8 Things Every Early Childhood Classroom Needs

Dec 22, 2018 by

When it comes to designing a functional classroom where students can learn, discover, and thrive, there are certain elements to consider. And while this is important throughout a student’s educational career, it’s especially important in the early childhood setting. That’s because young minds are absorbing so many amazing new experiences and concepts as their minds expand and explore the world around them. In order to create the most enriching and beneficial atmosphere for your students, you should include a few key components. Here are 10 awesome additions to any early childhood classroom.

1. Quiet Corner

Everyone needs a break sometimes and students are no different. Whether they’re feeling tired, missing home, or are just in need of some “down time”, a quiet corner is the perfect addition to any classroom. It should be set aside from noisier areas of the room like blocks or dramatic play and stocked with plenty of soft, plus materials. Limit the number of students in the quiet corner to two or less. The purpose of this area is for students to have some personal space where they can regroup and rest when needed. This helps prevent overstimulation or emotional and physical outbursts due to an abundance of pent up energy or frustration.

2. Sensory Bin

This is another great tool for helping young learners keep their feelings in check. Sensory bins also allow students to explore different textures and experiment with how certain materials and substances work, feel, and move. If possible, offer students both water and sand play in the classroom. There are tables available that help contain these materials and are at the perfect height for small children. Fill the containers with accessories and materials to enhance play. For water activities, include small boats and vehicles, animals, and cups for filling and dumping. Your sand table can have some of the same items including vehicles, people, and both cups and spoons. Just be sure to host this play on an easy-to-clean surface in case of spills or overflow.

3. Media Center

Whether or not you completely agree with bringing technology into the classroom, even the youngest of students are beginning to learn how to navigate laptops and tablets. As they grow older, technology is the way of the world and without learning these skills now, they’ll be at a disadvantage later in life. But your media center doesn’t need to be expansive. Depending on the size of your class, offer 2-3 computers and/or a few tablets. This activity should be reserved for small group play. Download educational games that enhance students learning. There are countless math, science, and literature activities available. You can also offer students headphones and books on tape. Listening to a story being read while following the words in a book supports students’ reading and writing skills.

4. Library

In many classrooms, the library is included in or near the quiet area. Your classroom library should be stocked with a variety of books covering a wide range of subjects. Rotate these books regularly to help maintain student interest. Include books that support the theme or concepts you’re currently teaching in the classroom. Subjects like the solar system, community helpers, and animals are often discussed in class and books on this subject are readily available for inclusion in your classroom library. You can also place holiday books and other relevant subject matter on the shelves. Learn more here about choosing the best children’s books for your needs.

5. Nurturing Teacher

No matter how many useful and supportive materials you have in the classroom, the teacher will always take center stage. Without a nurturing, supportive, and positive role model running the class, students will fall behind. This is especially true in an early childhood classroom where students are just learning how to function and succeed in an academic setting. It takes a special person to teach young learners. There are countless emotions and new experiences occurring each day from children missing their families to feeling uncertain or lacking confidence, to those “ah-ha” moments when a child realizes they’re capable of completing a task or mastering a new skill. A nurturing teacher is at the heart of these amazing, teachable moments.

6. Flexibility

If there’s one thing most early childhood educators can agree on it’s the need for flexibility in the classroom. Even with a well-laid plan, chances are, things won’t go exactly as you’d hope. And this holds true for the day-to-day classroom activities, as well as the overarching goals you set for the school year. While you need to cover the district’s chosen curriculum and ensure your students meet their developmental goals, you also need to be flexible during the process. Rolling with the punches and thinking on your feet are two skills any early childhood educator needs. Being stubborn in your ways or unwavering from a specific plan will only act as a detriment to the children and their progress. Take notice of teachable moments that might stray from the daily plan. This is often when the most amazing learning occurs.

7. Multicultural Materials

Diversity has never been more important in the classroom. School is often the first place that children are exposed to a world outside their own. They see, hear, and experience new things every single day. By incorporating multicultural materials and lessons into the classroom, you’re helping to expand their knowledge and deepen those experiences. This can be done in very simple ways from adding multicultural food to your play kitchen and ethnically diverse baby dolls to your dramatic play center. This gives young learners insight into a world different from what they’re used to. Celebrate and discuss different holidays. Make snacks that include foods from different cultures. Take a trip around the world, visiting different countries and learning about different ways of life. These experiences teach students about acceptance and humility.

8. Materials that Support Independence

Children are often more capable than adults give them credit for. This is never more true than when discussing parents and their children. Many parents are quick to swoop in and help their children. And while there’s nothing wrong with offering support to your child, completing difficult tasks and solving problems and challenges for them at every turn, is preventing them from developing crucial self-help, life skills. The early childhood classroom is the perfect place for students to explore their abilities and start taking ownership of themselves and their independence. By designing a classroom that supports student responsibility, you are laying the foundation for life skills. Give each child their own personal cubby or mailbox. They should have their own hook for their backpack and coat. It’s their responsibility to hang their stuff up and unpack their items at the start of each day. Allow them to have classroom jobs that also promote independence and responsibility. Students should be responsible for documenting what homework is due, making sure they bring the required materials home, and return with them the next day. It’s sometimes difficult for parents to follow-through with “tough love”, but when a teacher is responsible for 20 or more young learners, students are forced to learn independence and often surprise both themselves and their parents.

Crayons, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks. These are all necessary materials in an early childhood classroom. But things like a supportive teacher and the room and opportunity to learn and grow are even more important. By stocking your classroom with all of the elements young learners need to succeed, you are truly investing in their amazing futures.

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