Finding treasures for your preschool classroom

One thing I don’t have yet for my preschool classrooms are child-sized shelves. My husband is planning to build me a few but in the mean time, I happened to stumble across this little shelf in my mom’s neighborhood…

It’s funny how being a preschool teacher makes you look at everything with an eye for the possibilities. I was picking my mom up to run a few errands and happened to notice this little plastic bookshelf sitting on the ground by the garbage dump. My mom got in the car and instead of turning to leave the neighborhood I headed the opposite direction to take a closer look at the shelf.

My mom says “Where are you going?” and I just point towards the shelf. She sees it too down the road and says, “If it isn’t broke we can use plastic spray paint to make it shiny and new again!”  The shelf wasn’t broke and all it really needed was a good cleaning and some baskets of things to do…

I have been collecting baskets of things for the children to explore like the baskets of rocks above. The basket of laundry cups below are for pouring and scooping…

And then there is this basket of sticks – I need to pick up some more or perhaps when school starts, the children can help me gather some more to add to my collection…

I still have a few empty baskets to fill up – I am sure some other treasures will come my way. In the mean time, I am very excited about this shelf and the treasures it holds!

By |2011-07-24T08:00:36+00:00July 24th, 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. Sara July 24, 2011 at 8:29 am - Reply

    What a lovely find!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 9:00 am - Reply

      Thank you Sara:)

  2. Yay for thrift & garage sales! I like your bins – the laundry detergent covers are great!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 9:57 am - Reply

      I love all those laundry lids. They make great tools for preschool plus I love the colors!

  3. tril July 24, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

    things like plastic toys/shelves with that textured finish (esp. Little Tykes) can be hard to clean, but the new Miracle Sponges (white, Mr Clean and even dollar store brands) can do wonders for them!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      Very good to know!!

  4. Tonya July 24, 2011 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Just an idea on natural items to use in one of your boxes. My kids love pine cones! I wait until the holidays and find the ones that smell like cinnamin. Last year when we studied the rainforest they used sticks, wood, pine cones with pieces of blue and green tissue paper to make the rainforest. It was very beautiful and you could see each layer. I had no idea they would use the materials this way but was thrilled to watch it happen!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      We will have pinecones and acorns galore once fall hits here – so I will be sure to gather them up! Isn’t it awesome how children can surprise us with their creativity?

  5. Wensy July 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    I noticed you have labels on the containers. Do you have a label maker or use address labels? If so what kind is it. I have a Brother and the letterin seems so small. Thanks for all wonderful ideas.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      I use address labels that I make on the computer and run them through my printer. I actually prefer them a little large print but my assistant has been making these and I am so appreciative that I will run with it as is!

      • Carrie July 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm

        I have actually been printing mine on paper and using packing tape to tape to the bin. This way I can print pictures to go with the words. Not all of my bins are clear or once they get dumped it’s easy for the kids to tell what goes back in it.

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm

        One day – I will add pictures too. It really is the ideal way to label baskets but I just haven’t had the time to add pictures!!

  6. Julie July 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Isn’t it amazing what you can score for your classroom! I bought a revolving record holder yesterday at a flea market for $5. No one else had apparently though of using it to hold books. It will be perfect in my storage areas to hold lots of children’s books. 16 different holders 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Super cool Julie – I don’t think I would have thought of that either!

  7. Joan July 25, 2011 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I had to laugh a little at this post, because I, too, am famous for taking long walks around the neighborhood on garbage pick-up day. My best find was an old gray office supply cart on wheels which I cleaned, painted a bright sunny yellow, and it became a terrific and sturdy rice, sand, beans, etc. table!

    Just went to two awesome preschool workshops – “Design on a Dollar” and “Trash to Science Treasures”. Can’t wait to try out some of those ideas 🙂 Might be time for another walk. . . . . . . . . ..

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm - Reply

      Oooh, what a great conference to attend. I would love to hear about some of their suggestions!

  8. Patty July 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I love it! I have a white shelf almost just like this one and had no idea what to do with it! I have a 1 1/2 year old and I can’t leave anything down on his level that he can get or he tears into it so I have it upstairs and thought what do I do with this shelf, this is perfect – I have been storing my homeschool supplies that I don’t want the little one to get into upstairs, I have some of these containers and this will be perfect to store until I am ready to use! But may I ask what you do with the sticks? And I would love to know more about the pine cones- I have lots of those around. Thanks so much for everything you do! You are so helpful! I have 3 I am homeschooling now that are in preschool. My son is 3 and my twin girls are 4 so you are very helpful! Thanks again!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 30, 2011 at 12:38 am - Reply

      Hi Patty,
      For the sticks I let the children use them in a variety of ways throughout the school year.
      1. I add them to the blocks for block play
      2. We lay them out on the floor in shapes and patterns
      3. We paint with them
      4. We read the book “It’s Not A Stick” and then make our own “not a stick” book.
      5. We break them up (fine motor)
      6. We make a pretend campfire
      7. We measure them and use them as measuring sticks and rain sticks
      and whatever else comes up. I make clear rules about what we can’t do with the sticks right at the beginning of the year and take time to help the children discover positive ways to make the sticks a part of our learning environment.

      Pinecones are great for painting, sensory play, making owls, Christmas ornaments, and bird feeders:)

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