Preschool Room Makeover, YWCA Spryfield

The Preschool room at YWCA Spryfield has 24 children and 3 teachers, and it is busy! One of the teachers, Yuna, worked with me in that very classroom six years ago and it was wonderful to team up with her again! During our conversations with the other two teachers, Elaine and Andrea, I learned that we have a lot of shared values and our teaching approaches are aligned. It made me feel confident that the re-designed room will only improve and evolve.

Last Saturday I worked with this terrific teaching team to help them transform their preschool room. Most importantly, when I came in for a visit in two days, I saw children engaging with their new environment in meaningful and respectful ways and heard positive feedback from the children, the teachers, and the director — the best validation of our efforts!

The room changed dramatically, and I was very grateful that the teachers were open to my suggestions and worked very hard (for 10 hours straight!) to make it happen. Well, see for yourself.

We will begin… at the beginning and walk around the room. The entrance was mostly a transition area between the door and the teachers’ counter with some features of a temporary storage of random things.

BEFORE: entrance area

After, it became a cozy greeting and reading area with a couch, a coffee table, books, and stuffed animals.

AFTER: cozy area for reading and resting
AFTER: additional quiet play space by the bookshelf

The back of the bookshelf is a separate play station with small animals and tree cookies.

AFTER: invitation on the back of the book shelf

We added a new area for loose parts, science, natural items, and sensory exploration.

NEW: sensory and science area

It has a new shelf with loose parts and natural items that is “for teachers’ hands only”. I suggested giving children a tour of the new room to explain the expectations for different areas. I think it worked because all loose parts trays remained on the shelf while children played at the sensory table.

NEW: sensory and natural materials open storage shelf

This area has mostly dark wood, and the table with layers of paint brings some character to it. And it is set up for a sensory exploration on Monday!

We completely re-designed the block area that originally was stretched over the three large shelves.

BEFORE: block area

It also had lots of large plastic toys that we later moved to the playground.

BEFORE: block area

Now the area contains all the staples for the block areas — five types of blocks, planks, cars, larger trucks, trains, people, animals, dinosaurs, and some loose parts. It has light wood colours to visually distinguish it from the loose parts/sensory play area.

AFTER: block area, smaller shelves, yet more materials

The “old” dramatic play area was somewhat underwhelming…

BEFORE: dramatic play area
BEFORE: dramatic play area with empty shelves

After we collected all pieces that belong to that area, I felt happy to see that they go so well together! They are in the sophisticated white-grey-silver family and these colours create a calm yet interesting canvas for the few items that the teachers offered as an invitation to play. We added a “quiet spot” close to the art area, with soft rags, babies, and a small shelf for accessories.

AFTER: dramatic play area is cozy and inviting
AFTER: a cozy spot to rock a baby or to play a tune

The teachers told me that they have “a lot of artists” in this room, so we created an art studio that matches their artistic ambitions!

BEFORE: art area
AFTER: art studio

The large corner shelf contains markers, pencils, and paper that are always available to use at the large art table. The cupboard space underneath holds extra art supplies. A simple wooden frame is used to showcase children’s current masterpieces.

AFTER: art shelf

Opposing the chalkboard wall, there are two shelves to dry and to store artwork, conveniently hidden from sight but right next to the young creators. The top of the shelf has various materials for collages, and it acts as a display for colourful visual accents.

BEFORE: art storage in plain view
AFTER: the top of the art storage shelf facing the wall

To accommodate a large number of children with different interests and skill levels, we created a few small, quiet stations for sensory exploration, puzzles, and Lego. The sensory bin that is always available is sitting on top of the table that has storage for more bins and extra supplies. It replaced a wobbly sensory table that — in its better days — supported many children leaning on it to the detriment of its stability.

BEFORE: puzzle area

The new sensory table was popular but the small puzzle shelf didn’t generate enough interest (oh, well, happens). We briefly talked about it and decided to offer puzzles as individual activities on two other tables in the middle of the room.

AFTER: sensory bins and a small puzzle station

The new Lego table is right next to the entrance — an easy way to engage with a favourite activity after saying good-bye to families! The table has a mirror that for some reason decided to act like a carnival mirror, despite being mounted on the flat backing of the shelf. It added some interesting effects to the environment and we decided to leave it this way.

NEW: Lego table

There was no separate storage area in this room, so we created it from the three large shelves and a curtain! Ta-da!

NEW: small, efficient, and, most importantly, hidden storage!

There were also some small but important touches, for example, bringing the water bottles to the entrance, adding the shelves in the washroom, putting up a curtain over the door, moving a bulletin board out in the hallway, and fastening shelves to the walls. All these steps required thinking, planing, measuring, and lots of drilling and changing drill bits. I was very happy to work with such a fearless and handy bunch!

During my visit to the new room, there was a steady hum of voices, some laughter, some noise — a proper soundtrack to the well-working classroom.

I hope this room keeps working well for the children and the teachers, changing and evolving together with them.

2 thoughts on “Preschool Room Makeover, YWCA Spryfield”

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