphabet, and learning short words.

Craft supplies. Loose parts play does not get any better than crafting! It is a chance for children to create whatever they want through so many different mediums. The Makerspace STEAM Builder Set includes an assortment of materials to help students imagine, create, share, and generate lots of innovative ideas. This set is perfect for combining STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning with loose parts to bring in an unforgettable learning experience. 

child playing with balloon

Trays can be used to count and display various loose parts. From the Natural Tinker Tray to the Natural Flower Tray, trays are ideal for a wide range of collecting and early math sorting and stacking activities, both indoors and outside. They pair well with any type of sensory stone!  

wooden tray filled with small natural items

Loose parts are a terrific way for children to positively identify letters. The Feels-Write Letter Stones can help children touch and feel their way to recognizing letters. Children can also use small loose parts to trace the shapes with their fingers and then take paper and write them on their own. A fun game to implement with letter stones is to hide these stones around and create a scavenger hunt. This is a way to condition letters into the forefront of children’s learning minds, and they will become increasingly familiar with the alphabet. 

What are the benefits of loose parts? 

Longer attention span. Loose parts can help children attain a longer attention span. Once a child starts to seriously immerse themselves into their play, they tend to lose track of time and become so focused on their task that everything else slowly disappears. This is an exercise that can positively influence other areas of life such as paying attention during class. Their brains are more familiar with concentrating on specific tasks for extended periods of time, and loose parts play is an easier way for them to concentrate for way longer than they would on a guided and specified task. Plus, incorporating learning into loose parts play can help make the most of your time with engaged learners making for an easier teaching session.  

Assists fine motor skills. Manipulating objects, no matter how big or how small, help develop both fine and gross motor skills. Lifting, counting, and sorting are all great early skills that help to involve muscle groups form properly and appropriately such as holding a pencil. Additionally, it helps hand eye coordination which prepares children for other aspects of learning, prepping their bodies for things like throwing a baseball or football. 

three children sitting and learning

Problem-solving skills. Loose Parts can help develop problem-solving skills. Through loose parts play, children get to make decisions about which parts they want to use. Along with building and engineering, young students are gaining many skills like adapting and experimenting with new things. To create their loose parts masterpiece, students need to select what materials piece the best together for their environment. Their original ideas may need adjustment; that is okay! Through these challenges, children get to learn how to fix and tailor their projects to make things work.  

two children holding their snowmen made out of crafting material

“Through loose parts play, children get to make decisions about which parts they want to use. Along with building and engineering, young students are gaining many skills like adapting and experimenting with new things.”

How can I help teach Math and English by supporting loose parts play? 

Take notice in their play. Part of observing and supporting children in learning about numeracy through loose parts is exactly that – simply observing. Take notice in what children are creating and tell them (without stating any opinions) what you see. “I notice you have a pile of read bears and blue bears.” This provides a chance for children to vocalize their experiences and enforce the recognition process. 

Ask important questions. “What can you tell me about this?” or “What is your plan with this?” can help steer children in the right direction and invoke new thoughts in children. It helps keep them on track and it continues their thinking process, encouraging them to think even more about their creative process and what exactly they are creating, keeping them engaged.  

Elaborate on what they have already produced. Have you taken notice of a certain child’s interest in a specific topic? This is a wonderful way to broaden their interests by adding to these themes. For example, a child who may be interested in stones and rocks might love an introduction to crystals and minerals, or measurements and weights of certain objects. Help them fuel a passion for knowledge by offering suggestions for similar interests. 

Tips for loose parts: 

Loose parts do not have to be expensive! Loose parts are all about the experience, and not necessarily about the specific part itself. Small and simple loose parts such as coloured flat wooden shapes or transparent irregular shapes can go a long way. Children are the most imaginative people you can think of; you would be surprised to see what they produce even with the simplest of things. 

Take loose parts outside. With the beautiful weather heating up, this is a wonderful time to combine learning with play and take advantage of the outdoor classroom. Children can also use natural pieces such as pinecones and sticks as loose parts. 

Loose parts are customizable! It does not have to go big or go home. Loose parts can be whatever you want them to be, small handheld items or extravagant projects. Loose parts can also work for any age; there are no limits to creativity. Since it is such a flexible part of play, loose parts can work for any and every child. 

Now that loose parts have become more familiar, implementing them for literacy and numeracy in your classroom should be a breeze. Children will thoroughly enjoy learning through play, especially when they feel in control and are able to make easily identifiable connections from the classroom to their own lives. Loose parts are a wonderful way to connect children with hands-on learning and take a break from the books. Loose parts support the development of freedom and creativity while helping young learners become excited about learning; it helps to learn to feel more like fun and less like a chore.

three children sitting down and smiling

“Loose parts are a wonderful way to connect children with hands-on learning and take a break from the books.”

The Importance of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

It is no surprise that children hold the key to the future; their generation consists of our future leaders, teachers, parents, and so much more. Learning to take care of the earth is a significant part of development and educating little ones about their personal responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle. It puts them in the mindset to minimize their carbon footprint for the rest of their lives. Starting early by teaching children how to be environmentally friendly can have a very positive affect on their habits, and sustainability can become a natural and unconscious part of their decision making. 

Creating a better environment starts with our youth, and it starts in the classroom. There are lots of tips and lessons that can be taught to encourage and educate children of the importance of going green, and fun interactive activities that can make learning easy and memorable!

How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: 

Reduce:  

Purchase eco-friendly toys. PlanToys offers incredibly high-quality eco-friendly toys made of wood that offers a natural feel. These toys enhance development and allow children to experience play in a unique way that are not only adorable and fun, but also sustainable. The Dentist Set is a creative way to teach children about tooth care while simultaneously being made of super eco-friendly and sustainable material. There are so many different unique play experiences Plan Toy’s products have to offer, like the Bread Loaf Set where children get to pretend to be a baker, or the Tool Belt Set where children can practice fixing and creating things at the touch of their attached belt featuring a hammer, wrench, screwdriver, and level.       

children's play toolbelt

Do I really NEED it? Remind children that before they make a purchase, ask themselves if this item is a necessity, or something that can be left on the shelf. Use what you have at home first and think about ways to repurpose what you already own before purchasing new things. Don’t fall for “Buy One Get One Free” bargains if you don’t plan on using the second item. Taking a moment to really evaluate if the item is something you need can help save money and time – and help save items from becoming lost in landfills without a purpose. 

Limit waste. Food waste specifically is an incredibly common problem, not only for the food itself being wasted, but also the additional packing it comes with, such as extra and unnecessary plastic bags. Have an important conversation about brainstorming different ways we can all limit waste – at home, at school, and on the go. 

Here are some tips and ideas to mention for saving and reusing: 

  • Use reusable bags and lunch containers. 
  • Buy refillable cleaning products like hand sanitizer and soap. 
  • Freeze products that go bad quickly like bread and avocados.  
  • Make banana bread out of browning bananas! 

Reuse: 

Reusable bags. Going to the grocery store and constantly taking disposable bags that are immediately thrown out is never good for the environment. Bring reusable ones. This is a habit to teach your class about – remind them that their backpacks are a perfect example of a way to use a bag repeatedly. 

Repurposing clothes. Their clothes can also be reused and repurposed, cut into cleaning cloths, blankets or any other various cloth household item.  They can continue to make new memories with their favourite clothes – just in new forms. 

Encourage donations. Teaching kids about reusing clothing, not only about thrift shopping for themselves, but also the importance of donating or handing down clothes when they no longer fit or desire them anymore. Chances are that most kids have grown out of some of their toys and clothing from their younger days. This is the perfect chance to give back! Explain the cycle of reusing and how shopping second hand at thrift stores can help benefit the community. 

Recycle: 

Composting. Composting is the natural process of organic material like food scraps or old plants breaking down and turning a nutrient rich soil that has plenty of uses. It cuts down significantly on trash in landfills and creates a healthy soil that can be used as fertilizer (and does not require pesticides). The See-Through Compost Container is a neat way to witness the entire decomposition process from the comfort of your own classroom. With three aerated compartments, you can see different materials as they decompose individually and make comparisons. 

young girl looking at compost

How to Educate the Importance of Going Green: 

Global warming and climate change can be an intimidating topic for children, so it is important to approach it with sensitivity and awareness. Nonetheless, they are important conversations to have, especially since children hold the key to the future and have years of habit and decision making in front of them. Here are some tips on how to educate children on the importance of making eco-friendly choices. 

Inspire environmental curiosity. Little ones usually do not understand more complex concepts like greenhouse gases, so it makes the most sense to start simple. Teach children to plant seeds and take note of their environment, pointing out the flowers, animals, and insects. This makes them appreciate nature – and leave them wanting to protect it in the future. Make sure children spend some valuable time outside playing in nature to help them feel connected to the reason our earth is so important to protect. The All About Plants Series is fantastic way to learn more about plants, leaves, flowers, and more beautiful things that exist in our ecosystem.  

Recognize and encourage small actions. Remind children of the impact they have. Teach them about how picking up litter, preventing litter by always putting their appropriate items in the garbage or recycling, and packing lunches with reusable containers are all vital steps in protecting our earth – and no step is too small. Do not let them think they cannot make a difference – they can!  

three kids throwing water bottles into the recycling

 What are fun activities to teach the importance of sustainability?  

  • Recycling or Garbage? In this fun and simple sorting game, you can teach kids what goes in the recycling and what goes in the garbage with visual handmade cards! Cut out various recyclable and non-recyclable items from magazines and tape them onto card stock or thicker paper. Make some simple sorting boxes with signs on them and watch them place each item in either the recycling or garbage pile. After they choose each pile, you can discuss which items went in the right pile and which ones did not. It isa fantastic way to help children connect the dots and remember which items go in which bin when it is time to throw their things away.  
  • Recycle and paint! Making crafts is always a fun way to engage children in learning, and what better way to show an example of reusing things than painting. There are so many ways to use old items – old newspaper, single use plastic water bottles, corkscrews, egg cartons, the possibilities are endless! There are lots of fun eco-friendly crafts tools out there too, such as Wood Craft Rounds and the Natural Kraft Sheets.  
an eco-friendly paper package
  • Have a competition. Make recycling competitive. Challenge your fellow classes to see which class can fill up the most recycling in a month and celebrate with a pizza party afterwards! This helps give an incentive to remember to recycle, and who doesn’t love a friendly little competition? 
  • Read a book about recycling together. There are lots of important reads that help children understand the importance of recycling – such as the Planet Protector series, a non-fiction kid-friendly series of books all about fighting pollution, saving energy, reusing items, and not littering. The adorable and charismatic illustrations help make learning fun.  
  • Invite children to share about a way the reduced, reused, and recycled at home. Just like show and tell, ask children to name an example of how they implemented sustainable and eco-friendly habits in their own home. This helps them actively think of how they are making a difference individually and reminds them of the way they can influence habits that happen at home. It also challenges them to bring new and exciting ideas to the classroom and inspire friends and peers to do the same. 
  • Learn about the plant life cycle. With the Life Cycle of a Green Bean set, children get to watch a green bean seed germinate, develop roots and sprout. It is great for children to watch firsthand the life cycle of plants. It is an engaging way to learn with manipulatives that children can tangibly see the cycle of plant life. The Sprout and Grow Window offers a worm’s eye view of root growth. This transparent “nature’s window” allows gardeners of all ages to watch seeds sprout and grow into plants. It stands upright on a tabletop or windowsill, special potting soil nurtures seeds for optimum growth and comes with packets of bean and pea seeds. It also features a step-by-step guide with instructions, suggested activities, and journal pages to fill in as you follow the process from seed planting to full-grown plants. 
  • Pick up litter together. Spend some time outside cleaning up the playground to throw away litter. This gives children the opportunity to see recycling in real life, and becomes interactive, a way to remember and have an experience to reflect on it. It also acts as a way to help clean the surrounding areas and helps children see just how real littering and pollution can be. 
  • Inspire eco-friendly dramatic play. Children mimic what they learn in real life during dramatic play, so encouraging eco and nature friendly scenarios can help their imagination flourish. New Sprouts Grow It! Offers a garden full of imaginative play. Children can plant and grow flowers and veggies right before your eyes with gardening essentials including a watering can, shovel and 3 pots. It offers colourful mix-and-match flowers and veggies, encouraging role play and early vocabulary development while nurturing an appreciation for nature and simultaneously engaging in dramatic play. 
a young boy picking up litter

Tips for making recycling an important part of daily routine: 

  • Keep signs posted for directions and reminders to recycling cans and boxes. We could all use a reminder sometimes.  
  • Educate about hazardous materials. Items such as tires, paint, batteries, aerosol cans can be dangerous and should not be included with general waste products. 
  • Inspire conversation. Don’t stop talking about reducing, reusing, and recycling. Sharing new information, celebrating accomplishments in regards to picking up litter, using the right disposal method depending on the product, and being a strong leader in the fight against pollution all help put sustainability on your student’s radar. 
  • Keep plants around. Starting a garden outside can be a healthy environment for children to watch plants grow. A small greenhouse such as the Greenthumb Classroom Greenhouse is a fantastic place to start, since it features two sturdy wire shelves that keep potted plants off the ground, a clear vinyl cover that fits snugly over the metal frame and a large zippered opening to protect plants. 

Reduce our consumption, reuse our items, and always recycle – we hear these things all the time, but it’s important to remember to apply them to our own lives and encourage and inspire them in younger ones as well. With fun activities, positive reminders and unique games, you can help create a helpful learning experience that will cement recycling as a fundamental part of daily life and in the future. When we all work together, we can accomplish great things. By helping to work together, we can build a better, safer, cleaner world.        

two smiling children recycling together

Spring into Outdoor Learning! 

The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here – the days are longer, warmer, and the outdoors no longer seem as treacherous and frigid as they once did. It’s a refreshing time of year – the grass is growing, and Easter is around the corner. Birds are chirping, snow is finally melting, everything seems fresh and new. The rainboots and rainbows are in full swing, the flowers are getting ready to bloom – it’s springtime. Get those raincoats ready and take an adventure outside – let’s spring into outdoor learning! 

Learning and playing are not mutually exclusive; they go together better than peanut butter and jam. The outdoors is like a blank canvas when it comes to exploring and learning – the possibilities are never ending! Getting in touch with nature is a wonderful way for children to have new experiences and touch, feel and learn all about new things in new weather. A change of seasons is a great excuse to get off the screens and get into the sunshine – and it’s even more fun with planned activities and games that can go along with it!  

The outdoors is like a blank canvas when it comes to exploring and learning – the possibilities are never ending!

What are the benefits of outdoor learning after a season change?  

Going outside reduces stress, boosts energy, and improves your immune system. After long, frigid winters and months of indoor recess and playtime, chances are children haven’t been playing outside lately as much as they usually do in the warmer months like July and August. Colder weather often discourages us from being active and watching TV and playing inside is an easy substitute for play during the cold winter days. This makes outdoor play in the spring even more important to make up for all those freezing days and hours of play that were missed out on being stuck inside!  

Children becoming familiar with the outdoors helps increase their physical health, helps boost self-esteem, social communication skills. It creates a positive sense of personal responsibility and awareness, as nature helps people of all ages become more in touch with themselves and identity. Being outside has been proven to increase happiness, attention, and help the body work better overall. Making an effort to get outside and be active can even help bring new and fresh ideas to your brain, and additionally helps cut back on screen time. Plus, who doesn’t love some sunshine and Vitamin C? 

six young children playing outside with sidewalk chalk

Making an effort to get outside and be active can even help bring new and fresh ideas to your brain, and additionally helps cut back on screen time.

What are some fun activities to do outside in the spring?

Sidewalk chalk. Sidewalk chalk is an easy favourite for kids of all ages – and adults too! Encourage kids to make a picture of something specific or allow them to create whatever their heart desires! Chalk can be used for so many things when it comes to outdoor play. Outdoor giant chalkboard flowers are weather resistant and a creative place to colour and draw with chalk. For a fun challenge, assign partners with sidewalk chalk and ask one person to draw and outline, and the other person adds on. The two partners can alternate adding onto the design. Another fun game to play with sidewalk chalk is hopscotch! Bonus tip: adding paint to the chalk can help make it a brighter and create stronger colours.  

Jump rope. Cardio meets fun when it comes to this classic game! It helps develop coordination and balance! Grab a jump rope and get outside to burn off some steam. It helps get the jitters out and exercise at the same time. This kind of movement is great for children’s health and helps them clear their mind and improve energy levels. Set a good example and jump rope along with the children! 

Blow bubbles. The giggles never go away! Blowing bubbles outside is a whimsical and playful activity that even adults can enjoy with familiarity and nostalgia. It is a super fun and relaxing way to spend some time outside. It’s simple, it never gets old and it’s super easy! 

a young girl blowing bubbles outside

Play with toys and wash them outside. Kids love to play outside with trucks and many various other types of fun toys. Sometimes they can get dirty. When children play outside, they often get their toys full of mud, especially after a rainstorm, since these play spaces are often wet and muddy. Teach them how to wash them down their toys with a bucket of water and soap. This helps instill care and teaches children how to take pride in looking after their toys! 

Painting eggs. Painting Easter eggs is a spring signature and well enjoyed by everyone. It doesn’t get more classic spring time than colourful Easter eggs! This is a great opportunity for children to practice hand eye coordination. For more precise and better finger muscle control, using a medicine dropper with paint can help little ones make their dream works of art come true. No craft would be complete without some glitter!  

Jump in a puddle. Put those rainboots to the test! After a rainstorm, let children experience the magic of stomping and making a loud splash. It is a rite of passage for kids and a moment they will always remember! Getting messy and dirty is a great experience for children and helps them feel free. Children are very curious creatures, and it is an important part of early development to allow them to have these very tangible memories and discoveries.  

Host an outdoor tea party. Introduce children to a fun and exciting lunch time with a pretend tea party! Send invitations to the “party” and suggest the children dress up for the occasion. This is an enjoyable way to teach children about how to get ready for events and a great way to make outdoor lunch more enjoyable. Pull out some small tables, chairs or benches and serve some cookies or cake. If the children aren’t fans of the tea, don’t worry! Substitute the tea with lemonade or water infused with fruit. 

Fly a kite. Take a walk outside and learn to fly a kite! It is a great way to teach children a new skill. It helps them get outside, learn more about hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, and encourages them to run around! Demonstrate how to fly the kite and then allow the children to follow and attempt to do it on their own. This is an amazing example of teaching them how to follow instructions and invokes them to have stronger peripheral awareness. 

two young boys flying a kite

Outdoor workout. Use this fresh spring air to get some great exercise! Taking a walk is a great way to encourage children to move and be active and use this to help put in their head the routine of getting out of the house and centre. Going on walks and other various outdoor activity is also a positive way for children to connect with their friends. 

Fairy garden. Adding a fairy garden to the outside of your centre is perfect for little ones that have a passion for all things fairies and magic. Decorate planters or flowerpots with small figurines or story sensory stones and create a beautiful scenery spot. 

What are some fun outdoor spring games and sports?  

Create spring nature art. Take a piece of construction paper and get some glue and allow children to collect and glue down different pieces of nature to a piece of construction paper – flowers, leaves, sticks and create a beautiful and creative picture filled with natural art! This can be an awesome introduction to identifying and learning about nature. Use this opportunity to teach children about the different types of trees, leaves, insects and flowers! Encourage them to label   

Toss a ball. It can be anywhere – in a field, in the backyard. Throw the ball back in forth, kick it, or toss it. To make things a little more interesting, pick up a sport! It can be volleyball, soccer, soccer, dodgeball – anything that gets kids outside and active! There are really no limits – you can play whatever you want! Let children’s imagination run wild by letting them make up their own games. 

two soccer balls, two basketballs, two volleyballs and two footballs

Scavenger Hunt. Help kids learn with reading and finding things! Hide things around the yard and write on a checklist and encourage them to help find it! This can be a great way to start teaching early reading skills. Some things you can ask children to find could include dandelions, birds, rabbits, trees, insects, and other small things in nature. They will have a blast looking to identify and find these parts of nature, and it is way for them to learn how to use checklists and look for clues! 

Parachute games. There are many games you can play with a rainbow parachute! There are endless activities to play when it comes to parachute’s that you can read about in the book, 3-2-1: Time for Parachute Fun. Every child looks forward to parachute day in gym class, so incorporating parachute time in your centre is a special and valuable time that children will always have a blast with. Add the parachute accessory pack and you’ll have everything you need for many days and hours of fun outside spring play! 

a group of children playing outside with  a large rainbow parachute

What are some must have things to do to encourage outdoor learning in your centre in the spring? 

Smell the flowers. Teaching children about the five senses can come to life in the spring, making hands-on learning the easiest it can be. Ask children to analyze and identify the signs of spring, and question about what they are noticing. What can they smell? What can they hear? This is a great way to help teach them about the world around them and start to introduce them to nature science! 

a small young girl outside smelling flowers

Read a book outside. Upgrade usual reading time by sitting outside on a spring day! This could be reading to the kids, or the kids’ reading to themselves. One suggestion would be to read the All About Plants Series, a series focused on flowers, leaves, roots, seeds and stems. It features introductory vocabulary and gorgeous photographs about how diverse plants can be. Other activities usually done at desks like painting, colouring or crafting could also be done outside to soak up the season! 

Start a compost. There isn’t a better time to start a compost bin than the springtime. It is an amazing way to eliminate food waste while focusing on being environmentally friendly at the same time. Use a See Through Compost Container so that children can witness firsthand the magic of decomposition.  It is a great opportunity to eliminate waste in your centre and teach children about the importance of recycling!  

Have lunch or snack time outside. Looking to add some sun into lunchtime? Bring it outside! All you really need is a blanket and safe area to sit and enjoy lunchtime, having an outdoor bench is an even bigger bonus. Add juice boxes for a quick and shareable beverage! 

Take it easy. Soak up the sun and enjoy the warm weather. Sometimes the best thing for imagination, creativity and learning can be allowing it to unfold naturally. Let kids create their own world full of dramatic play and whatever their mind takes them too! Make having fun and being active a priority, and the learning is sure to follow.  

two young boys reading books outside and smiling

Are spring outdoor games and activities essential for learning in childcare centres? 

Not only is playing outdoors great for playing and exploring the world, it is also a valuable time for learning. Early development can set the tone for a child’s early years, and their brains are so busy learning and absorbing what the world is, and becoming familiar with nature, outdoor play, and the seasons changing. It helps encourage imagination and bonding between peers, and it creates valuable memories that children will always cherish.   

Outdoor learning is about introducing children to old and new adventures and assisting them with connections to make the most of playing in nature. It’s even more important when the seasons change to help expose children to the new season, new experiences and new activities and help them remember these activities and lessons to apply them to their own lives. It is so important for mental and physical health to get outside when the weather changes, specifically when it starts to warm up. Outdoor play is so beneficial; it helps children make discoveries and help them identify and familiarize themselves with the changing seasons, different parts of the year, and the exciting and new world around them! 

young boy blowing dandelion

Outdoor learning helps encourage imagination and bonding between peers, and it creates valuable memories that children will always cherish.   

Efficient Organization Tips to Help Organize Your Space 

In need of inspiration for making the most of your space when it comes to organization, storage, and décor? Looking to feel inspired and refreshed with the right storage solutions for you? This blog post has you covered!  

We have all had our fair share of struggling with organization. Feeling overwhelmed, tired, and staring at a pile of stuff, not knowing what to do and how to fix it is a problem we are all familiar with no matter the profession. However, teachers have the unique and additional responsibility of having to organize and look after a whole classroom. This means not only organizing your own space, but your workspace, and the learning space of an entire group of children. You want to find the perfect solution for a practical, neat and tidy space, and you want it to fit your learning style. It’s important to feel balanced, productive, and utilize your classroom.  

seven young kids in a classroom smiling

It’s important to feel balanced, productive, and utilize your classroom. ” 

What are some classroom products to keep you organized? 

When it comes to classroom organization, practicality is key. A space that can be flexible and allows easy access to all the tools you need. Whether it’s paper, pens, books, and folders, you don’t want to be wasting time looking through countless drawers. 

Storex’s products are a fantastic fix. Storex is known for their high quality and fun variety of storage solutions. Coming in tons of different colours, shapes, and styles, Storex is sure to have the right storage solution for you. With many options for different sized solutions no matter is they are small items or big items, there is something out there that suits your needs! The small book bin is perfect for small, thin, notebooks or journals, and the Large Book Bin is great for larger supplies like binders, paint, or scissors. The Blue Stretch Pencil case is incredible for pens, pencils, pencil crayons, erasers and sharpeners. It’s the perfect addition for any desk! 

The Storage Rack with 12 Clear Cubby Bins is another great storage tool. Ideal for toys, crafts, or art supplies! With twelve racks, there is lots of space to hold supplies, and with its clear appearance you can see through the shelves! No more guessing when it comes to storage, you can see before you even open the bins. Plus, it comes with rounded edges on the bins which make it safer for little hands. The cubby bins are made from a sturdy and drop resistant plastic. 

Need a place to put your papers while grading them? In need of something quick and easy to help with sorting? The Quick Stack Literature Sorter is the perfect fix. It features six compartments and comes in a classic black colour, and it snaps together with no tools required. It is sturdy enough to hold 500 sheets of letter sized paper, and comes in a multicoloured version if bright colours are what you prefer!    

a six shelved multi-coloured paper sorter

How to decorate your space the best way: 

Sometimes a room needs a little TLC to feel like home. You want yourself and the kids to feel comfortable in their learning environment and decorating the space can be a fantastic solution. Decorating and organizing can go hand in hand! Adding encouraging posters, great organization shelves, and fun rugs can really brighten up the environment. 

Adding colour. You want a vibrant, inspirational and eye-catching colour scheme without being overwhelming and distracting. You also want this theme to be something you really enjoy, since you will spend a lot of time surrounded by it.   

Make it practical. Don’t overdo it. You want to have a clean space that is neither overwhelming nor distracting as a learning environment. Every student has different needs, and some may struggle more with clutter than others. It’s important to keep things accessible to everyone!    

Showcase your student’s work! The bare walls in your classroom are the perfect canvas for all the beautiful and fun artwork. Arrange a bulletin board that can easily be changed out when projects come and go! It is an easy way to add colour, fun, and store all your art at the same time!  

Health and Safety posters. In uncertain times, little ones and adults alike can use reminders when it comes to distancing and proper sanitary measures. Washing hands and having classroom reminders promoting good hygiene is always good to keep in mind.  

Stick with the seasons. Is a fun holiday coming up? Use this as an opportunity to refresh! We all get bored with looking at the same stuff repeatedly, so when a holiday comes up, don’t be afraid to add some colour and spice to your classroom. Even small things like adding to your bulletin board, or hanging up fun pictures or posters, it creates excitement for students and teachers alike! 

a teacher helping a young girl with her school work at a desk

Efficient organization tips for a clean space: 

Figure out what’s eating your time. Spending too much time procrastinating or redoing the same corner repeatedly? Make a note of what keeps you behind. Set timers to help ensure you stay on track and record how long it takes to organize certain spaces. 

Establish a routine for the necessities. Having a place for all your papers is one thing, but it is another to have a routine to help sort through them. Once you hand your lesson out, have a safe place to put it afterwards, and after they are graded, etc. Once these papers all have a proper place and life cycle, the days of misplacing papers are over!  

Labelling. The days of questioning where things belong are over! Ensure all baskets, buckets, binders, and shelves are all properly labeled. This will save you lots of headache and time in the future! 

Make copies of your checklist. At the beginning of the year, print off multiple copies of the cleaning checklist you plan to make. Each week, or whatever time permits, go through the list to ensure everything is neat and tidy! Checklists can help ease anxiety and provide a sense of accomplishment, so it is a win-win. 

Make sure the environment will maximize learning. The last thing you want is your new décor and furniture is for it to cause distraction with your students. You want to create an environment that maximizes learning and minimizes behaviour problems. Not sure how the kids in your classroom feel about your organization system? Ask them! Don’t forget, with so many students and only one of you, it’s important to make sure the system you are using works for them too. That way, they are more likely to stick to it!   

Have a monthly folder. Need to stay fresh and on top of things that are recent? Have a folder dedicated to each month, day by day!  It makes it easier to find things when you need to back track, and it can help the overwhelming number of tasks that have seemingly piled up feel less daunting since they are broken down day by day. 

“With the right products and time management skills, you should be feeling calm, cool and collected – and organized – in no time!”

multi-coloured book bins on a bookshelf in a classroom

What are some tips for saving time, energy and reducing stress in the classroom?  

  • Declutter your email. An overwhelming number of emails can make you feel out of control and difficult to catch up on. Putting an effort into keeping your inbox clean can help give you a more clear, organized state of mind.  
  • Don’t hide the important stuff. Have certain papers that you seem to constantly be looking for, like report cards or field trip permission slips? Find a spot dedicated to them. Some people use a specific drawer or pin a folder to their bulletin board. Whatever you choose, make sure you save some space for the important stuff! 
  • Group similar tasks together. When organizing your checklists, group tasks that take the same amount of time or have similarities so you can finish them around the same time! 
  • Let technology be on your side. Send yourself reminders, turn off notifications, don’t let it be a distraction, let it help you! 
  • Don’t forget to stretch! It helps release emotional and physical tension. 
  • Get a good night sleep. It will help you feel refreshed, productive, and organized the next day. 
  • Stay as prepared as possible. Print off extras of your lessons, quizzes, tests, or any printable just in case you need them! 
  • Try to stay on top of mess! Clean up as you go when it comes to projects and experiments in the classroom. Before you start something new, ensure the previous mess has already been tidied up to cut down on clean-up time.  

Having so many responsibilities as a teacher can no doubt be stressful. Having an organized, clean, and tidy space should help you feel balanced and in in control. If you stay on top of the mess, dedicate some time and space for the right tools, and maximize the organization of your space, your classroom is sure to be at its very best. With the right products and time management skills, you should be feeling calm, cool and collected – and organized – in no time!  

a smiling teacher helping a young female student

The Weather Outside is Frightful, but Outdoor Play is so Delightful! 

As Canadians, we know the winter months tend to be a little colder (and longer) than we would like them to be. December, January, and February seem to drag into long, tiresome days that all blend together. Children get restless, parents get exhausted, and we are all waiting for those warm, light-hearted, and easy summer days to once again make their way back to us. 

However, winter doesn’t have to be so dreary, dull and boring. What if we decided to make the most out of the winter season and create a positive outdoor environment for our kids to play in? 

Outdoor play is an important part of early childhood development and living a healthy and happy lifestyle all around. Playing outdoors can help with both mental and physical health at all ages, so it is an important habit to instil in young children. The barrier between having fun and learning through play shouldn’t be cold weather, so here are some tips on how to make the most of outdoor play in the winter months. 

“Outdoor play is an important part of early childhood development and living a healthy and happy lifestyle all around.”

Being prepared for outdoor play: 

-Make sure you bundle warm. This seems self-explanatory, but it is none the less very important. Ensure that all little ones have the proper winter equipment like gloves or mittens, ski pants, toques, scarves and boots depending on the temperature. Make sure communication with parents is clear when organizing outdoor activities so that winter gear is sent daily. Try sending a reminder through email or newsletter or create posters to place around the entrances with reminders about the need for warm outdoor equipment. 

-Always check the weather. Some temperatures just aren’t safe for outdoor play, and sometimes winter can be sunny and warm and may not require as much outdoor gear as others. Oh, and don’t forget the wind chill!  

Read and learn about the fundamentals of play. Do some research, and find out what works for you and your kids. A good source of information is the Seasons of Play book! It comes with plenty of natural environment play inspiration and ideas for all four seasons, and a question-and-answer section at the back. It features lots of beautiful photography as well to really help get your mind picturing outdoor play!  

Remember safety comes first. Always use your best judgement to ensure the kids are safe, dressed appropriately, and having a blast! 

So, what kinds of outdoor play are good for the staying fit and healthy during the winter months?  

-Outdoor sports. When it comes to outdoor sports, the possibilities are endless. Any kind of games like winter soccer, sledding, or visit an outdoor skating rink. Anything that gets kids moving and encourages fitness outdoors counts!  

small child in winter gear playing on the playground in snow

-Going for a walk. There is nothing better than getting some fresh air, especially after being cooped up all day in a room. Going for walks has been proven to improve both mental and physical health, and during long, dark days with little sunlight and movement, this is especially important.  

Snow play. The possibilities are endless when it comes to snow play! From building forts, to sculpting snow men, to whatever their creative little hands can create. Provide kids with fun tools like buckets, mini shovels, mini rakes and watch their innovation come to life! It’s a classic, you really can’t go wrong with traditional snow play! 

-Let them get creative. Kids often don’t need guidance when it comes to play. They will have their own dramatic play scenarios ready before you know it! 

“Playing outside can help boost mood, mental health, and physical health.”

What are some fun activities and games for outdoor play? 

-Snow shovelling. Help teach kids how to shovel! Grab a shovel and show kids the ropes! This is a great and practical activity that kids can use to help at home whenever the snow falls!  

young child walking in the snow with a toy shovel and bucket

-Snow painting. Painting without the mess! Using spray bottles, fill up water with food colouring and let kids use it to spray in the snow. The best part: no clean up and it disappears completely on its own! 

-Polar Footprints. Using Let’s Investigate: Polar Footprints, allow children to make imprints in the snow. This is a great opportunity to teach them about wildlife that inherits the polar frozen landscape up north. Farmyard Footsteps or Let’s Investigate Woodland Footprints are also great options for learning about other types of animals! It’s educational, creative and fun!      

-Winter Scavenger Archaeologist Hunt. Burry various outdoor play items like Dinosaur Bones or Animal Friends under the snow and let kids dig them out to find it! They will love feeling like little archaeologists as they dig their way to find hidden treasure!  

“Getting fresh air and taking a break from the routine of learning indoors can encourage longer attention spans and help children feel refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.”

What are the Benefits of Playing Outdoors? 

Reducing the risk of catching a cold. Despite popular belief, playing outside in the winter is a fantastic way to help build kids build their natural immunity. The fresh air as opposed to recycled air in an enclosed space is much better for ventilation. Additionally, cold temperatures do not allow certain types of bacteria to survive minimizing the risk of catching an illness. 

Lowering the risk of developing childhood obesity. The winter months are notorious for eating lots of unhealthy foods and treats, which is great in moderation but can also lead to fatigue and weight gain. Outdoor winter play helps keep these things at bay and encourages movement, is great exercise and helps maintain a healthy life balance. 

Mental health benefits. Staying inside all day long is not healthy for anyone, especially children. Getting active outside helps boost mood, mental and physical stamina. Seasonal depression is prevalent at all ages, and children are no exception. Getting fresh air and exercise is extra important in the winter months!  

two kids smiling going sledding in the winter

Why is Outdoor Play so useful for Early Development? 

From mental and physical benefits to allowing children to be creative and have fun, outdoor play is an all-around important part of childhood growth. Playing outside can help boost mood, mental health, and physical health. Getting fresh air and taking a break from the routine of learning indoors can encourage longer attention spans and help children feel refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. It’s great for helping kids build connections with other kids and working as a team. Maybe those winter blues aren’t so bad after all!