Search Results for: how to benefit learning

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).

Keeping up the Good Work

Today’s post is about purposeful and meaningful work for children.  What qualifies as meaningful work for children?  How will your tot benefit by engaging in these types of activities? How can you incorporate meaningful work for your child into daily life?

Here’s one activity we did today from the Leaping Lilies curriculum

 This week’s Theme: Bed Time

Activity DescriptionChores: Teach your tot how to make his/her bed.  Make it his/her responsibility each day.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Emotional Learning

Specific Skill: Doing ‘real’ work

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 2 years + 5 months


  • What is meant by real work?

– It’s Not Pretend: Real, meaningful work for children is not the kind where you are sweeping and your little one is sweeping beside you with a toy version of a broom.  It’s not when you give your tot a menial ‘task’ to keep him occupied while you actually do the ‘real’ work.  Real work is completing jobs that are useful and actually need to get done.

– It’s Done Independently: While it may be necessary to help and guide the first couple of times a job is attempted, eventually real work is something your tot can do independently.  However, even though your tot is doing things independently, this doesn’t mean that you can’t work together.  Take gardening as an example.  You can be gardening together, but you are not standing over your tot saying what needs to be done.  Your tot has a meaningful job in the garden (a job that needs doing) and she does it (while you are also in the garden doing your job).  It could even be the same job (like watering) but you are not holding the watering can together.  Your tot has a watering can and is responsible for a certain portion of the garden while you have your watering can, watering another portion of the garden.  Thus, you are working together, but also independently.

– It Benefits Others: Real and meaningful work for children is not simply done for reward or personal gain, it affects and/or helps others.  It’s not something like cleaning up toys to earn a sticker or a ‘plus’ on the reward chart.  We can use gardening again as an example where many people would benefit from their work.  (Children who consistently engage in this kind of work continue to be of benefit to their families and communities throughout their lives because they have experienced and realized the importance and joy of benefiting others, rather than only themselves.)


  • How can doing ‘real’ work benefit my child?

– A Sense of Purpose: Engaging in useful work provides a sense of purpose and pride (the same goes for adults!). Your children will  feel productive and see that they are a valuable and contributing member of your family.

– Overcoming Obstacles: Challenging  your children with meaningful work provides you with an opportunity to encourage them to persevere through difficulties, instilling in them a feeling of achievement.  By providing an opportunity to achieve something more difficult, you can raise their self-esteem in a very concrete way.  They will realize, through action, what they are capable of.


  • What kinds of work?

The types of meaningful work for children is varied and really depends on the age of your child and your family circumstances.  For very young children (like mine) it could be simple chores. For school aged children perhaps things like cooking and gardening.  For teens it could be house repairs/maintenance or even paid employment.  In all cases, the work should be safe (or in the case of older children, they should know what the safety concerns are, how to avoid accidents and what to do if an accident occurs).


  • M making her bed – The girls really enjoy doing this and I am often surprised by how much attention to detail there is. It was  a bit slow today but M got there in the end (with a bit of grunting to help her through the more difficult parts!)


Looking for emotional learning activities for 15-18 months?  Click here!

Looking for emotional learning activities for 18-24 months?  Click here!

Looking for more emotional learning activities for 24-30 months?  Click here! 


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)


Know When to Fold’em

When it comes to toddlers, we often think of cooperation as them doing what we want (but this is really just obedience); real cooperation is a joint-effort involving ‘give & take’ that is mutually satisfying.  In order to develop a cooperative spirit in your children, you can give them the opportunity to work together with yourself and others. Let your tot grow up experiencing first-hand, the benefits of working cooperatively; doing simple chores together is a super-easy way to get started!

Here’s one activity we did today from the Leaping Lilies curriculum

 This week’s Theme: Bed Time

Activity DescriptionI Can Help!: Your tot will love to help you fold up large sheets and blankets.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Social Learning

Specific Skill: Working cooperatively to complete a task

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 2 years + 5 months


  • When to fold’em:  Do this activity when you are folding laundry, cleaning up from a fort/castle building session, after a picnic, or in our case after “we made a giant bird nest” -their words (on the living room floor, with every blanket that was in reach).  I kind of wish I took a picture of the “giant bird nest”, it was well-made & cute!

Practice: The girls are like most toddlers their age, in that they always want to help.  They have been folding blankets and sheets with me for a while now, so today was not their first time.  Get practising, your tot will love it!

Tricks & Tips: 1) It helps to start out with a blanket laid out on the floor 2) After each fold, you may need to help your tot adjust the hand grip (this is the trickiest part)

Start out on the floor

Start out on the floor

Fold completed. Now help readjust the grip.

Fold completed. Now help readjust the grip.










Today’s Folding: This does not require any explanation so a quick few pictures should do it!



















……Just like that, the giant bird’s nest is tidied away (and the best part is, I didn’t lift a finger; they eagerly did the folding AND they were working cooperatively to accomplish something – which is lovely to see since there can be a lot of arguing some days!)



Want to see social learning activities for 15-18 months?  Click here!

Want to see social learning activities for 18-24 months?  Click here!


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,