Before staying home with my kids, symptoms I was a public school teacher. We were taught to plan. Some school districts even required teachers to submit their lesson plans to the principal weekly or even daily. (Yikes.)
Being both a “teacher’s pet” when I was younger (which mutated into perfectionist) and already a planner by nature, I didn’t just do the minimum… I planned exactly as I was taught, which usually brought comments from administration like, “Do you really plan this much for every unit?”
These days I don’t plan like I used to. But, perhaps because of my former teacher-training, I still work well off of a plan when it comes to teaching units with my kids.
I could have the best plans made, but those plans don’t do any good if I don’t follow through on them.
With a preschooler with special needs and a baby to chase after, too, I don’t always have a free hand (or several minutes) to gather the materials needed for an activity for my preschooler.
What helps me follow through on lessons plans and craft time?
Organizing the materials so I can access them easily.
A Simple Solution
Does that seem like too simple of a solution?
I notice anywhere we have materials organized, it’s much less stressful to use those materials because it’s so much easier to get them out and put them away.
With my son’s special needs, he needs time to exercise open-ended creativity to stretch those less-developed skills.
Instead of hesitating to complete an activity, if I have materials within reach and (relatively) easy to clean up, I end up providing many more opportunities for my son.
A Few Ideas for Organizing Materials So You Actually Use Them
Every house and every family needs to organize a little differently. My own organizing tactics are influenced by beautiful ideas I see online mixed with my own trial-and-error in what’s most efficient for us.
We were recently (very kindly) given this shelving unit from Ikea. I grabbed a few of my favorite fabric bins from Target when they were on sale and created some simple labels for each bin. (I love bookcases and bins.) These bins house most of our currently used manipulatives for writing and beginning math skills and our craft materials. We love to put books in every room, so I organized some of our subject-specific books here, too.
(Our team writer, Angela, shared how she organizes her preschool materials here.)
The craft bin is what I personally need to have accessible to motivate me to use it more. In this bin, I include crayons, craft glue, tissue paper scraps, contact paper, pompoms, clothespins (great for pre-scissors skills and grip practice), and craft sticks. If we’re completing a specific craft for a themed unit, most of my craft materials are here and easily accessed. If the kids just need something to do or creative time, I can grab paper and crayons or contact paper and tissue paper to allow them to create art. (Anyone have tips on how to better organize the inside of a bin like this?)
I’m also gathering a “pretend play” bin since my son needs encouragement to advance those skills.
We currently school wherever we are in the house (or outside), but the kids’ table sits near these shelves, so placing craft materials and sit-down activities in these bins makes sense. I have materials ready just a few steps away from a suitable place for the kids to craft, play, and learn.
In the shelving unit next to these bins, I keep a modified “workbox” system for my preschooler. I rotate different activity bags and educational materials in these three bins.
The materials in these three bins are available all the time for either guided use (with my help) or free play. When I set these bins up, I was quickly (and pleasantly) surprised to witness how often the kids venture to the workboxes, grab an activity, and sit at the table to play! I also reach for these materials much more often than when they were closed up in the office closet.
Have you ever hesitated using materials because it was a hassle to retrieve them? How do you organize school supplies for ease of use? Share your tips in the comments!