Natural Disinfectants for Homes and Classrooms

Last November we talked perks of using natural cleaners in the classroom, including potentially higher test scores, improved indoor air quality and avoidance of other byproducts of toxic air indoors. These are all desirable, but so is cleanliness, so if you can't use toxic chemicals, what can you use?

Natural Disinfectants

We've done the research and created this list of environmentally friendly and kid-safe disinfectants for classrooms and homes alike. For our DIY readers, some of these substances are almost magic. Not into mixing up your own cleaning supplies? Well, we've got that covered too. 

Vinegar

Vinegar's been touted as a natural, safe cleaner for years. You can use vinegar by itself or add essential oils (since no one loves the smell of vinegar), but it's worth noting that it shouldn't be diluted, and studies show that, to be an effective disinfectant, vinegar must contain over 5% acetic acid, which is significantly higher than store-bought vinegar. For higher percentages, check online or at chemical suppliers. 

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has been used to clean homes for decades. It's generally anti-bacterial and anti-viral, but keep in mind, it takes time to work. If you're looking to really sanitize a surface, let this natural disinfectant sit for a bit, and for an enhanced clean, try mixing hydrogen peroxide with tea tree or grapefruit essential oil, as they have additional anti-bacterial properties.

Baking Soda

Natural, inexpensive and extremely effective for cleaning and shining up your home, baking soda is the magic cleaner. It's useful in the kitchen, bathroom and virtually any other place you can think of (including classrooms). For clean countertops or desks, just sprinkle some baking soda on a cloth, wipe down and remove with water.

 EO Lavender Sanitizing Wipes

For fans of pre-sanitized wipes, EO is the organic, plant based alternative to chemical-laden hand wipes. EO's lavender wipes are moistened with pure essential oils and organic aloe and enhanced with additional essential oils to leave skin soft, clean and healthy.

EO Lavender Hand Sanitizing Gel

Another EO product, made with sugar cane ethanol, this lavender hand sanitizing gel is safe for use both for humans and on the environment and kills 99% of germs. We can't ask for more than that, but they deliver anyway, since using this sanitizer leaves behind the calming smell of pure lavender! 

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes

For something a little stronger, Seventh Generation's disinfecting wipes boast the ability to kill 99.9% of germs, including those that cause the flu, staph, salmonella and more. It's not likely you'll be battling raw chicken in a classroom setting, but these wipes are certainly a winner for this month's cold and flu struggles! 

Just in case you're wondering just why bleach won't cut it and these natural disinfectants will, check out this great article on the negative affects of bleach on children. We'll be here when you get back. 

For our DIY moms, dads and teachers, the first three cleaners in our list aren't the only tried and true ways to disinfect naturally. In fact, here are 42 more DIY recipes for cleaning pretty much your entire living (or teaching) space!

 

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Immersive Suite

Imagine if every time you needed to learn a lesson or skill, you were able to immerse yourself in that environment and live the experience as you learned it. Our newest Real Kid-Smart expert does just that for each of the children in her 2nd grade class. Take a peek inside her inspiring methods!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Classroom

Name: Sian Thornton

School, City & State: Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Surrey, United Kingdom

Years Teaching: 4 Years

Grades: 2nd Grade/Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

 

In 2013, the school introduced the innovative concept of an Immersive Suite and a whole new style of learning. 

 

WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE SUITE, AND HOW DOES IT WORK? 

The Immersive Suite provides children with an opportunity to learn in a completely different way, in an exciting environment that plays with the standard classroom space.

Lessons start off by immersing the children in the environment that the teacher has set up using computer-driven imagery, visuals and audio to create an interactive, sensory learning experience.  

Children are stimulated by the images, colours, sights and sounds of the world, offering a beautiful enhancement to cross-curricular learning. 

They truly forget that they are in school and not, for example, on board a flight to South America. 

HOW HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE ENHANCED THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

Children can now go to the moon with Neil Armstrong, travel back in time to a Victorian workhouse, explore the ocean with sea creatures - the possibilities are quite literally endless. 

These dynamic lessons impact students’ work and enable significant progress. Children who are usually difficult to motivate come alive in the suite. 

The Immersive Suite has also provided some fantastic lessons for children with Special Educational Needs, who benefit from its sensory nature. We invite children in from a local Special School each week and it is delightful to see their reactions to their environment. 

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE TEACHING EXPERIENCE, AND HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED YOUR METHODS TO THIS ALTERNATIVE SPACE?

Seeing the children respond so positively to a space that contrasts with the traditional, restrictive classroom environment has made me change my whole classroom! 

Each topic we cover now has a dedicated area in the classroom where children can go to immerse themselves. 

When we learn about the moon landing. I spend an evening with a colleague covering the whole area in aluminum foil, and it becomes a space station. 

When we learn about The Great Fire of London the area is transformed into Pudding Lane Bakery. They pretend to run the bakery, and especially like the drama they can create when they pretend it has caught on fire! 

Best of all the children are more interested in the topics and often come into school with extra research to share and display in the area. 

THERE ARE THREE PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY: 

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.  
     
  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.  
     
  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.  

WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE?

I believe that ‘every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life’ is a great philosophy to have. 

As a teacher, you get to know students so well, and you are made aware of those whose home lives are far from beautiful. Creating a comforting, exciting, positive environment for these children is essential to ensure that they are able to spend a significant portion of their day in a happy place. 

A positive learning environment makes a positive learner, and if you can foster that in a child with some tinfoil and a cardboard space rocket then you absolutely should!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPACIAL CHALLENGE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OR MITIGATE IT? 

It’s finding the ways to fit in the ‘essentials’ as well as the extra, exciting things to my classroom – like the cardboard boxes that have been made in to a bakery oven or an Egyptian pyramid!

I’m learning to manage clutter better, but as long as I have a keen eye for creative learning then I think it’ll always be a work in progress.

WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO FELLOW EDUCATORS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM?

Keep it budget friendly! I (and every other teacher I know) could spend a fortune of their own money on things for their classroom, and I definitely have over the years. 

Working with a low budget can make it difficult to buy lots of new and exciting things for your learning environment, but there are ways around it. Thrift shops or eBay…there are so many ways to make your classroom environment more exciting without breaking the bank. 

Decide to make it a part of your teaching style and you won’t ever go back to a ‘normal’ classroom again!

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

3 Study Space Colors to Help Kids Concentrate

Color matters, in most cases, and especially when it comes to creating a perfect space for your little ones to learn. Go too bright, and you may find your student suffering from an inability to concentrate. Too light, and you could end up with a frequent napper on your hands. Check out these tips for striking the perfect balance, with the perfect colors.

In general when considering paint colors for learning spaces, medium to light shades of colors are best so as not to overwhelm. Striking that ideal balance between engaging and relaxing is important, so lighter colors can be accompanied by accents of deeper shades via art, furniture and decor.

These top colors work best for concentration, critical thinking, focus, analytical skills, and retention. They’ll all do the trick, but we prefer them in this order

Blue

Blue lowers blood pressure and provides a calming space for excellent focus and concentration.

Green

Green is linked to nature and growth and elicits positive reactions, making it a great option for a learning space.

Yellow

Yellow is reminiscent of sunshine and associated with happiness. Yellow is energizing and can encourage communication and discussion, making it an excellent color for moving spaces, like hallways, play areas, cafeterias or gymnasiums. In paler shades, yellow is comforting and warm and makes a good option for learning spaces as well.

Cool Kids Educational Toys: An After-Holiday Gift Guide

If you're looking to put your child's holiday cash and gift cards to good use for more meaningful post-Christmas shopping, this is for you. From encouraging your little ones to become citizens of the world to inspiring the next science genius, we've curated a quick list of toys that are equal parts, empowering, educational, creative and cool.   Happy Holidays!  

Little Passports

1. Choose an adventure. 2. Check your mailbox. 3. Discover and learn. 

Little Passports destination-specific subscription packages arrive every month filled with letters, souvenirs, activities & more delivering discovery and adventure. They'll spark the imaginations of children ages 3-12.


Elle and Cee World Girls

Rebel, Explorer, Scholar, Warrior, Healer - each doll inhabits these traits, and Elle and Cee World Girls represent girls from different countries and backgrounds, with unique personalities and perspectives, just like real world girls.


All In One Easel

Play, write or draw with chalk.  This easel does it all! 


Project MC2

Perform an experiment at home with tech genius and socially savvy, Bryden Bandweth and all the other dolls of MC2 using safe household ingredients. They're also available at Target.


Marie Curie by Miss Possible

Early exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is found to be extremely important to girls' eventual success in those fields.  Miss Possible provides one part inspiration and one part skill-building through role models – in the form of dolls.  


Goldie Blox

Connected with incredible organizations like Techbridge, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and the Society of Women Engineers for their work in providing role models and support for women in STEM, Goldie Blox dolls get girls building  and inspire the future generation of female engineer via these fun, fabulous construction toys.

4 Schools Encouraging “Holiday” Values Year-Round

Tis’ the season when we make special efforts to impress the importance of empathy, kindness, generosity, equality and joy upon our children.

The most impactful learning environments, however, seamlessly incorporate these themes into their design year-round, making positive values a part of the way children begin to see the world, literally and figuratively, daily.  

These are some of the designs we are inspired by and a few we’ve incorporated in our own designs.

Kid-Smart Spaces

These are excellent examples of utilizing values-based design across campuses, classrooms and entire school systems. 

Pave Academy Charter School

If these are too large-scale for your scenario or budget, don't fret! Decals are a simple alternative to up the “happiness factor” in your school or classroom. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Check websites, teachers' supply stores or make your own encouraging, impactful decor. 

 

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Selin Gasa

If you think it's tough to organize a classroom or playroom, imagine the challenge for a traveling ArtBus that accommodates hundreds of children. That's what Selin Gasa, our next Real Kid-Smart expert, deals with regularly. Check out why and how she inspires us!

Name: Selin Gasa

School City & State: We operate in Simi Valley, CA and surrounding areas. We have a 35 miles limit but bend that rule every now and then. 

Age Range: We serve all ages! But mostly 4 - 12 year olds.

 

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR ARTBUS ARISE?

My husband and I were trying to come up with something to add to our party business. Something different and fun. I thought of food trucks and video game trucks... but I'm more into art, and creating things... and I think the kiddos need more art! So I thought it would be pretty cool to convert an old school bus into an art studio. I mentioned it to my husband and he made it all happen.

Bus Interior.jpg

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ART PROJECTS OR ACTIVITIES YOU DO ON THE BUS?

  • Kids paint the actual bus! They love that. The bus is white and they get to paint on it with washable paints.

  • We do a lot of eco-crafts... We turn recycled material into works of art!

  • Some parties we have a main project like tie-dying or painting ceramics, etc.

  • We also have a mirror in there so they can do face art with the face crayons we provide, hair coloring with hair chalk and tattoos.

HOW DO YOU STAY ORGANIZED WHILE KIDS USE THE SPACE?

It's chaos during a party! Glitter and paint everywhere! But we try to contain it the best we can and try to clean up as they create. All art supplies are in bins.. pipe cleaners, poms, glitter, etc. Kids paint and do their projects on trays. For tie-dye parties we prep little tie-dye stations... We have bins with cookie cooling racks on top and have them squirt dye on shirts or bags on top of those.

HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE ONCE THEY LEAVE?

We have a whole lot of drawer bins and storage containers to keep things organized. Once they leave we just collect all the left over art materials and put them back in their proper bins. For the main projects, we separate them in large clear storage containers. We have a birdhouse project container, superhero container, fairy container, ninja turtles container... Every project has it's own. For example, for the fairy project we have 4 clear shoe box containers (Jewels/stick ons, bows/ribbons, flowers and beads) and we put those in a large container with the wings and crowns.

For all the dirty stuff like used brushes, trays and smocks... we pack them up and take them home to be washed.

THERE ARE 3 ELEMENTS TO OUR PHILOSOPHY HERE AT KID-SMART SPACES:

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.

  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success. 

  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.

CHOOSE THE ONE THAT RESONATES WITH YOU MOST AND TELL US HOW YOU INCORPORATE/SHARE THAT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE.

Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success... We keep things as organized as possible so the kiddos have an easier time creating. We try to give them a happy stress free environment.

WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO READERS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART SPACE?

Less mess = Less stress!!! Which I know can be difficult to do with kids... But if each thing has a home, clean up is much easier. Use those containers!

I have always been quite messy. I leave things laying around and throw my supplies just anywhere and everywhere. My husband is the awesome organized one. It actually used to annoy me. Haha. But I appreciate it now. I realized I'm more relaxed and can think straighter when my things are organized.

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

Natural Cleaners in the Classroom

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know about the huge push across the world to switch to greener, more sustainable cleaning practices, everywhere from homes to offices to dry cleaners and beyond.

We’re passionate about schools, so here’s a few tips on how, and why, to switch to natural cleaners in the classroom.

Standard Cleaning Products and Indoor Air Pollution

In 2009, The Environmental Working Group found that, in California alone, cleaning supplies release 32 tons of contaminants (457 different types) into the air each day.

Why Go Natural

  • Clean naturally because the air inside a space can be up to 4 to 5 times as toxic as the air outside. With a 6-7 hour school day, that’s most of a child’s day spent in a toxic atmosphere.

  • Clean naturally because it’s been proven that indoor air quality (IAQ) greatly affects a student’s ability to perform.

  • Clean naturally because a recent study found that test scores significantly increased with greater ventilation of outside air into classrooms.

  • Clean naturally to avoid the byproducts of toxic indoor air quality like:

    • Direct effect on classwork and learning

    • Increased health problems

    • Missed school days

The Fix

Like conquering bad habits, it’s easier to replace them with positive habits than it is to kick them cold turkey.  

So, take a look around your classroom and swap out harmful, traditional cleaning supplies with legitimate green options.

We’ll make it even easier for you and share a few of our favorite natural cleaning products and DIY recipes in Part 2! Stay tuned!

How to Design a Child's Room for a Good Night's Sleep: Part 2

A while back, we shared a few tips on how to design a child's room for a good night's sleep. Now we're back with a few more tips on how to help ensure a long, quality stay in dreamland for your little one.

Bedding

Go Organic!

We adults know there isn’t much better than diving into a clean, comfortable bed that we’ve created in order to relax and wind down. Same goes for kids!

Soft Colors & Soft Textures

Help your child create a bed that he or she actually wants to spend time in! Let them pick out sheets, but guide their decisions by keeping in mind that certain colors and textures may be more conducive to good sleep. Imagine sleeping on bright yellow, 200 thread count sheets…

Bedtime Routine

More Than Material

Design isn’t just about tangible items in your child’s room. It also refers to habits that you and your little one create over time. One of the best habits for getting good sleep, for both children AND adults, is to establish a bedtime and routine.

Be Consistent

Our bodies pick up on even the most subtle instructions, so even if it’s hard to get your little one settled in at a decent time initially, over time, don’t be surprised to find her rubbing her eyes and preparing for a bath right around the time you established. Even for adults, knowing you’re headed to bed at a certain time helps the body establish an internal clock, and that means it knows when to lie down, and when to wake up, for the most optimal amount of sleep.

Temperature

What’s Comfortable for Them?

Take time to talk to and listen to your child. We may find it hard to sleep in a room that we find too hot or too cold, and your child is likely to struggle with the same issues.  

Adjust as Needed

If your average household temp is too cold, try adding some soft, comfy blankets. Too hot? Invest in a box fan for his room. The more comfortable your child is, the easier it will be to fall asleep when he’s tired.

Colors matter

Remember that idea about sleeping on bright yellow sheets? What if you had to sleep in a room with bright red walls? If colors are too stimulating, kids (and adults) may find it challenging to calm down and get settled into bed. Keep this in mind when designing the best kid’s room. Choose colors that are happy and positive, but not too bright. Think lavender, pale greens and blues, etc.

Organize

Most of us know what it’s like to lie in bed thinking of all the things we need to do the next day, and we know the level of relaxation that comes with going to sleep in a clean bed, in an organized room, with our worries at least a room away. Your children need this same environment. Do your best to eliminate any source of stress in your child’s room. This means homework packed and clothes ready, floor clean and toys organized out of sight and out of mind.

BONUS: The book scientists created that will put your child to sleep in minutes! Thank us later. :)

Best Garbage Cans for School Spaces

Schools, like all other building, produce trash and if there's anything we've learned while designing and organizing school spaces, it's the optimal way to dispose of it.  

These are our top 5 recommendations for best garbage cans for school spaces followed by our tried and true tips and best practices for managing the muck!

Schools are often tight on space, so go with the slim options. 

For high traffic areas, where the kiddos roam, rubber is the most common choice, but for a sleeker look stainless steel is always a step up.  

In offices and faculty break rooms (i.e. big people spaces), open top cans are the neatest option, and since the garbage is disposed of on a daily basis bad smells are generally not an issue. (Disclaimer: Even closed-top cans aren't effective against a teacher's fish lunch. C'mon people!)

Finally, we don't recommend step cans for commercial use. We've yet to meet one that can make it through a full school year!

3 Tips for Designing a Multi-Purpose School Space

I was once tasked with re-designing a school space that housed both the teacher break room and a student tutoring intervention space. (Teacher break, huh?) The main problem was obviously the two very divergent needs taking place in one shared - and small - area. Account for sub-activities (like coffee/tea/food preparation, eating, sink use, socializing, testing and instruction), and we're actually talking about seven or eight different activities, all in one space.  Here's what I learned from that design challenge:

Divide the Space By Individual or Grouped Activities  

In this case, the space was small enough that it required grouping related activities together.  We split the room into halves, based on the primary functions and then split each space again by micro-activities.

Think Vertically

Too often we plan with only the floor space in mind.  Using walls maximizes and multiplies the amount of useable space you have to work with.  Whether you use walls for storage, use them to display art, or just let the teachers climb them, when possible, take it all the way to the ceiling for a strong visual statement and more space.

Make Use of Corners

Use corners to organize the space. Corners are a natural starting point to design our thoughts and objects.  Creating activity centers in the corners works as an easy way for students to identify tasks areas and as a common sense way to keep organized. Activity centers also double the space for the tasks.

We Asked #SmartGirlsAsk and Jerry Answered!

Here at Kid-Smart Spaces we love Amy Poehler's Smart Girls almost as much as we love interior design.  So, you can imagine how excited we were to have had a question answered at this year's Emmy's for #SmartGirlsAsk, and by the notorious, Jerry, at that! Heartfelt? Yes. Hilarious? We think so. See for yourself, below!

See it first hand next time. Follow us on Twitter

How to Design a Child's Room for a Good Night's Sleep: Part 1

Help your little one get quality R&R with these tips:

Sleeping Girl.jpg

Lighting

Dim Those Lights!

Lights are one of the body’s biggest cues that it’s time to sleep, so in the hours leading up to bedtime, begin dimming lights. As bedtime nears, switch off as many lights as possible to signify it’s time for sleep.

Switch Nightlight Bulbs

If your child needs a nightlight or uses the restroom often, use warm, lower light bulbs.

Blackout the Natural Light

A bare window or one covered with sheer drapes is likely to wake children up as the sun rises, often before they’re ready. Opt for heavy drapes, or supplement sheer daytime drapes with heavier nighttime panels.

Layout

Section Off the Room

Make a clear delineation between the activity area (play and work) and sleep area. Just like adults, if children are accustomed to using their beds as seating or play space during the day, it’s more difficult to switch off and get to sleep in that same space. Help your child understand that the bed is for sleeping by placing desks, chairs and toy boxes in other areas of the room.

Apply This Awesome Feng Shui Tip

Whether or not you believe in feng shui adjustments, the idea of the Commanding Position is scientifically helpful because it helps to keep the fight or flight response at bay.  

Commanding Position: The bed is facing the door, but is not directly in line with it, and located as far from the door as possible, ideally diagonally across the room.  

When you can’t see what may be coming at you (think monsters for your tiny frightened counterparts), the body remains in a constant state of stress, even if you can’t feel it!

Electronics

Unplug!

It’s becoming more and more common knowledge that using electronics before bedtime contributes to lower quality sleep.

Limit EMF’s

It may be tempting to lull your little one to sleep with her favorite show, but ultimately, she’s better off drifting to sleep on her own in a quiet room devoid of harmful EMFs. Not only will this ensure quality sleep, it will help your little one learn to unplug in the long run, which can be as priceless as meditation and other forms of relaxation and mindfulness.

EMF: The acronym for “electronic and magnetic fields,” the invisible waves of energy produced by electronic and magnetic devices. Basically, plugged in and turned on.

Blue Lights & Kids’ Body Clocks

Circadian rhythms - “the body clock” - are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. They are found in animals, plants, tiny microbes and in your little one. While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light does so more powerfully. A Harvard study found that blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much.

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Tanya Kolb

Kid-Smart Spaces is launching a new series featuring moms and teachers from across the nation who inspire us every day to keep doing what we do. First up, Tanya Kolb from Brooklyn, NY!

Teachers Tips Interview Header

Name: Tanya Kolb

School City & State: Brooklyn, NY

Years teaching: 14 years

grades: Pre-k, K, & 1st grade


IT ONLY TAKES YOU 1 TO 2 HOURS TO SET UP YOUR CLASSROOM AT THE START OF THE YEAR. WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?

What I do at the end of school year sets me up for back to school, but technically I have two secrets: Purging and Organizing.

4 Steps to My Quick Classroom Set Up:

  1. Create Ideal Layout - During the school year I experiment constantly with my classroom furniture, moving things around until the space is laid out just the way I like it.  

  2. Document It - Once it looks the way I want it to, I take section by section photos of the room from different angles (from front looking back, from back looking front, etc.).  I also photograph each bulletin board and each wall.  Referring to these photos when I’m setting up the room makes set up move quickly.

  3. Purge Before You Pack - Teachers are natural hoarders! We don’t like to waste things, because we know how valuable and costly supplies are, but our downfall is, "I might use it next year" and finding things another teacher made and thinking, “I can totally use that.” Those are traps!  In reality, if we didn’t make it, we have no attachment to it and little or no memory of its use. If you didn't use it this year and if you didn't make it - throw it away! I know so many teachers who have boxes but don’t even know the contents inside.

    My purging trick is to pack the stuff I don’t currently use in a separate box.  At the end of the year, if I still haven’t used it, I throw it out. 

  4. Pack It Right - I limit myself to 6 to 8 boxes, but no matter the number you have, the key is to pack and label only items that belong together in the areas where they live in the classroom.  It can be as easy as “Front of the room - Left Half”  

THERE ARE 3 PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY, WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE? 

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.  

  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.  

  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.  

The first one is most meaningful to me.  Children are not necessarily organized by nature, but they mimic what they see.  They know how important organization is for me, so they follow suit and mimicry becomes habit.  Our habits shape their habits.  For me, I think creating surroundings they can value helps students value themselves and hold themselves to higher standards.

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPATIAL CHALLENGE AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

This year I’m very lucky to have a large classroom but in the past, struggling in smaller classrooms, I found excess furniture got in the way of activities and wasn't aesthetically pleasing.  Flow is important, so I always opt to remove any furniture that takes away from the space when possible.

WHAT'S YOUR #1 LESSON OR TIP FOR CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH FELLOW TEACHERS READING THIS?

Get rid of the stuff!  That goes for bulletin boards too.  If there’s too much to look at, the intention is lost on the kids.  Minimize the physical and visual clutter.

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

Help! My Classroom is Too Small

It’s easy to offer organization and design tips when there’s a large classroom space to work with.  Things get really challenging when teachers need to fit everything into small classrooms. Though there’s not much we can offer by way of fixing social issues like overcrowding or cost per square foot, there are a few basic ways to keep your small classroom organized:

image credit: pixabay

Minimize Visual Noise

In graphic design the amount of white-space (or empty space) is as important to the viewer as the subject itself.  That’s because the image, in its entirety, affects the viewers' ability to process what they are seeing.  Think of your classroom walls as a blank canvas. If the canvas is covered with too many subjects (in this case instructional tools and classroom decorations) it all becomes visual noise. Remember that every item placed in the room competes for your students attention, so display wisely.

Swap It Out

How can you avoid over-stimulation and limit the information students focus on when there’s so much they need to learn? One way to keep visuals from competing for attention is to swap them out as needed.  Use magnetic whiteboards, magnetic paint, velcro or colored paper to make your decorations or instructional tools interchangeable. This allows you to better manage the room's focal points and, by extension, the focus of your students.

Keep Your Shelves Concealed

Concealed shelving is an excellent way to minimize the clutter that shrinks a space.  Unless they are holding books or house items that require constant access, shelves should hide the items they store. Doors are ideal, but if closed cabinets can’t be managed, use alternatives like curtains, table skirts or storage bins to hide the clutter.

Create Activity Zones and Define Them Visually

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” That age old adage never gets old, especially where classrooms are concerned. The best way to maximize the space you have is to use it wisely. Give each activity its own zone. In small classrooms, several activities may need to share a zone.  In those cases, the tips above (like concealed storage, swapping items out, storage bins) are especially key. That way, once one activity has ended, the zone can easily be packed up, prepped and transformed for the next use.

What methods do you use to maximize the space and effectiveness of your small classroom? We'd love to hear in the comments! 

Your Child's Brain on Good Design

As adult guides, it is our responsibility to create nurturing, inspiring learning environments that foster academic achievement and creativity. Places where students can thrive and discover the special skills and gifts they’ll someday use to make meaningful contributions to the world.

Good Classroom Design Brains

Design - Schools Vs. Offices

There's so much focus on office design but considering how much more impressionable a child’s brain is compared to an adult’s (neuroscientists use the term “plastic”) it's shocking how little we're discussing school design.  If it’s already widely accepted that office design greatly impacts the productivity, emotional state, and physical health of adult employees, it stands to reason that the relationship between children and design is even more critical.  More and more experts are listing school design as a key factor in a student’s success, and rightfully so.  Genes provide a blueprint, but the construction of a child’s brain is formed by environment and experience.  

School Design Impact - UK Study

Researchers out of the United Kingdom found that classroom architecture and design significantly affected academic performance: Environmental factors studied affected 73 percent of the changes in student scores. The year-long study suggests that a school's physical design can improve or worsen children's academic performance by as much as 25 percent in early years.

Clutter Impact - Princeton Study

Another study, by the neuroscientists at Princeton University, found that when parents had to deal with their belongings their stress hormones spiked. Similar to what multitasking does to the brain, physical clutter overloads the senses, causes stress, and impairs the ability to think creatively.  Children then, suffer doubly. Once from their own battle to keep focused in cluttered spaces, and again when the parents and educators they rely on for guidance under-perform due to disorganization.

Even without research to back it up it seems an obvious conclusion that children’s surroundings can have a negative impact on their ability to focus and process information.  But the research does exist - and as interest in school design and tactile, design-based learning increases, so do the number of studies. They paint a clear picture: alongside key factors like home life, inspired teachers and school location, a child’s success is also linked to the spaces where they learn.