I’ve spent quite a few years studying preschool classroom design ideas. 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.
This is a blog hop! Make sure to scroll all the way down to see classrooms from 6 other early childhood educators, too!
When our children arrive, we have a little “welcome” table. We like to display something on the table or above the table that symbolizes what we will be exploring that day or week. Our 3 year olds can find their name on a sign-in sheet and draw a line from left to right, or actually write their name. The small lamp creates a homey environment. This lamp was purchased at a thrift store with a red shade, so we switched it with a neutral brown shade.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
We replaced plastic containers with wicker to hold toys and materials. We are always looking at design and texture when choosing and displaying pieces.
Because our classroom is small, we rely on doubling up space. Our science display, for example, is on top of the block shelf. This saves on space and works well!
Here is another science display. I love how it’s under a long window that gets morning sunshine.
Across from the block area is our dramatic play center. We removed the big plastic kitchen (it’s now outside) and replaced it with a wood stove and sink (not pictured). The only plastic piece left is the pink and white high chair. Like I said, it’s a process, so not everything can be changed all at once.
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.
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.
Light and reflection is another feature you will see in Reggio-influenced environments. The light dances off these small mirrors and crystals!
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.
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!
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
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