How to Set Up a Preschool Classroom

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Are you a new teacher who is wondering how to set up a preschool classroom? Or have you been in your setting for awhile and want to make some changes?

Six other early childhood educators and myself joined together in a classroom blog hop. We each put together a virtual tour of our environments. Scroll down to get the links to each tour!

How to set up a preschool classroom.

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I’ve had the privilege of touring several Reggio Emilia-inspired programs and fell in love with their attention to natural materials and lighting.

My co-teacher and I decided over a year ago to slowly transform our small classroom so that it contained more natural materials, earth tones, and warmth. We found some child-sized wood furniture and eventually got rid of most of the plastic and bright colors. This was part of our first transformation. We started collecting pieces from thrift stores and got the word out to our preschool families who were ready to donate wood toys.

We started our 2013-2014 school year with quite a few new additions, such as new area rugs, baskets, and sheers on the windows. By spring of 2014, we felt pretty good about how our classroom had changed, as you can see in these spring pictures.

Then, over the summer of 2014, I learned about Fairy Dust Teaching. I, along with some other preschool bloggers, decided to enroll in one of Sally Haughley’s Learning Spaces e-courses. I realized there was much more to learn about creating a classroom environment! School started a few weeks ago, and I made more changes. Some small, some a bit larger. And I’m not finished. I look at it as a process.

I thought I’d share where my classroom is at now, and how it is working with our 2 and 3 year olds.

How to Set Up a Preschool Classroom

 

 

When our children arrive, they find their name sticks on their circle time stools and place them in the name chart’s envelope.

preschool classroom tour

(This picture was taken before the children decorated the stick.) This is a great visual for the children to see who is in class and who is absent.

preschool classroom tour

To the right of our room as you enter is our reading and writing area. I love this space, and so do the children. You can see how we used to have it more blocked off last year. After taking Sally’s e-course and seeing all the wonderful Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf classrooms, we decided to open this space up. It welcomes the children as soon as they arrive. What a difference this has made!

 

preschool classroom tour

We also got a new cubby system that looks much better. Our 3 year olds each have their own cubby inside the classroom to put away any of their “dry work” – anything that is not wet. They learn quickly how to identify their names so they can find their cubby. It’s placed conveniently beside the doorway so the children remember to empty them when they are picked up at the end of the day. They love taking their work home! (We also have cubbies for each student in our hallway, but these are more for parent-communication and larger pieces of artwork that first needed to dry.)

preschool classroom tour

The bookshelf holds our journals and our memory books. Last year we realized we had the perfect spot for our light table, tucked in a little nook which once held our storage carts. This cozy area offers a place for children who would like some quiet time. (Note: this photo was taken before all the memory book binders arrived. The parents provide and bring in the binders on the first day of school.)

preschool classroom tour

 

Our block area is our noisiest part of the classroom, so it is at the opposite end of the reading and writing area. We once had this center sectioned off by separating it from the dramatic play area, but last year we realized that the children preferred it more open. By pushing the shelf against the wall, this area invited children to enter with ease and create large structures with plenty of room.

preschool classroom tour

 

 

We replaced plastic containers with wicker to hold toys and materials. We are always looking at design and texture when choosing and displaying pieces.

preschool classroom design

We tucked a small round table between the block area and dramatic play for our science center. We used to have a science shelf, which we loved, but when this table was given to us, we were fortunate it fit.

preschool classroom tour -science

Across from the block area is our dramatic play center. We removed the big plastic kitchen and replaced it with a wood stove and sink (not pictured). We love our dress up cart that we purchased over a decade ago! We change out what we hang on the hooks, depending on the theme.

 

preschool classroom tour - dramatic play

We love the displays of natural materials, along with books. Books are on display all over the room, not just in the reading area. We also prefer to use the children’s art for our walls rather than commercial posters. The canvas watercolor art was made by our summer camp children.

preschool classroom tour

One of the many details we saw in the Reggio-inspired classrooms was the use of wire and 3 dimensional art. This is a simple mobile made by our students over 4 years ago who delighted in threading buttons. I adore it, and move it all over the room.

preschool classroom tour

We want everything displayed in the classroom as meaningful as possible for the children. This birthday wall is most special! At the beginning of the year the children paint a birthday crown and all the crowns are displayed in birthday order. When the day comes to celebrate a birthday, the crown is removed for the child to proudly wear and take home. I will then replace the crown with a picture of the child wearing the crown. This lets the children see who has had a birthday and who is still waiting. It is one of the best visuals, and I got the idea from one of the Reggio-influenced classrooms that we visited many years ago. (The photo below shows the crowns before they were painted by the children. We also add labels with their names and birth dates.)

preschool classroom tour

Our classroom is small but efficient. We have had so many people tell us it feels much larger than it really is. If you peek into the classroom while children are present, it doesn’t feel the least bit crowded. Everything is open, and yet you get a feel for what each space is for.  Since the children are allowed to be wherever they want during centers time, it’s important that each space is inviting and organized. Materials are neatly displayed and the children are shown how to use and put them away. We work on this at the beginning of the year and keep modeling it, each and every day.

 

 

Ready to see some more early childhood environments?

 

Over the past couple of months, I have gotten involved with a wonderful group of early childhood bloggers. Perhaps you recognize some (or all) of them? We decided to put together a classroom tour blog hop! Click on the links below to see how each educator put her own special touches on her environment!

 

Preschool Classroom Tour Blog Hop

 

Photo Credit

 

Classroom Tour Blog Hop Environments:

Katie at Preschool Inspirations
Jamie at Play to Learn Preschool
Darla at The Preschool Toolbox
Amy at Child Central Station
Mary Catherine at Fun-A-Day
Deborah at Teach Preschool

How to set up a preschool classroom.

 

 Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

 

 

About Sheryl Cooper

Sheryl Cooper is the founder of Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds, a website full of activities for toddlers and preschoolers. She has been teaching this age group for over 15 years and loves to share her passion with teachers, parents, grandparents, and anyone with young children in their lives.

Comments

  1. The Preschool Toolbox says:

    Sheryl – this is such a cozy and awesome learning environment! I adore your sign-in table and the lighting that you have put into your classroom! Our kids LOVE crystals – *note to self among other ideas here! Thank you so much for sharing your world with us! Wonderful classroom!

  2. I am LOVING your process and change….. I am thinking that I am seriously missing out by not having a tree in my classroom… (may need to put that on the list!) Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Amy! I love your environment, too! The tree honestly was a last minute idea (as are many of my ideas). A few days before school started, as I was standing in my classroom, I suddenly had a vision of a tree in that corner. It now has owls in it that were made by the 3 year olds. The tree was super was super easy to make!

  3. What a well thought out and loved space, Sheryl! I love seeing the transformation, and what a charming space. It’s so nice to read about the REA philosophy too. Thank you for showing us your beautiful classroom!

  4. Sheryl,
    Your classroom looks great! It is obvious a lot of time and love went into it. I love the hanging crystals and mirrors. Where can I find those? Thanks,
    Cindy

    • Thank you so much, Cindy! Unfortunately, I have no idea where the crystals were purchased. My former co-teacher found them at a garage sale! The one with the mirrors I found at a drug store in their garden department. You never know where these things will pop up!

  5. Dayna @ Lemon Lime Adventures says:

    Wow! You make me miss the physical classroom so much! Your room is amazing and so intentional. I love the detail, the attention to nature, the flow.. oh heck, I love all of it! Beautiful!

  6. Kate_Laughing Kids Learn says:

    What a beautiful space you have created for the children. I love even the small and simple changes you have made and described, like the baskets no longer being plastic. Lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Brilliant ideas

  8. logoped sofia says:

    Thank you very much for shareing those lovely and inspireing ideas

  9. Corinna Bryant says:

    Love it , just like me you give your environment many home touche, very welcoming and developmentally appropriate environment for young children. This is what makes children feel comfortable, a place just like home and, not too classroom like, many have put me down saying , “why do you decorate the class like this it’s not a home it’s a classroom”? I say it’s a home and a classroom , enough said!

  10. Nichole {youclevermonkey} says:

    Thanks for showing us around your classroom Sheryl. It’s been really interesting having a look at all the different spaces. I love your birthday display! We have way more students than this at preschool but my youngest classroom teacher did this at the start of the year and the kids were super excited to get their crown on their birthday. I’m a big fan of using books in unexpected places too 🙂

  11. I love your space. Looks very inviting. My question is how does the wood furniture stand up to the bleach cleaning that we need to do?? I would love to switch over to more natural wood furniture but worry that the bleaching will ruin it.

  12. Georgeann Forester says:

    Great class arrangement ideas! As a preschool teacher, I am always looking for new ideas for teaching and arranging to keep it fresh and fun. Couple of questions: where did you find your art cubbies? Also, what font did you use on the squares on the right side that read “Ideas for Toddlers, Ideas for Preschoolers” etc. That is an awesome font to go with teaching Mat Man/Handwriting without Tears!!! Thank you again for the wonderful ideas!

    • Hi Georgeann – the cubbies were passed down to us after being used by someone else as a mailbox system for their staff. We simple stood them upright and they work great! Unfortunately, I cannot recall what font I used. 🙁 So sorry!