What are your New Year’s Resolutions? 

Someone asked me: “What are your new year’s resolutions?”. I panicked for a moment, and answered: “I don’t know…be healthy, go to the gym, eat more vegetables, save money?” I’ve been setting new year’s resolutions since ’06 and for most of them, I’d forget by February (sometimes even sooner). But hey, I tried! I wrote the goals down on a piece of paper and stuck them on the door of my room. I recorded myself reciting the goals and listened to the recordings daily. They just didn’t stick in my mind! It took me so long to make new year’s resolutions and actually complete everything on the list. I’ve learned a lot from trial & error and now know to set realistic goals and finish them. How about you? As educators, accomplishing your goals can make huge improvements on the development of the young ones. It also inspires students to have innovative mindsets and improve themselves. Below are 10 great new year’s resolutions for teachers, hope they can provide you with inspiration to start off the year right! 

Goal 1: A Positive Learning Environment 

Talk about starting off the year right! Learning is an emotional process, and we feel different emotions when we’re in the classroom – excited to share our ideas, embarrassed when we’re wrong, and upset when we’re discouraged.  A positive learning environment is where students feel accepted, seen, and valued for their opinions. It motivates students to learn, explore and learn to be respectful to others. You can make the classrooms a positive place by using positive language/affirmations in your daily teachings, reinforcing positive actions by rewarding students who exhibit good behaviours, and most importantly, being a positive role model for children to follow. Remember, there is always a positive way to respond to a situation! 

Good Behaviour Buckets

Goal 2: Refresh the Classroom 

You know what they always say: “New year, new me.” Cliché? Yes, but it’s true. Renewing the classroom is necessary to make you comfortable, increase your efficiency and boost your productivity. It also keeps students excited to see the classroom cleaned and renewed. Replace any old or broken classroom tools with new ones, organize the storage unit, get rid of any excess files or papers on your desk, and get new classroom gadgets too! Alternative seating options are some great additions to the classroom: Bouncyband for Desks, which enable kids to have an outlet for excess energy while working, alleviating anxiety, hyperactivity, and boredom, and increasing focus and performance. Bouncyband Fidget Foot Roller, which includes a roller for kids to be active while sitting, silently releases excess energy, alleviates anxiety, and increases focus.    

BouncyBand Fidget Foot Roller

Goal 3: Take Risks! 

Taking risks in the classroom is exciting and thrilling at the same time, as your decision will affect the learning process of the students. However, it brings tremendous benefits. Taking risks helps educators overcome their own fears and create innovative solutions in their classrooms. Inspiring students to take risks will help them to raise their self-esteem, think more creatively and even when risk-taking fails, they learn to become more resilient.  And risk-taking doesn’t have to be something grand like building a rocket. Like most great things, it starts with small steps. Starting a project over from scratch when plans don’t work out, having students learn to trust their classmates during group activities, encouraging and appreciating students who have forward, innovative thinking are some of the small risk-taking decisions you can make in the new year. Here’s another cliché (but true!) quote: “The biggest risk of all is not taking one!” 

Goal 4: Read more books!  

The joy of reading. Need I say more? Reading gives children a deep understanding of the world and receives background knowledge. It helps them make sense of what they see, and hear, which aids their cognitive development. Reading at an early age not only allow children to have better vocabulary and learn to express themselves, but it also helps children to be more empathetic, as books usually portray various characters with different perspectives. Share with students about your reading experiences: what you’ve been reading and what you’ve learned from the books.  Set up book clubs, reading groups and encourage them to socialize around reading. Sometimes, it just takes one good book for students to fall in love with reading, so recommend them a good one to read! Inuit Stories Series, and Opposite Series are some cool examples. Check out the Books too! 

Inuit Stories Series

Goal 5: Be Present for Students’ Emotional Needs 

Today, the duties and responsibilities of teachers go beyond what is described in the job description. Not only do educators have to meet academic standards, prepare for assessments, and other administrative requirements, teachers must acknowledge and address students’ emotional needs. Many students who misbehave or act differently might have unknown problems. Daily situations like arguments or asking for help might seem simple to adults, but for young minds who are not developed, learning to deal with them can be difficult. Introduce children to social-emotional learning (SEL), which aims to foster social and emotional skills. Emotion-oes Domino Game, Social Scenario Activities are both fun and educational games for children to learn how to identify and manage their emotions. Let students know that their mental health is important, offer activities to do in class that are stress-reducing such as listening to calm music, and encourage kids to be more open and talk about their problems. Yoga is often mentioned as one of the most effective tools for stress management and mindfulness, so start implementing short yoga sessions in class could be a good idea! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Activity Set includes beautifully illustrated and simply written yoga cards that will develop breathing, balancing, focusing, calming, and more.  

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Activity Set

Goal 6: A Multicultural and Inclusive Classroom 

Diversity is becoming an increasingly important topic in current times and will continue to be the main theme in our children’s development. Understanding these topics helps the kids to admire the difference in individuals, treat everyone with respect, make the classroom more inclusive, and build the necessary skill to communicate/work with different people in the future. Teaching children about diversity can start with letting kids know/explore unfamiliar cultures. Around The World Set includes 48 beautiful pieces that replicate iconic landmarks of the world such as Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza. Hello World! Floor Puzzle includes pictures of multicultural children dressing in traditional clothing and greetings from various languages in the world. 

Hello World! Floor Puzzle

Goal 7: It’s About Learning, Not Grades 

“How do I get an A?”, “When is it due?”, “Is this chapter on the test?”. As teachers, these questions can make you upset, knowing that students care about grades rather than what they learn from the lesson. Educators want the best for their students, which is giving them useful knowledge, and inspiration to learn more. Hence, emphasizing learning over grades is important because it encourages students to be more active in what they want to learn, to control their personal educational process and goal-setting. Start using a different language in the classroom that highlights the learning process of the student rather than emphasizing the grade. When talking to the parents, talk about the student’s improvement in certain areas, instead of how low/high the grade is. Provide feedback on skills like creativity, effort, collaboration and use rubrics with simple, observable skills to allow students more room to be creative! 

Goal 8: Flexible Classrooms 

A flexible classroom is a space that provides students with various choices to choose how they learn, how they apply the knowledge, and how they work with others. Flexible learning environments are becoming a priority in schools because it improves learning outcome and increases teachers’ effectiveness. You can make your classroom more flexible first by reorganizing the classroom’s furniture so that there is more space for movement. Dividing the classroom into learning zones, and including boards, or writing surfaces so students can express their ideas down. Aktivity Adjustable Marker Board Table is great for students to share their ideas, and effectively promote creativity and mental engagement. A Flexible learning environment also includes a wide variety of seating options. Innovate seating gives students the freedom to where and how they want to learn. Wiggle Stool allows students to… wiggle, with an extra-thick padded seat that allows for comfortable all-day use. ErgoErgo has a bold contemporary design, so children are active while sitting. After students sit on an ErgoErgo, they won’t go back to ordinary chairs!



Goal 9: Be More Active in the Classroom 

Schoolwork can be tiresome for the young ones. They want to explore, do fun stuff, and be active. Being active in the classroom improves students’ concentration, reducing behaviour such as fidgeting. Sometimes recess is not enough, not to mention in this weather, students can’t even get outside! Teachers have to get creative and give them more options to be active in the classroom. A few solutions to be active in the classroom were mentioned above – yoga, and cool seatings. Loose Parts and Arts & Crafts are great options to get the tiny hands active after hours of sitting and writing. Teachers can also make the classroom livelier by allowing more opportunities for group work and collaboration. Let students talk, and share ideas with friends.  Come up with activities to get them to move around, and encourage friendly competition with games, and quizzes. Math Marks The Spot Game, Spelligator are fun games that encourage friendly competition and keep young minds active. Don’t forget to check out the Active Play options! Spring will be coming in no time! 


Goal 10: Give Yourself a Medal 

Children are our future – and you are positively shaping the future by taking care of them and inspiring them to develop valuable virtues such as the love for knowledge, and kindness. You’ve worked tirelessly to create a positive learning environment, and you always go the extra mile to help students make progress. In a profession where it’s required to be continuously creative, positive, inspiring, and patient, you deserve a medal every day for going to work. Take care of yourself, drink enough water, eat healthy food, exercise, and most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. 

In Conclusion:

A good new year resolution doesn’t have to be a “great” achievement. It should be something that you enjoy doing, bring long term benefit, and of course – include a considerable amount of challenge. You should feel inspired working towards your new year resolution. Your journey to change might be rocky and full of obstacles, but like they always say, “You have to get through the rain if you’re ever going to see a rainbow”. Cliché? Yes, but it’s true! 

Hope you find your New Year’s Resolutions. 

Diversity and Equality: From the Classroom to the World 

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

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

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

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

I. Holiday – Every day!  

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

II. Fun, spontaneous ideas.

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

III. Equality – Start from the classroom first. 

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

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

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

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

Costume Storage

Tickle trunk or costume closet? How do you manage your costume collection?

Ever since Mr. Dressup, I have wanted my own tickle trunk. The red flower covered trunk was a magical thing, full of fun, launching on adventure after adventure.

So naturally, when I had children of my own I began collecting costumes.  Not just store bought but collected clothes. Pirates, cowboys, and dragons along with random hats, capes and belts were slowly added to our ever-growing pile. So what to do with it?

When it comes to dress ups, there are a few standard options each with their own benefits and limits. Let’s discuss some options.

Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk, at the CBC Museum in Toronto. Photo by JeremyW.

Tickle Trunks

The simplest go to is the trunk. Whether you use old suitcases that slide under a bed, a storage basket, or a box – any container can hold your costumes.  While cleanup can be as fast as jamming everything in until you can close the lid, the downside is the difficulty of searching through the piles.

Coat Racks and Hooks

If your collection is small, or if there are some daily favourites a coat rack or clothing tree can be a great option. They don’t take much space, are cost-effective, can be used almost anywhere.  Having the options visible can encourage children to dive into creative play, and when the play is done clean up is pretty easy. Of course, unless you line your rooms with hooks or create a cloakroom of coat trees, they have their limits as to how many costumes they can hold.

Dress Up Centres

If you need more space a dress-up centre can be a great solution. These purpose-built systems have a combination of hanging storage and open shelving for smaller items, as well as a mirror, to see how awesome you look!

The space-saving Rotating Dress Up Storage has 2 oval mirrors and 5 storage compartments, making it great for accessories and finishing touches but not full-length costumes.

The Toddler Dress Up Island and the slightly larger Dress Up Centre feature a hanging rail or hook area for long costumes, as well as shelves for accessories and space for shoes or boots. These systems are a great option for medium-sized collections and have the same benefit of being able to see the play clothes.

Costume Closets

The largest of the options is a full Dress Up Cupboard.  Similar to a wardrobe these are great options for larger collections and spaces where seeing the costumes would be a distraction like in shared spaces. Larger than the dress-up centres, these can be a beautiful furniture addition to a room, while containing all the costumes it can hold. With a shatterproof mirror on the inside of the doors and hooks inside this closet, it has an additional low shelf to hold your variety of costume pieces.

Ryan Roth Bartel is a father of 2 boys (elementary and pre-kindergarten).

The Benefits of Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is an important part of learning to empathize. As a child steps into another person’s shoes they are fitting into a different role.  As we all know, how they take on that role can be very entertaining. Acting as a parent, they can scold their children, organize chores and cook energetically.

In doing so they are recognizing the important job parents have.

As a construction worker they hammer in nails, saw wood and jackhammer concrete, all physical jobs appropriate to the role.

In pretending to be different people or jumping into imaginary situations, children are able to explore their knowledge and understanding of roles in a safe way. The benefits of this fun play are numerous and include:


To take on another role, children need to think from a different perspective. In doing this they begin to understand what it means to empathize.

Social skills

To play in a group and develop a dramatic play scenario, children need to work together. Asking questions, communicating and sharing are all part of the dramatic play experience.

Problem solving

Setting a problem such as how to organize a doctor’s office or deciding who should be the patient are typical problems children may encounter while engaging in dramatic play. Working out the problem and then finding a solution are essential skills which dramatic play helps to develop.

Conflict Resolution

As children play in a dramatic scenario, they can use their developing conflict resolution skills. Children can often feel more confident practicing these skills in an imaginary role than as themselves. Compromises can sometimes be reached more readily as children are already thinking outside their own experiences.

Dramatic Play is a wonderful opportunity to develop many essential skills. As educators all we have to do is provide the tools, sit back and enjoy watching learning happen naturally and maybe join in the play occasionally!

Healthy Living

With the New Year fast approaching our focus tends to shift from the indulgent to discipline. It seems hard to imagine right now as baking and feasting is in full effect in the holiday season. The new year, resolutions and a promise to eat and exercise better hits many of us. Our emotional wellness can also become a focus as some of us struggle with the long nights and shorter days. Taking advantage of this in the classroom seems appropriate as children may see their parents making an effort to live healthier.


Learning about types of foods, food groups and healthy eating provides children with the knowledge and understanding to begin making healthy choices.

The Deluxe Market Set includes one shopping basket and one bushel basket and 30 different types of freshly designed play food. Perfect for sorting and imaginative play, these foods are soft, rounded and easy for little ones to grasp.

All 4 groups are represented in this set of Food Groups. The 20 solid wood play food pieces are easy to sort and store in 4 handy wooden storage crates.

The pictures of vegetables in this Vegetables Puzzle are so lifelike they will encourage children to eat their fruits and vegetables every day!

This set of Growing Up Green Healthy Eating Fruit Puzzles can stimulate conversation about favourite fruits and features real photographs of essential food products. The warm climates pictured in the images are also a welcome sight during our winter months!


January weather can force us indoors so some options for fun gym time are great to have on hand.

With an easy turning steering wheel, Go Wheelie encourages active and imaginative play while reinforcing gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It makes a fun clicking noise as children drive to their destination and is a popular choice in any centre.

Stations are easy to set up with these Action Exercise Cards. Tilt the cards from side to side to see the exercise moves play out like a video screen. Use these fun cards to teach and reinforce popular exercise moves such as burpees, crunches, sit-ups,  and push-ups.


Encouraging children to identify and then control their emotions is an essential job of any educator.

This new set of Expressions Babies is so soft and appealing. The removable sleep sacks are easy for little fingers to manipulate and the facial expressions are easily recognizable.

This set consists of 24 wooden tiles with 12 different emotions. My Mood Memo encourages children to match emotions using memory skills.

For older children, the game of Tell Tale is a fun way to develop the art of storytelling. Players are guided through their own unique tale with cards illustrated with a variety of characters, settings, objects and emotions. With 4 ways to play, the creative storytelling options are endless.

Roadway System Review

I love to look through toy catalogues and create wish lists but I know I have neither the storage space nor the funds for all the items I find interesting.  Honestly, being budget conscious, many items get added to my ‘make this’ list instead of my ‘buy this’ list.  The Roadway System was one of those items I planned to make instead of buy – I even went to the lumber store to price out the supplies.  However, once I factored in the time it would take to cut, sand and paint all the pieces, I decided it would have to go on the ‘buy – someday when you have more money’ list.  So, when I was offered the opportunity to receive a product in exchange for writing a blog post about it I knew I had to include the Roadway System on the list of items I’d like to try.

My current group of five boys range in age from 22 months to 4 ½ years old.  They tend to get very excited and sometimes reckless so toy durability and safety are equally as important as play value. When I first unpacked the Roadway System I was very impressed by the quality and the size of the pieces – I would never have been able to make ones as nice as these. Often when I buy construction type toys I buy multiple sets in order to ensure there are enough pieces for all the children to use so I was a little concerned that ’42’ roadway pieces may not be enough but to date the boys have never run out of pieces for any project.

The pieces are easy to put together and take apart.  Even the youngest boy in the group needed no assistance;

There was a little frustration at first because several of the pieces (as seen in the photo above) have one connection point with tabs and two connection points with spaces resulting in many more spaces than tabs.  The boys have since decided that when they leave these spaces lined up with a straight edge or another piece with spaces it creates ‘potholes’ in the road – bringing real life experience into play.

I really like that the pieces are thin enough that the children can walk across the roads without tripping and yet strong enough that they will not bend or break.  Standing on toys is usually discouraged but for these it is OK;

They boys did also complain that they couldn’t make a circle road – they kept choosing some pieces that curved one direction and at least one that curved the ‘wrong’ way and wouldn’t work unless it was upside down. I wouldn’t show them how to do it but I did encourage them to take a closer look at the eight curves and sort them into groups.  Eventually they figured it out and made TWO circles.

I found it quite amusing that the boys use the crosswalk sections of roadway as ‘jail’. Any cars caught speeding are escorted there by the police car and must stay on the ‘bars’ until they are permitted to drive again. We’ve been working on getting all the cars to drive on the right side of the road so there are fewer collisions between vehicles driving in opposite directions.  This may however just be my point of view – I think sometimes the collisions are actually their intended outcome.

We’ve been spending the majority of our playtime outdoors but since I first introduced this roadway system it has been their favourite indoor toy.  For weeks now, with the exception of a few trips to the housekeeping area to make food for the hungry drivers, they have played exclusively with the roadway when they are in the playroom.  They have become expert roadway designers;

I love the little ‘parking lots’ they add.  Note all those ‘extra’ pieces still in the bin and no one is complaining that they ran out of pieces.  With most of the other construction toys the boys become quite competitive – trying to build structures that are bigger/better than what the other boys are building.  With the roadway there are some racing competitions but the construction is always cooperative.  Making this MY favourite building set too.

Cheryl is an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).