Ideas from Our Community on Making Your Classroom Comfortable

We asked you how you make your classroom environment feel inviting and your suggestions were inspirational. Cozy, comfortable and inviting seemed to be the most important concept to our community. Shauna made a very valid point: “I want my room to make myself and students feel like home because of how much time we spend there“.

While styles and recommendations varied, a cozy feeling remained top. So how can we create a cozy environment? Here are some of your recommendations:

Soft, cozy seating

Use carpets, soft seating and pillows to make classrooms feel more like a home. Sharon mentioned “Soft and comfortable furnishings“.

Display children’s work
Whether it is a piece of art or a lego construction, displaying our learner’s work helps them to realize we appreciate the effort they have put into their learning experience.


Using children’s names 
Karen labels “cubbies with the name of each student to hang their coats and backpacks“. Adding names to cubbies, hooks or even learning spaces helps children feel part of their learning community.


Natural materials
The belief is the more children interact with natural materials the more they tend to be drawn to and appreciate our natural world. Therefore, for many educators, incorporating the natural world into our classrooms of a high priority.

Bright colours
Colours in the classrooms are very much a personal preference of the educator in the space. Some prefer natural and others prefer bright colours. At Quality Classrooms we recognize both have their place and try to meet the needs of each educator, just as you try to meet the needs of each child you work with.


Books
All different book genres need to be in the classrooms to meet the preferences of our students. Displaying them in a reader-friendly way may make books more inviting. Just spines showing can be intimidating so a combination of display methods will appeal to more readers. Debra enjoys “putting up a big reading tree bulletin board in my library” to encourage book sharing while Cindy mentioned “a comfy corner for reading“.


Photos of children 
Displaying photos helps to ensure children feel they have an important place in the classroom. Including family photos can also help children feel more at home.


Alternative Seating
Alternative (or flexible) seating is here to stay as more educators recognize the importance of student choice and individualized learning. We now have many options available to give our students to best learning spot for them.


Other Ideas

Pamela mentioned the importance of making the entrance area welcoming: ” We try to make our entrance area inviting with a board of staff photos and names, a photo frame of kids at play, and a chalkboard where we write quotes or phrases“.

Important ideas also mentioned by our community include: a growth chart, personal touches, open-ended and quiet activities for everyone, flowers and plants (real or fake), welcome sign, photos of staff, Tanya mentioned: “I love having plants in the classroom for a cozy touch“.

Thank you to our wonderful Quality Classrooms Community for sharing their knowledgeable and inspirational ideas!

3 Ideas for your Block Play Area

Unit blocks are an important staple in most early learning rooms. They are invaluable for supporting every area of the curriculum.

Here are 3 ideas to extend and complement your block play area:

Windows & Doors are an exciting new option to add detail to house structures. An ideal addition to a structure, windows and doors are a fun challenge to build with, as children learn how to make space for their window or door and continue to build for strength.

The five piece set includes 4 windows and 1 door and is available as a single set or double. They are scaled for use with standard unit blocks and recommended ages are 3+. The window and door panels are permanently attached.

Rainbow Blocks are an adventure in colour and light. Indulge children’s appetite for exploration by combining blocks to form new colours, or stack the blocks in a different order each time to form new and exciting shapes.

These Rainbow Blocks are standard unit block measurements and include 8 squares, 4 1/2 circles, 2 large triangles, 6 small triangles and 10 rectangles. The rectangle measures 7cm x 3.5cm x 14cm (2-3/4″ x 1-3/8″ x 5-1/2″). and recommended ages are 2+.

Organize your unit blocks easily with this storage unit designed just for that. The Block Shelf divides blocks according to size and shape. We often forget that choosing the correct block for its purpose and then sorting and returning blocks to their home spot, is an important part of the learning process. Having a permanent home for each type of block in your Unit Block Set makes this process much easier.

The Block Shelf accommodates a 150 piece block set and comes fully assembled with a 15 year warranty.

Happy Block Playing!

Top 5 Manipulatives for Infant and Toddlers

Manipulatives are designed to build strength in infants and toddlers, whether that be hand eye coordination, memory, leg or core strength. Here are our 5 most popular manipulatives for infants and toddlers:

Oballs

The fun and flexible Oball is incredibly easy to grasp and safe to throw. The bright colours and smooth feel are captivating for little hands, while the virtually indestructible design withstands tougher toddler play. Perfect for all ages, Oball is sure to be an instant favourite! The Oball with Rattles is the same classic Oball that everyone loves with four clear rattles filled with colourful beads. Both are available in assorted colours.

Toddler Tough Vehicles

Take to the air, tracks or road with these tough vehicles, including a race car, train, dump truck, airplane, fire truck and police car. This Toddler Tough Vehicles set features no pinch axles and wheels. The cute painted on faces make them even more appealing for little hands. 3″L x 2″W x 2-1/4″H. Ages 12 months+.

Egg Shakers

A classic, these brightly coloured egg shakers are enjoyable for children and adults alike. Sturdy and durable, these larger Egg Shakers (2-1/2″ tall) are suitable for infants and toddlers. They are available individually or in a set of 5. Let’s get music making!

Stack-Up Cups and Cubes

Unbreakable square cubes and round cups can be stacked or nested. An essential for exploring size relationships, Stack-Up Cups and Cubes are fun to stack, smash, build and bash. Their ability to build a large tower and alternatively nest together amazes infants and toddlers alike.  Full stack is 14″H. 18 piece set.

Animal Links

This set of super light interlocking Animal Links can be easily linked together to create a variety of fun chains or exciting three dimensional structures.18 large easy to manipulate pieces made in 3 animal shapes in 6 bright colours, ages 12M+. Stack the shapes, sort by colour and style, make a pattern. Washable and safe, they have been specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of smaller kids, and they don’t make any noise when they fall!

Check out the rest of our wonderful collection of Infant and Toddler manipulatives here.

Back to School Essentials

What we consider to be back to school essentials varies greatly depending on the individual teacher and what they are going to be teaching but some things are pretty universal.

A Good Pencil Sharpener

This is a must and stops the headache of permanently blunt and broken pencils. There are some different options but a quiet automatic pencil sharpener that works with six different pencils sizes is very appealing.

Dry Erase Boards for Students

Student dry erase boards are a wonderful way to check understanding, keep students focused and a useful planning tool. The new Dry Erase Answer Paddles are fun and a useful way to check students have grasped the main points of a discussion. Questioning during an introduction and allowing doodling can help keep students focused on what they are learning. They are also a good way to plan writing and some students like the flexibility of being able to erase quickly and redraft.  If you prefer a larger writing surface for students these 2-sided Alphabet Write ‘N Wipe Boards are lightweight and of great value. The other side is blank and so ideal for drawing and free writing.

Post-it Notes

Essential to have in any classroom post-it notes are great for labelling your photocopies and annotating student work. They are also a great way to get students’ input quickly and make a clear visual sharing poster.

Book organization

Some teachers like students to have their own books at an easily accessible place, such as a magazine/book holder for each student, other teachers prefer to keep the same books together in a container. My favourite storage containers are Gratnell Trays. They last a lifetime, won’t let you down mid carry and come in different depths depending on your needs.

Alternative Seating Options

I have discussed this in the past and am excited to see so many classrooms embracing alternative seating options for their students. The Tilo Motion Stool is a great option for any classroom and comes in different heights and colours.

Marking helpers

To make marking more appealing, I use stickers and fancy pens. I choose pens in different colours, (sometimes glittery or smelly) and use stickers to encourage a dialogue between teacher and student. I find if the writing is bright students are more likely to read comments and suggestions and work towards improvement.

Whiteboard Pen Selection and Organization

Lots of whiteboard markers are essential in my classroom. I tend to walk around with them in my hand and put them in my pocket so a good sized collection is a must. A Magnetic Storage Box help to keep a few staples like markers and pointers handy and clear for sub teachers who come into your room.

Basic Supplies

I like to have a teacher collection of pencils, pens, erasers, colouring pencils and markers for those students who are unable to bring supplies or whose supplies are dollar-store quality and quickly disintegrate. My favourite pencil is the Tri-Write Comfort Pencil and name of the pencil reveals why. Pens and erases I am not too fussy about although cheap erasers can destroy a page pretty quickly! The variety in colouring pencils is huge. Having basic supplies makes life easier and arguments less, hopefully.

Whether you are shopping for your class or your children, good luck with your back to school shopping. May you find all you need and enjoy organizing!

Tempera Paint Sticks Review

As a big fan of paint, I was not sure how to react to a mess free alternative to the paintbrush and liquid paint. Tempera paint blocks or cakes, you know the ones:

They are still popular in classrooms and centers but I find they don’t give great coverage. Sometimes students are frustrated by the wateriness of the paint. Learning to apply paint from a tempera cake, without ripping your paper with too much water can be a challenge! However, they have a time and place and are great to pull out quickly, with minimal cleanup.

Liquid tempera, you know the type:

It is great for coverage but can be messy to apply and clean up!

As a fan of the process rather than the product, my initial reaction to Tempera Paint Sticks was the hope that they would not replace the process of painting, which I believe all children need to explore, learn and enjoy.

I am a huge fan of oil pastels and wondered if they would be similar.

Turns out they are even more awesome! They are smooth to apply as they glide over the paper and yet they look like a glue stick. They dry almost instantly with full coverage. Check it out:

My daughter’s reactions were funny. Daisy said “Oh these are cool, they are kinda like a crayon and kinda like an oil pastel.” and “they go on really easy”.

Rose said “awesome” and “can we use them later?” when I told her to get ready for the bus.

They were both engrossed in their art.

They are so easy to apply, drawing is a natural reaction to using these paint sticks, as you can see from the photos.

We applied liquid watercolour paint on top of the tempera paint sticks and it stayed put. Not bad for newsprint paper!

The paint dries almost instantly so artwork can be taken home the same day.

Let’s face it there are times when you want great colour impact but don’t have time to pull out the paints. These tempera paint sticks give the colour impact without the mess of paint or the smudging of oil pastel. What more can I say?

All About Me Activity Cards in Action

I have used All About Me Family Counters for a few years. They are the go-to, grab and go activity as all three of my children now play with them, in different ways.

Here you can see how we have played with them in the past: Fun with Family Counters.

I did have a male ECE correct my stereotyping as I displayed them with the baby on the Mama’s hip and have successfully balanced the baby on the Papa’s hip also!

These counters are the perfect size for dramatic play/restaurant waiting/older sibling activity waiting, and of course for their original design: math concept teaching!

Here you can see the All About Me Family Counters in use with the NEW All About Me Activity Cards in my classroom.

The students are watching a demonstration of how to continue a sequence, such as the purple, blue, purple, blue, you can see in the bottom left of the photo. They are also reinforcing characteristic descriptions such as “smaller”, “boy”, colours and patterning.

Adding: person and cat style! Our next step is to use the formal written number which some of these students are still learning (we were reinforcing the subtraction with finger counting here!).

The structure of these cards allows for group work and discussion as we did here but also for independent and gradual skill building. They are an awesome addition to the math resource collection.

Here is the low down on the All About Me Activity Cards:

Help children learn essential early math skills while learning about themselves and the world around them with 20 double-sided, write & wipe Activity Cards. Illustrations on these full-colour Activity Cards match the actual size of the All About Me Family Counters (202090) and are perfect for developing patterning, early addition and subtraction, and sorting skills. Includes over 40 activities and a guide. PreK+. Ages 5+.