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. 

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

Dress Up and Dramatic Play

Dress up and dramatic play is one of the most important and common parts of growing up, and a very important part of childhood. Watching young children play is like magic – the smiles, the fun, the laughter the creative ideas. Children from almost any age, any gender, any background and with any interests can remain occupied for hours through dress up and dramatic play. No matter what storyline they are acting out, they are creating meaningful interactions with each other and themselves that help them learn more about the world around them. Which might make you ask the question, how exactly does dressing up and dramatic play benefit learning, and why is it so important? 

Children get to express themselves, learn more about their identity, and become more confident. 

Children get to be themselves in a whole new way and indulge in a world of imagination. Children get to express themselves, learn more about their identity, and become more confident. Research shows that dramatic play is one of the most important forms of learning. It is linked to language development, positive social skills, problem solving skills, and thinking creatively. Dress up and dramatic play helps children imitate the world around them, making them form connections to other people. For example, when children are pretending to talk on the phone, it proves they are translating that they understand this concept and have demonstrated how to use it in their own lives. A great product for this would be My First Phone, which features a magnifying glass and a colourful dial pad encourage interactive play and help develop dexterity and cognitive skills. 

Two young kids playing pretend with phones

Learn Through Play

Learn while having fun! Children learn a variety of skills through dress up and dramatic play, such as: 

  • It helps children be creative. Children will take any kind of costume and make it into their own invention. It could be creating a completely new character or turning a tutu into a cape; whatever it is, it is helping children imagine and create without feeling like a chore. It helps open their minds to new possibilities!  

  • It can last for hours. Dramatic play is a great way to keep kids entertained. It is also extremely versatile as far as age groups go, as kids as young as toddlers up until around the preteen ages can engage in dramatic play.  

  • Independence. Young children learn how to dress themselves, create positive social interactions with friends, and take turns sharing and playing together. This helps children become confident in doing things by themselves, helping them gain independence and a sense of pride in themselves. It helps give them the confidence they need to handle more tasks in their day to day lives by themselves!  

  • Language and motor skills. Through interacting with their peers, using play objects and creating dramatic scenes, children are developing their vocabulary and playing with their hands simultaneously. They are essentially learning about the world around them through new words, new objects, new stories, and putting them all together at once! It’s incredible what their little minds absorb and retain.  

  • Social skills and friendships. These types of play help social interactions in a way that more traditional and structured ways of learning cannot. They help children learn to share toys, ask for favours, and form a sense of community. Sharing items with other classmates is an important lesson when it comes to early childhood development, and there is no shortage of sharing lessons learned when it comes to learning through play.  

Two young girls play pretend with stickers on their face

Teach Dress Up Play

Teachers don’t need to be involved much in dramatic play, as its main purpose is to help children learn real life skills individually and without assistance. However, if you do want to utilize the opportunities when it comes to learning through play, here are some tips to help your students get the most out of their dramatic and dress up play.  

  • Ask questions. Asking the children questions about the roles they are playing, the activities they are doing and what scenario they have created. If they play seems repetitive and simple, encourage them with new ideas and suggestions. 

  • Observe. Watch the children and see what kinds of pretend play they are acting as. Are they imitating people in their personal life? Or characters they see in movies/television shows? Superhero’s? This a great way to learn about their interests and have an idea on what kind of things they are observing themselves, as it reflects in their play.  

  • Don’t overstay your welcome. Students rely on hands on learning and this needs to be facilitated to a degree on their own. Getting overly involved can slow down this process and hinder their creativity. Learn the boundaries when it comes to play, and when to let the imagination take flight by themselves! 

  • Make sure no student gets left behind. Students who may have social anxiety or feel uncomfortable about playing with other students might be hesitant to put themselves out there. If you see a child by themselves, help integrate them by inviting them to play along. Students can be sensitive to new groups of classmates or may be feeling anxious in their abilities. Help assure them they are welcomed and an important part of the group. Sometimes, they just need a little push to help them warm up to their environment! 

  • Allow them to express different gender roles. Dress up and pretend play is often about focusing on children finding a sense of identity, so it is very common for them to play pretend with different roles, both masculine and feminine. They are discovering who they are, so encourage and allow that expression instead of enforcing specific gender roles on them.  

  • Remember, there are no rules in dramatic play. Dramatic and dress up play is a place for kids to interact with each other, their own world and identity, and this may look differently than what you expected or anticipated. Unless they are being harmful or obscene to one another, allow them to play however they would like – even if it doesn’t make sense or follow a specific idea of what you had in mind. Let their imagination run wild! 

Young girl plays dress up with pink crown

Play Area Set-Up

Dress up and dramatic play is an important part of development, as it helps children develop crucial life skills like language, creativity, independence and motor skills. Setting your classroom up for success may seem like a challenge, but with the right storage spaces, the right play area and the right accessories to accentuate dress up and dramatic play, children will have a blast playing amongst their peers and creating new scenarios in no time! 

Some suggestions would be the Rotating Dress Up Storage that features mirrors and compartments to put away their various dress up items and objects. The mirrors are great for dress up play so children can see exactly what kind of character look they have put together! The Multipurpose Storage Combination is another great option that features 20 mobile trays to store all your smaller dramatic and dress up play items. These kinds of storage compartments make it easy for children to grab what they would like to use and remember where they found it, so they can return it when they are finished using it.      

Children need an open play space that enables them to grow and learn. It should be safe, open, and can be organized. Helping children clean up after play is a great way to instill responsibility and ensure they don’t lose their favourite dress up and dramatic play items. So, you now know the benefits and reasons as to why pretend and dramatic play is a key role in early development, but you still aren’t sure how to plan and execute your space into the perfect setting to let little imaginations run wild. Take into consideration the age and interests of your students, the dimensions of your space, and how you plan on organizing your play items. Here are some simple steps to help create your dream play space: 

  • Step 1: Brainstorm what type of dramatic play area you want to have, with the pace you already have. Think of a theme or cohesive layout you anticipate the children using. An example of an ideal play space is a kitchen themed play area. It is a very popular idea for children, as it is versatile and has many different creative scenarios that can be used for dramatic play. Another fun spot for dramatic play could include a laundry centre. Kids love to mimic what they see in the real world and in their personal lives at home!  

  • Step 2: Plan the larger items, such as furniture and seating arrangements. Make sure the space is right for the appropriate age group. If you are teaching to young students such as kindergarten to grade 2, you need to create a space that is accessible to reach and play, filled with items that would peak their interests. Making this space easy for them to use, filled with age-appropriate toys, and setting a scene that allows dramatic play to flourish! 
  • Step 3: Adding small additional items and accessories such as play fooddolls, and kitchen supplies to help make this dramatic play area complete! Think about what kind of items would best fit with the theme of your play area, and how children could incorporate them with their dress up and dramatic play. You can never have too many items to encourage learning through play!  

Dramatic Play Accessories

  • Role Play Set can be a fun way for kids to engage in pretend play. It is creative and a fun way to get children involved in imaginary play. Watch children act out scenes as different titles such as doctor, fireman, scientist, and astronaut. This type of dress up play encourages children to dream big and learn more about their world! 

  • Dress-Up Tutu’s are a great tool for dramatic play. Children often use them in different ways than they are intended for, improving their creative skills and keeping them thinking outside the box. Children love to imitate ballerinas and other various styles of dance, encouraging them to be active!  

  • Action Hats are a go-to for dramatic play, as they are quick, simple and can be used for all kids and all types of play! 

  • Capes are an easy, functionable item to have with dress up play. Children can use capes and turn them into anything, to fit any story or play scenario. Children are fascinated by pretend magicians and magic shows! 

  •  A chef costume is a must-have for kitchen dramatic play! Children love to pretend they are creating their own bakery and restaurant scene, interacting with customers and pretend cooking.  

  • Play food is a perfect addition to dramatic play, especially for a kitchen set up. The fresh picked fruit and veggie tote is also a fun tool, with an assortment of seventeen colourful fruits and vegetables to choose from. Perfect for pretend play cooking and baking! 

  • Dolls are a fun toy for children to play with and are very popular. Children imitate being a parental figure with the doll and participate in things such as pretending to feed the doll, cradle it and change its clothing. It helps teach empathy and responsibility!  

Young child plays pretend with doll

Learning through play is a unique experience for every individual child and student, and each play scenario and storyline are different, which is what makes it so magical. It is so important to give students time to explore these types of play not only as it helps them in so many aspects of their life, but it also helps to create an inclusive community with bright and creative thinkers and provides children with an exciting and fun time in the classroom they get to look forward to. Dress up and dramatic play is one of the best tools for learning because children never get bored, and the opportunities are endless.    

How to Choose the Seat that’s Just Right

This one is too small; this one is too big – so how do you find the seating that’s just right?  

For little ones and grownups alike, uncomfortable seating can be unfortunate, especially when you need to sit for prolonged periods of time. It is important to find that spot that’s just right – the right amount of wiggle room, the perfect height, and the best position for learning. 

So, how do I find the perfect match when it comes to seating

Let’s talk about the basics! 

What seat height is a good match? It depends heavily on the height, weight, and age of the child, but what is equally important is the height of the table. It is also important to keep in mind smaller children like toddlers require less room than older children. We recommend leaving 7-8” of room between the seat height and the table height. We have a chart that is featured below for reference! 

What kind of chair options will work best for me? The ideal look and comfort level are preferences that differ for everyone! Wood chairs and plastic chairs are both great options that feature easy to clean material. Warranty is something to investigate as well, as a 5 to 10-year warranty can provide ease and comfort when your furniture being used by energetic little ones! 

How do I make sure the seat is a comfortable fit? We recommend that the child’s legs can sit comfortably at a 90-degree angle. If stuck between too similar sizes, it is always best to size up to allow for growing room! 

Popular Options: 

Firstly, the Berries by Jonti-Craft are a great option. They are easy to stack, easy to clean and feature chrome or painted legs that look stylish and functionable. They also have tables available to complement each seat height, so they perfectly match. Coming fully assembled, they are an easy, practical, and cute option for childcare centres. These chairs also come in multiple seat height available, from 10”, 12”, 14”, 16” and 18”. Bonus points: Jonti Craft also carries them in seven colours, including navy, red, key lime green, coastal blue, camel, blue and green.  

Jonti- Craft also carries in a wooden highchair version called Charries! These are super convenient for lunch time, featuring BPA- free plastic trays to prevent spilling! they are super easy to clean and made from stain resistant materials. They also come with easy adjustable seat belts, perfect for fast growing little ones!  

Another popular option includes the Value Stack Chair. Simple, durable, and light, featuring fun and bright colours, they are sure to brighten up any room. They are easy to stack and feature protective bottom legs that help prevent sliding and reduce noise, which makes it perfect for larger groups of kids. With five stylish colours to choose from – red, blue, green, cocoa and beige, you are sure to find the right match for your centre! Seat heights are available in 5”, 7”, 9”, 11”, and 13”. 

Finally, we have the classic Classroom Chair. These chairs are very popular and essentially a staple in classrooms everywhere. With different colours but an oh-so recognizable design, these stacking chairs are superior in quality and durability. The chair’s frame and legs are made of heavy gauge steel, and the legs are tapered and have swivel guides with nylon bases to offer protection for the floors. They are also featured in multiple different colours; purple, red, blueberry, forest green, navy, and chocolate, and heights in 10”, 12”, 14”, 16” and 18”. 

Shopping for new chairs is exciting, but we know changing up your centre can be very time consuming and overwhelming at times. We hope this has helped to guide you in the right direction and gave you a better idea of what to look for when shopping for chairs. Stay tuned for more informative tips and blog posts!