How to Use Creative and Unconventional Containers in your Classroom


Containers are essential components to any early childhood classroom. Available in many sizes, shapes, and colors, containers are used to store, hold, and tote a variety of learning materials and supplies. In fact, they are such a commonplace classroom element that rarely a second thought is given to them, especially after being placed on the shelf. Containers, however, are much more than bins and baskets. This article will help you think about containers from a different perspective: What if the primary job of containers in the classroom is not to just hold learning materials and objects but rather to intentionally spark children’s interest and engagement with the contents? Use the 4 C’s of Container Selection below for guidelines, inspiration, and getting started in selecting your classroom containers.

referralWhen it comes to parenting or working with toddlers, it’s hard to know what normal behavior is. Toddler brains and bodies are developing at such a fast pace it can be hard to keep up! Your toddler might be able to say full sentences and communicate his or her needs, but reasoning and rationalizing isn’t a part of their skill set quite yet. It can be challenging to predict your toddler’s wants, needs and behavior in this stage of development. One thing is certain, however: Toddlerhood brings a lot of exciting new skills and challenges.

During this phase of development, it’s important to keep in mind that the determination a toddler has to learn and take in new information can be a powerful influence on behavior as well. You might hear “I do it myself!” as your developing toddler wants to feel autonomy and empowerment as they work on building new skills. Parents and caregivers might want to plan for longer and slower transitions as the developing toddler tries out his or her independence while moving from one activity, or place, to another.

High levels of activity and short attention spans are typical behavior for the ever-growing and changing toddler. Parents and caregivers are often surprised to learn that the typical toddler has a much shorter attention span than one might assume.

STEM Video CYoung children cannot be taught STEM skills. For a five-year-old, the practical application of science, technology, engineering, and math is something they can only absorb through experience.

“You live STEM, when you engage with tools and materials,” explains Hal Melnick from Bank Street College of Education. “And, what better place to do that than the classroom with a knowledgeable teacher who sets up the environment so that kids can engage with scientific principles and ideas.”

There is no better material to engage a child in STEM learning than Caroline Pratt’s unit blocks. The unit is “one of the big ideas in mathematics. Math is the study of relationships and the science of pattern. There's a whole lot of abstract stuff we can talk about later on in life, but it builds from the experience that kids have had with well-organized, well-structured tools like the blocks.”

In this 3-minute video, Melnick and other educators explain why every school that is serious about STEM education needs to have a strong block play component in their curriculum. Watch now.

Rhonda. "Solid Foundation for STEM." Solid Foundation for STEM. Community Playthings, 16 June 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.  Reprinted with permission.

Winter can be long and cold in Wisconsin. One of the best ways to get through the winter months as a child care provider is to help the children get involved in some wintertime fun –inside and out. The following are activities to help you keep cabin fever away during the cold month of February.

Outdoor Activity Ideas

All outdoor activities can be found at:

Make Ice Art

Freeze water colored with food coloring into blocks and other shapes, using ice cube trays, muffin tins, Jell-O molds and old yogurt containers. (This step is more easily done in a freezer, but you can also try it outdoors.) Then bring your colorful ice blocks outside, along with any natural ice and snow you can collect, to create your own ice sculptures. In sub-freezing temperatures, you can stick the pieces together by dribbling water on them—it should quickly freeze them in place.

For the Birds

Hollow out an orange and fill with seeds to feed your feathered friends. Add sticks and string to hang it from a tree.

Bubble Ice Maker

When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and watch them freeze on the wand.

Ice and Easy

Freeze colored water into ice cubes, then hide them around the yard for a wintertime scavenger hunt.

Create a Maze

Put on your hiking boots and stamp out a path for the children to follow.

Make Faces

Use handfuls of packed snow to create funny characters on a tree trunk.

Indoor Activity Ideas

Make Snow Jars

Materials Needed

  • small glass jar
  • a plastic figurine
  • glycerin or baby oil
  • glitter
  • water
  • glue (we used a hot glue gun, but superglue should work too) Instructions
  1. Decide what you would like to put in your snow globe.
  2. Glue, place and stick your plastic figurine/s to the inside of the jar lid.
  3. Fill your jar with water and glycerin or baby oil and add glitter—1-2 teaspoons
  4. Screw the lid on the jar and glue it shut for safety.
  5. Shake your jar or tip it upside down to make it snow!

Ice Art Sculptures

Materials Needed

  • liquid watercolors
  • salt
  • pipettes
  • ice Instructions 
  1. Fill a large bowl with water and left it overnight in the freezer.
  2. Pull the container out of the freezer awhile before the activity to ensure that the ice comes out easily.
  3. Put the ice out on a giant cookie sheet in order to catch the melting water.
  4. Have the children spread the salt over the ice. The children will love hearing the ice crack as the salt is absorbed.
  5. Have the children use pipettes to drip watercolors directly onto the ice. The excess water from the melting ice will make the colors swirl and blend beautifully.

Abstract Snowman Art

Materials Needed

  • Cotton balls
  • Googly eyes
  • Buttons
  • Blue construction paper
  • Brown construction paper (use to cut out hats) - optional Instructions
  1. Give each child a piece of blue construction paper and a brown construction paper hat.Have the children pick out their cotton balls (great fine motor practice!).
  2. Let the children choose their own googly eyes and buttons to decorate with.
  3. Give the children some glue and let the artistry begin!

Slippery Sledding Sensory Bin

Materials Needed

  • Large cookie sheet
  • Foil
  • Shaving cream
  • Round lids of different sizes and materials to use for sleds
  • Plastic play people
  • Two bowls (one large and one small)


  1. Begin by taking a big cookie sheet and covering it with tin foil.
  2. Take two bowls, one big and one small, and place them upside down on the cookie sheet.
  3. Cover everything with shaving cream.
  4. Give the children the “sleds” and plastic people and let them have some indoor winter fun!
  5. After a while, you could suggest that the little people have a race. The children may discover that they will slide down the hill faster if there was already a track to follow. They also might find that the sleds slide down the steep hill much faster than the gently sloping one. They also could discover that they could make the little people do face plants into the ‘snow’ from the top of the hill. You know, all your typical, important scientific discoveries!

White Play Dough

Make this bright white snow play dough recipe for hours of winter themed sensory play with children.


  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 cup boiling (or nearly boiling) water
  • A few drops liquid glycerin (not essential, but makes it even smoother!)
  • Silver glitter


  1. Heat the ingredients gently in a pan, stirring until it comes together to form a non-sticky ball. Leave it for a little while to cool down, in which time it will come together more
  2. Knead it until smooth and soft
  3. Add in glitter
  4. If it’s too sticky, add some more cornstarch

Play Ideas

  • Roll the white sparkly dough into balls to make snow balls!
  • Build snow men and snow castles and decorate them with buttons, twigs and beads
  • Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut out snowflakes and stars using cutters
  • Use it to form part of a small world play snow landscape and play with penguins, seals, polar bears etc.

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