Just How Cute Does the Classroom Need to Be?

It's beginning to look a lot like the start of the school year!  Stores are full of new backpacks, shoes, clothes, crayons, writing paper, and glue sticks.  Teachers are beginning to get that urge to buy every cute poster, picture, and bulletin board set in the school supply store. I know this, because you see I once was one of those "it has to be cute" teachers. My classroom looked like bears from the circus had exploded all over the room.  Now, I will admit that there are some really cute items out there. Who doesn't love Snoopy decorations or Pete the Cat?

In fact I once had a daycare provider tell me that parents told her they want three things from their child's center. One of them was,  you guessed it,  that it should look "cute".  The other two were it should "smell good" and the playground should be something akin to an amusement park. I will give you the "smells good" one for sure and the playground will come in another post. Let's talk about this idea of "being cute".

I have experienced a plethora of classroom decorations and I have come to the conclusion that the "less is more" display can be just as useful, entertaining, and purposeful as the one that appears to have suffered an explosion of some kind, be it bears, monkeys,  dogs, cats, whales, dolphins, horses, or kangaroos.

When children enter a classroom,  especially for the first time in their little lives,  it can be a very overwhelming experience. They don't know where to look or where to go.  It's hard for them to "tune in" to the adults in the room when there is soooooo much stuff to look at and all at once at that!

I once was asked to help a teacher discover new ways to engage the children, especially during circle times or story times.  When I entered the room I was inundated with "cute.".  Every square inch of the walls from floor to ceiling was covered with posters, charts, artwork, and believe it or not, even the ceiling was covered with draped fabric and objects of various kinds were hanging from the fabric. It was one of those "seriously?" moments for me but I have learned over the years that a lot of teachers really love their stuff and far be it from me to insult them or hurt their feelings.  In this case, I encouraged her to really consider which items were the most current and the most enjoyed by the children and consider removing everything else.  She agreed to give it a try.

I recommend an "intentional display." The purpose of displayed items should be to start conversations between children and teachers as well as encourage questions from children and provide those sought after  "teachable moments."  Selecting items with purpose isn't as hard as one would think.

For example,  at the first of the year,  a house cut out and a school cut out (poster board size) can be used for children's name tags. When they come in they move their tag from the house to the school. Within the first week, taking pictures of the individual children and posting them on their cubby as well as taking pictures as they make new friends and play will help children feel welcome.  A picture schedule using these same pictures is a very effective way to help children learn sequence and order. First day artwork completed by the children can also be posted to complete the "back to school" look. Very simple, yes,  but far less distracting and over-stimulating.  Remember that most preschool classrooms have many materials and toys that are colorful ( like red, blue, and yellow) so there is plenty of color in the classroom without the addition of a boatload of items posted on the walls.

As you move from theme to theme throughout the year, old displayed items should be removed and new items that tie in with the theme can put in their place. Children and teachers can then discuss the new items and begin learning about new things!  You may be thinking,  "well isn't that what everyone already does?".  The answer is not really.  I've been in classrooms in April that still have apples and pumpkins on the wall.  I'm just sayin'.

Now for those of you that are prone to panic you are probably saying, "what about the alphabet, shapes, colors, and numerals?"  First, take a deep breath and let's think of some ways to work that in to the equation.  A small alphabet chart posted in the writing center and a numeral/number chart posted in the math materials area can help ease your pain.  Having children find items in the classroom that are examples of shapes, colors, or numbers will help the children learn concepts with "hands on" experiences, which as we know,  is the best way for learning!

I urge you to give some thought to "intentional" display this school year and see how it works for you and the children.  You may be pleasantly surprised!

That's it for now.
Check back later!


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