Setting up a child-centered classroom

One of my jobs is to oversee the set-up of classrooms at our school. I have been trying to take some photos as I go along in some of the classrooms so I can share with you some pointers that work for me but the more I work on the classrooms, the more I think of that needs to be considered. If I try to write out every thing that needs to be considered when setting up a classroom, I would need to write an entire book. So for today, I am going to just talk about baskets!

Choosing Baskets

Choosing baskets may seem like a silly place to start but I can’t tell you how much time I invest in trying to find baskets that fit all the shelves we have in each classroom.  Some of our shelves were built and others were bought from various locations so finding baskets that fit neatly on each shelf is always a challenge.

Lately, I have been hitting the jackpot at the Dollar store. These baskets are bright, colorful, plastic, sturdy, and durable. Because the baskets will get a lot of use, they need to last and we need to be able to wipe them down. At one point, we bought some really pretty canvas covered baskets which looked terrific for about a month and then they started wearing down and getting dirty. Because they were canvas, we couldn’t wash them so I am now switching them out for something else.

Another thing I like to do is to coordinate our baskets so the children can easily remember where they got a basket out and where to put it back when they are done playing. I want the classroom as a whole to make sense to the children.

In some shelves I will put baskets that have a variety of shapes and sizes. This depends on what I plan to keep in those baskets.

With the exception of things like floor puzzles, I like everything to be in a basket where the items just say “Play with me!”

I also purchase baskets with lids so they can be stacked on top of each other or just because they came with lids. But putting a lid on every basket is not something I set out to do. My focus is always on ways to make the items accessible and manageable to the children.

I will continue to build my collection of baskets for each shelf but as I do, I have to think about what will go inside each basket. I will save that for another blog post:)

Links to Grow On…

How to Clean Up the Preschool Classroom

Labeling Your Baskets and Shelves

Adding things to do in your child centered classroom

Shelves in the child-centered classroom

Where do you put things to dry?

Visit Pre-k Pages for additional photos and ideas for setting up classroom centers


By |2010-12-11T16:32:35+00:00December 11th, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Sherry and Donna December 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Deborah you have really hit the spot with those baskets! One of the passions Sherry and I share, as you may already be aware, is to be very conscious of the way we present our room and activities to our children … our mantra being “make it irresistible”. It really is a sign of respect for our children when we make each room child centered, friendly, inviting and irresistible … Showing respect for adults is something we demand whereas showing respect for children is something they deserve! I look forward to seeing your other ideas too Deborah!
    Donna 🙂 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 10:42 am - Reply

      I love how you added the term irresistible! It is a perfect fit for what we do and how we should set up our classrooms!

  2. Leann December 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    I gave you “The Versatile Blogger” award today on my blog. Thanks for inspiring me!

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 10:41 am - Reply

      Wow – Thank you Leann! What a wonderful surprise!

  3. Tami December 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    I also keep the dollar store in business with storage items for the classroom. I like how you are keeping all the same colors on the same storage shelf.

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 10:41 am - Reply

      Hi Tami – I try to keep like colors on each shelf for easier clean-up and organization for the children:)

  4. Maureen December 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Deborah
    I’ve slowly been switching from plastic tubs and bins to more natural materials like wood, bamboo or wicker. I like the appearance, to me it’s inviting. When I started my centre I was very concerned of the infants and toddlers getting materials that could be dangerous to them and I went overboard and had everything in containers with lids that were difficult to open (not very inviting for children to be independent). I’ve relaxed alot and focused more on helping the older children be partly responsible and aware of the smaller children in the room. The play is so much more spontaneous now.

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      This sounds like a popular choice Maureen. I am going to have to check out these types of materials as I go along…. Many teachers tend to shy away from leaving much of anything “challenging” out for young children. I understand their concerns but in the end, I find that the children who are giving opportunity to explore become far more independent and responsible than those who are not allowed to touch anything without total control of the teacher.

  5. Juliet December 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    There’s a changing emphasis in many pre-schools in Scotland to an environment that has more natural (and often open-ended) materials and less visual clutter. So baskets made from willow or sea grass are becoming more popular.

    For accessible resources that children can take outside, Smartsack have cloakroom peg bags (not natural at all). Photos can be inserted as well as text into the outdoor pockets. Children can carry them independently outside – even down steps without tripping up.

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      That is so interesting to learn! I love the idea of the natural environment but I also love bright and colorful too!

  6. Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog December 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Oooo.. I love these, and I love that you found the containers at the dollar store!

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      I am hoping to find more soon – I need quite a few:)

  7. Alesia December 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    I think that you writing a book on classroom set up is a wonderful idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart December 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      I will have to give that some thought:) Blogging is much easier:)

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