Labeling your baskets and shelves in preschool

Part of setting up a child-centered classroom is taking the time to organize materials so that children can easily find where they belong.

One way to help keep the classroom organized is to add labels to the baskets. Adding labels with the words clearly printed on them also helps to promote the print-rich environment. Where possible, it is also a good idea to add pictures of the items that are in each basket to your labels – especially in the younger preschool classrooms.

On these shelves, you can see that I attached yellow construction paper squares to the shelves so that the children could see where the baskets belong. In the photo below, I added green construction paper rectangles to help the children identify where to put the green baskets.

I want the children to be able to put toys in baskets and baskets on shelves without having to rely on teacher directives. I am still working on the labeling process in this classroom and although I don’t have all the baskets labeled, the children will at least know which shelf to put each basket back on after playing.

Do you have any tips for labeling or organizing shelves and baskets to share?

By |2011-01-19T06:00:39+00:00January 19th, 2011|

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. Sissy Radford January 19, 2011 at 7:23 am - Reply

    In my classroom of 2-3 yr olds, I have taken a picture of the items that belong in the basket. I have attached a piece of cardstock with the word of the item. I have laminated the two together. I do this twice for each item. One picture/label goes on the basket. The other picture/label goes on the shelf. I’ll have to take a picture and sent to you. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      I would love to share a photo of your idea with every one!

  2. laura Andrews January 19, 2011 at 7:42 am - Reply

    At our center we add a picture of the item under the word so that the child can associate the word with the item that is in it. We also have the word and picture on the shelf, so that the item is put in the correct place. We are trying to help our children connect the word with the item, I hope this helps.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Yes – I think this is a terrific practice and idea!

  3. Pam January 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    love the green baskets…those wouldn’t be from the Dollar store, would they 🙂 I think I have some that are very similar that are from the Dollar store.
    I always attach a photo or picture of the objects that go inside the basket along with the printed words, then a photo or picture along with the printed words on the shelf where it belongs. Of course, we also have the Braille printed word on actual objects as well for my little one who will learn Braille.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      Yes – all the baskets are from the Dollar Store:) Wow – I love that you also add the photos and Braille. This must really be an investment of your time to organize all of this!

      • Pam January 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm

        should have clarified- I know a bit of Braille- but it would take me forever to print these out! We have a specialist who comes to work with our little one on pre-Braille work- he makes the Braille labels (we also don’t have them on EVERY item- just ones that are used often). Pictures and printed words are on almost everything! And they did take us quite a while to do! We don’t rotate materials as often as you probably do, however, since our children really need repeated experiences with materials. So it’s just a matter of keeping up with the labeling and pictures as you are rotating things.

  4. Elizabeth Moll January 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I, too, have a preschool classroom and everything (and I do mean everything) is labeled. I use Their free “just for me labelmaker” lets you print out material labels, around-the-room labels, bookplates, centers signs, and name tags. This saved me a lot of time and clean up time is a breeze!

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Oooh, great tip Elizabeth – I will check it out. I could use all the shortcuts I can get to move this process along!

  5. jessica January 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I also use pictures and word to what in each box . I do like the color under each box for the color of the box . I just use clear boxs .. looking good Deborah

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      Thank you Jesica:) I still have much to do to get it all done:)

  6. ayn colsh January 19, 2011 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Our Pre-K guidelines require that we label both the shelf and the container on both sides (in case it is put on the shelf backwards) with the name of the item and a photo. This works great for the items in use everyday, but we also have to add items to each center to enhance each theme. This can get a bit much when themes change quite frequently! I really like the idea of colored bins and labels to match. ( Another guideline is that is “preferred” is that we use clear containers.) I always feel like our labeling has a “messy look”. Thanks for sharing this. I always enjoy seeing how others plan the classroom layout!

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      I have seen that clear plastic containers is preferred by many programs. I can understand the thinking but I still tend to enjoy bringing the bright colors into the classroom and keeping the classroom color coordinated. This works extremely well in our younger (twos and threes) classrooms so they can be more self sufficient:) No matter how you label or what kind of baskets you use – it can be time consuming and if it isn’t kept up regularly it can get messy looking:)

  7. Bette January 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I have taken pictures of each item in my classroom. These go on the baskets and shelves. I am also one who likes things coordinated in my room. All of my shelves are painted to match my tables and the baskets match the color of the shelves. Big Lots and Dollar Tree always are very nice in having the right colors each year.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 20, 2011 at 11:20 am - Reply

      You room sounds like it is both organized and beautiful Bette!

  8. Karyn January 22, 2011 at 8:03 am - Reply

    I have taken my puzzles out of their cardboard boxes as they always seem to break and I’ve put them in clear boxes, but I’ve scanned in the puzzle box and printed it on glossy sticky backed paper and I’ve stuck that on the side of each box so you can still see what puzzle it is. This also makes the puzzles stackable which is great. Wish we had a dollar store in Zimbabwe. Great sight by the way. Thanks

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 22, 2011 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Thank you Karyn – Great idea to copy the puzzle box too!

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