Toy Rotation

Are you tired of cleaning up a zillion toys each day?  Tired of surrounding your tot with those zillion toys only to find there is little that arouses a sustained amount of interest?  Tired of buying a zillion more toys to entertain your tot?  I have a solution!  Really!  The solution to this dilemma is something I get asked about quite regularly so I thought I would repost this blog entry from March 11, 2014 (with some amendments).

On alternating Fridays, I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A


Today’s Topic: How toy rotation and changing our physical environment can benefit learning.

“Change can open our minds to new ways of viewing ourselves and our relationship to the world, and renew our pleasure in living.”  – Tarthang Tulku, Knowledge of Freedom


1. On toy rotation :

A lot has been written about this so I will not overwhelm you with fine details but I will write from my experience, the benefits of toy rotation and also how I approach toy rotation.

The benefits are many, here are a few:

  • Less clean-up
  • More engaged play with toys –> mastery of toys –> inventive use of toys
  • Toys retain excitement –> less boredom with toys –> less need to buy more new toys

When & what I rotate:  I do a toy rotation every two weeks and this coincides with the changing of our activity plan (visit our shop to view our curricula).  I choose toys that specifically relate to the topic we are learning, plus I have 8 staple categories I always include.  Our toys are available in bins.  We have 12 bins.

  1. Building toys (blocks, mega-lego, etc)
  2. Imaginary play (toy cars, figurines, puppets, dress-up, etc.)
  3. Problem solving toys I (puzzles, lacing, sorters, stackers, etc.)
  4. Problem solving toys II(puzzles, lacing, sorters, stackers, etc.)
  5. Sensory toys (balls, crinkly toys, squishy toys, play dough, etc.)
  6. Books
  7. Music toys
  8. Cause and effect toys (we have a few we really like: Peek-a-Shoe, Pound n Pop Carnival Elephant, Pop n Pals)
  9. Specific to topic and activity plan
  10. Specific to topic and activity plan
  11. Specific to topic and activity plan
  12. Specific to topic and activity plan

Our main play area

In the picture above, our weekly topic was colours so the four “specific to topic and activity plan” bins were one for each colour.

Since we first posted this we have added two new play areas: As children grow older, dramatic & imaginary play become a central part of playing (it becomes more and more complex and developed) .  To accommodate this growth in our children, we added a play kitchen area and a dress-up area.

Our play kitchen

Our play kitchen

Our dress-up area

Our dress-up area











(Also, since our girls have grown older, we do the toy rotation together. I get their input on which toys they would like to have out for the next two weeks.  I give the guidelines, such as building toys, then I let them choose which building toys.  Whenever it’s time to ‘change the toys’, they get really excited.)


2. On toy storage: I think it goes without saying, that if you’re not going to have all of your toys available in your play area, you need a place to put the toys that aren’t being used.


* Store toys in an area that your tot doesn’t have access to

Toy closet with child proof door knob

Toy closet with child proof door knob

*Ensure you have easy access to them (so that toy rotation is not a major ordeal)

I can get any toy with minimal effort

I can get any toy with minimal effort

*Ensure they are organised (so they are easy to find)

Chalk board toy organizers

Chalk board toy organizers

*If you feel you have no use for them any more, donate toys that are too immature for your tot’s age


3. On changing the physical environment:

This can range from changing the layout of furniture in a room to the actual décor in a room and in a classroom; the seating plan.  When possible/suitable, change the actual location of the learning environment such as going outside or to a gymnasium.


4. Why is change so beneficial for learning?

It’s not something that is easy for me to describe but I will do my best to be concise and not blabber on.  Weather we are people who like change or not, it is undeniable the everything inside and outside of us is constantly changing.  Embracing this simple principle can help us to lead less fearful and more fulfilling lives.  Offering change to your students and children, if nothing else, will bring about a certain amount of comfort and acceptance of change.  However, there are many more benefits.  Change brings with it, a lot of energy, momentum and creativity.  It can bring about excitement and stimulation as a result of the unknown or “newness” of something (it’s not stagnant).  Once a person begins to recognize the energy of change, it is possible for them to harness that energy and use it to achieve things they never thought possible……….

…………………….I would suggest that this possibility begins with you offering the gift of change in the first place (even if it’s as simple as changing a seating plan, toy rotation, or hanging new pictures on the wall).

Gettin’ Artsy: Craft Supplies 101

A wonderfully meaningful way to spend time with your child is by doing creative arts!  Though most of us are aware of this, artistic activities often get put on the back-burner because we are so crazy-busy all the time – and..well, schlepping out the supplies, getting messy & cleaning can just seem so laborious (not to mention knowing which craft supplies to buy)!  Today’s post is focused on helping you realize that doing art at home is not as daunting as it can seem!


On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

Today’s Question:

One of the things I struggle with because we are SO busy is keeping enough supplies on hand to attempt these activities even on a smaller scale. Do you have a list of standard crafty things that you always have on hand?

Alexis, Ontario


Thank you for  your question Alexis.  It’s a really great topic that will benefit many of our readers.  Truth be told, I’m actually not the most artistic person so my knowledge of crafty supplies is slightly limited but as a result of your question I did a bit of research.  So today’s post is an amalgamation of helpful information I found mixed with my own experience when it comes to craft supplies and doing art projects at home.


  • Standard Craft Supplies (This post is NOT sponsored – I’ve included pictures of some items we enjoy)

Writing Supplies: Crayons, washable markers,  chalk, oil pastels

Paper Supplies: Construction paper, roll of poster paper, printer paper, coloured tissue paper

Painting Supplies: Tempera paint, water paints, paint  brushes, sponges, smock, old sheet (or similar)

Stamping Supplies: Stamps, large multi-coloured stamp pad (I like having one stamp pad vs. 6.  Kids mix the colours but they do with individual stamp pads too!  I find one easier to manage.)

Embellishments: Pom poms, stickers, googly eyes, coloured tape, ribbon, feathers, foam sheets, gemstones, paper flowers, buttons, beads (anything goes!) –And sparkles – IF YOU DARE!  (They are pretty and popular with the kiddos but can often be found months later in random parts of your home/wardrobe/fridge/car – you get it!)

Cut & Paste: Child friendly learning scissors, coloured glue sticks, white glue, mini glue-gun (for adults)

Other: Popsicle sticks, food colouring, pipe cleaners, play dough, modelling clay, felt


  • Getting Started

Kits: There are a lot of craft  kits out there which can give you a good start.  They usually come with at least one element from most of the categories noted above.  Here is the one we have:

Crayola My First Super Stamping Kit

Crayola My First Super Stamping Kit

Bits and pieces:  If you don’t want to go the craft kit route, visit your local dollar store or craft supplies store and pick up just one or two items from each category noted above.  Also, as your children grow older, they begin to get this kind of stuff as gifts.

Build up over time:  Once you have a small foundation, you can buy specific things here and there as is needed for specific projects.  I also buy things sporadically when I see them on sale (even if I don’t need them right away).


  • Use Everyday Items

Nature: Bring a bag or bucket on your nature walks to collect sticks, rocks, acorns, leaves, flowers, etc. Keep them and incorporate them into your arts and crafts

Recycling: There is a plethora of craft supplies & craft projects waiting to happen in your recycling bin!  Such as, egg cartons, magazines, plastic containers, paper towel rolls, small boxes, etc.


  • Consider Your Space

– Get Organized:  Where are you going to put all of this stuff?  Once you begin building up your craft supplies, you will find it increasingly important to organize them.  Designate an area (a cupboard, a shelf, a storage bin, etc.) for your crafts and consider ways to organize and label the contents (using smaller bins, boxes, containers).

– Access:  This goes hand in hand with getting organized.  The bottom line is, the easier it is to access your craft supplies, the more likely you are to use them.  If you put them in the basement, in a box that’s falling apart, on top of an old shelf that you can barely reach, the odds of you using them often are slim (because it seems like such a hassle just to get them).  On the contrary, if your craft supplies are easy to get to and well organised, it’s not so daunting to whip out a few supplies to keep your tot engaged for 20 minutes.  Also consider which craft supplies (if any) you would like your tot to access independently.  As your children grow older (and less likely to destroy your home with art supplies), you will want to consider putting the supplies in a place where they can access them on their own.

Clean-Up: Choose a space in your home to do art depending on the mess factor of the project.  Put down an old sheet, wear old clothes and use washable craft supplies (they really are amazingly easy to clean off anything).  Also, it helps to mentally prepare by ACCEPTING that things will get a little messy and KNOWING that the clean-up is really not going to stressful or take very long because you are organized and have contained it in a small area.  Lastly, I always have a couple of rags on hand in case of any accidents – (I don’t want to be running to another room to get a rag, leaving two toddlers alone with spilled paint, glue or otherwise!)


Most educators (myself included) believe that creative expression is an integral part of early childhood learning.  As such, all of The Crystal Teaching Method curricula contain ‘creative skills’ as a key component of development and include at least one activity per day that involves creativity.  The links below will take you to the curriculum overview of the two programs we have available thus far: Clever Clovers & Reaching Roses.  Click the link that applies to the age of your baby then scroll down to the ‘Specific Skills‘ section to see the age-specific creative skills you could be working on (that are included in the curriculum).

Clever Clovers (15-18 months)

Reaching Roses (18-24 months)


Reggio Provocations Explained

The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy (established in Italy) is one that is quickly gaining momentum in countries world wide – and for good reason. I spent three years working at a kindergarten school that followed the Reggio philosophy which is where I gained a thorough understanding and love for it!  The Reggio approach has many wonderful facets but today I will focus solely on Reggio provocations.  If you are interested in the Reggio approach to early childhood education, I encourage you to take some time to read this.

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A


 Today’s Topic: Reggio Provocations

Provocations (as They Relate to Reggio Emilia)

  • What are Reggio provocations?

First, it is important to note that there is no set or specific objective to be achieved.  Simply put, the sole purpose of a provocation is to elicit some kind of response. Then, based on the response given, new materials, questions or opportunities are introduced to further explore a topic.


  • What is so valuable about Reggio provocations?

The idea of learning by means of provocation (rather than ‘being taught’) is valuable because there is:

  1. Genuine Interest – Children have a lot of control over the direction of their learning
  2. Genuine Experience – Children learn through touching, moving, listening and observing
  3. Natural Curiosity – Children are encouraged and provoked to explore materials, relationships and environments with as few limits as possible
  4. Genuine Self-Expression – Children can be afforded endless ways and opportunities to express themselves
  5. Authentic Tasks – Children are engaged in work that is purposeful and meaningful to themselves and others.  They are more likely to retain the knowledge (and more importantly) the skills that they acquire, because their desire to do the tasks is intrinsic; therefore they identify problems themselves and eagerly want to solve them.
  • How can I set up Reggio provocations?

While setting up Reggio provocations requires careful thought, they can be simple, inexpensive and the possibilities are infinite!

  1. Initial Topic – Observe and question your tot about a topic of interest.
  2. Choose MaterialsMaterials can include anything; books, natural materials, art supplies, collections, tools, blocks, light, mirrors, water; the list is endless.
  3. Set-Up – Set up should be visually appealing and intriguing – inviting exploration. First, consider where you will set up.  What kind of space is required?  Next, choose a way to display your materials; consider the type of containers or holders you will use – they should be interesting and compliment your materials.  Last, define the workspace using trays, mats, table cloths, paper, etc.  When you define a work area, children naturally move towards it.
  4. Observation – Observe your tot interacting with the provocation you have set up.  What is interesting?  What is said?  What is asked?  What is being done? Take notes.
  5. Extension – Based on your observations, add new materials as needed.  Respond to your tot’s interests by supporting his/her efforts to “do” something.  (This inevitably leads to some sort of ‘project’)
  • Can I see examples of Reggio provocations?

Of course!  The example below is a brief overview of this post (if you want to see the full thing).  However, that post does not include the extension, which is crucial and is noted below.









  1. Initial Topic – The girls had been talking a lot about catching butterflies with nets, going for walks and going to the playground so I decided to present my materials using spring themed containers, holders and colours.
  2. Choose MaterialsI chose the materials to be textiles related to bathing because our theme this week is ‘bath time’. I also added some art supplies (stamp pad, markers and paper on the wall)
  3. Set-Up – I chose a space with natural light in an open area.  The items used to display the materials were engaging.  I defined the work space with the green tape on the wall to add another dimension and to provide a larger-than-usual canvas.
  4. Observation – The girls were VERY interested and much was done, (click here to see the initial response) but the element of this provocation that generated the most interest was the decorative tree and even more specifically, the decorative eggs in the tree.
  5. Extension – As a result of the observation, the next day, I introduced plastic eggs to the table.
New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day's observations

New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day’s observations

This led us to two projects: (Keep in mind that the girls are 2 years + 4 months)

Project #1 – Creating ‘Surprise’ Eggs – While exploring all the materials, one of them decided that they wanted to put something into the plastic eggs to make a ‘surprise’.  I asked them what they would like to put inside.  The unanimous response was “chocolate”.  I told them we didn’t have any chocolate.  Rather than choosing to solve that problem, they came up with a different suggestion.  “I make a picture, put in eggs. Please get me paper.”

Problem 1 – I used suggestive language and said, “Here is your paper, this is quite a big paper to fit into a little egg”.  They quickly decided to cut the paper.  Then they drew pictures which I labelled for them.

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

O's labelled pictures

O’s labelled pictures









Problem 2 – There were 4 eggs that needed to be divided equally.  They chose one at a time until gone. (“M 2 eggs & O 2 eggs”, was said) – They’re teaching themselves math!!!

Problem 3 – The drawings were still too big to fit into the eggs.  “I cut, use scissors”, said M.  As she began to cut, O said, “No! M, break picture my made” – so cutting was no longer an option.  With A LOT of prompting and questioning by me (my final prompt was, “How do we get our clothes to fit into our drawers?”), they came to the conclusion that we could FOLD the drawings.  Then they placed them into the eggs and gave them to guests that visited later that day.

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Putting the surprise into the egg.

Putting the surprise into the egg.









Project #2 – Decorating Eggs – They decided they would like to decorate the plastic eggs and tried using marker on them which kept coming off on their hands.  They asked me about a book we recently read inwhich the characters decorated eggs.  I explained that they were real eggs.  “I decorate real eggs too”.

Problem 1 – I tried having a conversation about how eggs are fragile and break open easily and that we needed to find a way to make them hard.  In the end, they just had no ideas and no way of knowing how to make an egg hard.  So I told them that we would cook them in boiling water.  I asked them to choose the pot that was most appropriately sized to cook the eggs in.   I showed them the bubbling water which amazed them! “Steam, very hot”, they said.

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Watching water boil - NOT BORING with these two!

Watching water boil – NOT BORING with these two!










Problem 2 – They wanted to decorate them right away but obviously they were too hot.  “How can we make them colder?”, I asked.  “Put it in fridge”.  Done.  I asked them how they wanted to decorate.  They told me they wanted to paint the eggs so I chose this opportunity to introduce them to water paints, which they have never used before.

M using water paints for the first time

M using water paints for the first time

Learning how to use water paints

Learning how to use water paints










"I like red"

“I like red”

M is pleased with our decorated eggs

M is pleased with our decorated eggs













Problem 3 They wanted to eat them for lunch.  How do we get the eggs out of the shell?

Peeling eggs - fine motor skills at use!

Peeling eggs – fine motor skills at use!

Eating eggs with our lunch!

Eating eggs with our lunch!









They really liked the water paints…so now I might set up a provocation table related to water paints with flowers and a Claude Monet book, etc.  It is important to note that even though the projects shown were short-term projects, they can take as long as is needed.

  • In Summation

This was a lengthy post, I hope you found it helpful and worthy of your time.  That being said, I would like to leave you with this idea:  I liken Reggio provocations to planting seeds.  You provide a seed and your child’s knowledge, curiosity and creativity will cause it to flourish in beautiful ways; often in ways that you could never predict or imagine.


P.S.  Last Chance!!!

This weekend is the last opportunity to take advantage of our anniversary sale (20% off all of our curriculum).   Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will end March 29, 2015.


 Click here to visit our shop

We’re Back!!!

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

Today’s Question:

When are you going to start blogging again?

CTM blog readers, World Wide


Hello everybody!

Thank you for all of your emails and thank you for waiting for us – we appreciate your patience! We have some special things to share with you!


#1 – 

To celebrate our one year anniversary we are offering all of our development programs at 20% off.   Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will be available through March 29, 2015.

 Click here to visit our shop


#2 – Reaching Roses (18-24 months) is now available for purchase!!

Reaching Roses Large Cover Comprehensive Reaching Roses Part One Title Reaching Roses Part Two Title










Sometimes it’s difficult to ‘toot your own horn’ but here are some great things about our development programs:

Benefits to Children

  • The programs are stimulating and FUN!
  • Encourages your baby to meet specific developmental milestones
  • Helps your baby to develop communication and literacy skills
  • Nurtures your baby’s confidence and self-awareness
  • Builds a strong bond with parents and caregivers

Benefits to Parents

  • Save time and energy! – You won’t need to spend time researching what your baby should be learning and how to teach it to your baby – It’s all been done for you!
  • Save your sanity! – It can be difficult to entertain your baby/toddler for an entire day.  You’ll never be left thinking, “What should we do now?”
  • You and your children will be able to communicate more easily and effectively together which helps alleviate many parental challenges such as tantrums, following instructions, eating, potty training & behaviour issues
  • Have fun and make lasting memories with your baby

#3 – We will begin blogging using our third curriculum, Leaping Lilies (24-30 months)!

Leaping Lilies is just as cohesive and holistic as the previous two programs, plus now each activity plan includes a specific Reggio Emilia provocation activity (If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry, I’ll explain it soon!).  Click here for a review of The Crystal Teaching Method Philosophy.

Since our program is changing, so is the format of our blog!  Our blog runs on a two week schedule and starting Monday, it will look like this:

Monday #1 – Reggio provocation

Wednesday #1 – Activity from the current activity plan

Friday #1 – Q&A or Interesting information

Monday # 2 – Activity from the current activity plan

Wednesday #2 – Activity from the current activity plan

Friday #2 – The culminating activity to end the current activity plan


We are really looking forward to sharing with you again…until then,



On Being a Super Mom….

The Super Mom phenomenon is one I have avoided writing about for quite some time.  The main reason for this is simply because I feel that my blog is an educational blog, not a parenting blog.  However, many of our readers make Super Mom comments and I recently received another message about it, so I decided to address it today.  The overall meaning is:  have confidence in yourself, appreciate the success of others and have compassion for all (yourself included!)

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A

Today’s Question:

I really enjoy reading your blog and I have used many of the activities with my little one.  I especially like the language and literacy component to your curriculum.  There are other mommy-blogs I subscribe to that I also enjoy but sometimes I seriously wonder how you super moms do it all!?  I want the best for my baby so I look to the internet for advice and suggestions but sometimes, I just end up feeling bad and guilty that I don’t do enough.

Lindsay, Indiana

Thank you for your comments Lindsay.  You have brought up an issue that I come across regularly; the fabled SUPER MOM.  The very first thing I would like to declare is that, “I DO NOT DO IT ALL”!!!!  The second thing I would like to say is that I do this blog because I genuinely enjoy it, because education is what I love and because I believe that my teaching style/philosophy is relatively unique.  I decided to undergo this journey to help and benefit others so it saddens me to think that all of this effort might make people feel bad about themselves.

I have never been a fan of the term “Super Mom”.  What does it really mean anyway?  If you  take away the people at the extreme ends of the spectrum (the Martha Stewarts who just might actually “do it all” and the seriously unfit mothers)  then you are left with the rest of us – the average person. We’re all pretty equal; we are all trying to do the best for our children with what we have (emotionally, financially, intellectually, spiritually) – and we all have strengths and we all have areas where we could improve.  In fact, this was true before we had children but for some reason, for many, being a mother brings the “weaknesses” to the forefront.

choose to enjoy the path you walk as a mother

enjoy the path you walk as a mother

Some Thoughts on How I Approach Motherhood:

#1. I don’t do it it all – And I’m pretty sure almost nobody does.

  • Don’t waste your positive energy dwelling on the things that you can’t/don’t do; there is simply no benefit to that
  • Accept that everything is not going to get done all the time, some of the time, or any of the time!
  • Recognize that you are doing more than enough!  You are constantly trying to keep your baby fed, clothed, clean, safe, warm, educated, entertained and above all…..LOVED! (This is the minimum you do for your child in a day)

#2. Ditch the guilt – Before I gave birth, a person very dear to me said, “you will see that motherhood is all about guilt”.  I instinctively knew that this would not be true for me….. and it isn’t.

  • Have confidence that you are doing the best you can
  • When there is something you would like to improve upon, have a quick brainstorm of what strategies you’d like to try – and try them.  If they work, great!  If they don’t work, re-think and try again.  (Just like we tell our kids to do)
  • Give up your “shoulds” – they can really drain your energy and enthusiasm; instead focus on what is really important
  • Stop comparing yourself to others (what works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another) & don’t judge yourself based on others’ successes or failures

#3. We’re good at what we like – Educating and communicating with children is one of my biggest strengths.  I love it – so this plays a big factor in my parenting.  Some moms are big on super nutritious & spectacular meals, some are big on being really active, some are big on looking super fab and totally put together, some are big on party planing or being super-earth conscious; this list could go on all day.  The point is, when you see somebody excelling at something, it doesn’t mean that they “do it all” and you are a failure, it means that those things are probably enjoyable and important to them.

  • Don’t mentally roll your eyes at the mom who bakes those crazy-professional-elaborate cupcakes for her tot’s birthday.  She probably really enjoys doing that.  Congratulate her on her skill.  Enjoy looking at them and eating them.  DON’T think that you should be better at making cupcakes…..especially if it’s not interesting to you!
  • Don’t reprimand yourself for all the things that other moms are good at (they have strengths, just like you!)
  • Get in touch with your interests and strengths and channel those into your parenting strategy (your child will witness and absorb your natural enthusiasm)

4. Mindfulness – This is an integral part of my teaching practice, my parenting practice and my overall approach to life.  It’s value is beyond words and I could write several blog posts about this alone.

  • Notice your mistakes, and move on.  No dwelling.  For example, if I loose my patience and react in a way that I find inappropriate, I notice it, take a few deep breaths and move on.  I don’t relive it over and over in my mind.  I made a mistake and next time, I’ll try not to.
  • Love yourself & have patience with yourself.  You are being pushed to limits you have never experienced before and most of the time, you handle it very well!
  • Lighten up!  Sometimes parenting topics can get  so heavy and serious feeling.  Use your common sense & don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Enjoy the present moment.  Thinking so much can cloud your mind!
  • Use appreciation as a tool.  For example, I love the feeling of my babies’ skin.  If I notice myself starting to get angry or frustrated with them I will literally touch them, or rub my cheek on theirs – the negative feelings melt away.
  • Use perspective as a tool.  For example, if I feel anger or frustration at something they have done (like erasing a blog post I have been writing for hours, even though I have repeatedly asked them not to play with the computer!!!), I take a deep breath and think about how lucky I am to live in a country where my biggest challenge as a mother today was dealing with the disappointment of losing some work.  There are countless mothers who struggle to feed their babies and keep them safe from illness or violence.


So there you have it.  Either we are all Super Moms or none of us are Super Moms.  We’re all in the same boat; we love our kids and we’re all trying to do our best for them.

Please share this with any mom you know who feels lacking, who feels the need to put down other mothers, or who feels overwhelmed with what they think they “should” be doing as a mother!