Wintry Themes and Tidying

As the kids enjoy an afternoon outside, I thought I’d take a little bit of time to tidy and freshen up the learning spaces. I try to do this monthly, but……well…you know, right? I tidy, but I don’t really consider whether or not something is really working in that space, or what might need changing or rearranging. Generally, I only really *think* our spaces twice a year – before we start a new year, and at the mid-point, which is where you find us today. So I did a bit of arranging, and setting out new things (new things that already lived here…in another space – I didn’t purchase anything for this), and tidying and freshening and thought I’d share with you. Interested?

The Nature Shelf

…got revamped. It was too busy over here, and I suppose my almost 2 year old is a factor. I loved the smallish organizer I had on the floor over here, and it was very helpful, but it kept inviting disaster, so…off it went (it’s now the happy organizer of a certain someone’s American Girl doll collection, so it’s found another useful service in the house!)

For displaying our nature treasures I suspended a shallow basket I found at the thrift store from 2 cup hooks under our lowest shelf. It works nicely and the kids think it is a treasure spot, sort of tucked under the shelf. In here, we have added a few pretty Maple leaves (which I am too sentimental to part with yet – in spite of the fact that we are nigh into December), a four leaf clover we dried, 2 acorns, a beech seed, a pretty rock, and a little fairy. Now that our viral *ick* has passed, I do hope we can get out into nature a bit this week and collect some new treasures.

Aren’t these adorable? Tiny baskets. They’re really terribly useful, but I was tired of knocking them off the end of the shelf, so I hung them with cup hooks. Not remotely exciting really…except that I finally took the time to do it. And it makes me happy to see teeny-tiny little baskets hanging on the end of the shelf.

The nature display right now, and probably for a little while is *Winter Birds*. This is one of our absolute favorite things to do during winter – observing our winter birds. We have Meadowlarks that over-winter here, as well as two Northern Yellow Shafted Flickers which are stunning to watch. In addition, most of our regulars stick around. There is something so delightful about stepping into the kitchen in the mornings and peeking out to see who is visiting for a bit of seed. And, when those temps drop, we nature walk from the windows! I will tell you that my husband does spoil the birds – terribly! (which I pretend not to care about…but of course, I’m happy that he does cater to our feathered friends!)

Picture Book Cart and Art Center

Someone asked me recently in a comment if we still used our picture book cart…YES! We do and we love it. This is where it is usually parked now that the Doodlebug no longer consumes books for breakfast. In fact, she’s quite smitten with the printed word and LOVES to bring me books to read! I can roll it into the living room, but lately it stays right here and we enjoy it! I always keep my seasonal books open to an inspiring monthly page – our favorite is Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep.

Above our picture book cart, you can see our map and my woeful attempt to find some place for hanging my dry erase board. It’s not terribly useful here, not to mention the fact that it’s blocking my map, but I was desperate to have it back in here…and it is better than not having it! It is sometimes a real challenge to have a lack of wall space. I’m still thinking on a creative solution to this one! Let me know if you have any ideas! I’m all ears!

I confess, I did think this clever – the coat hook on the wall holding a basket of our favorite Folkmanis Puppets. Fun to look at…and makes me smile!

My Desk

ff156-p1030348…nothing really new or even exciting here, but that sunshine is so low in the December sky that it spills right in here and onto my desk and cheers the whole room up! I just couldn’t resist the sharing of it.

Kinder Themes for Winter…

…are really quite simple. Our Advent books are in the other room where we read in the evening, so in here you’ll see a simple theme of Gingerbread Men for now. This has been fun reading time! On the wall, I hung some library pockets of our Pink Series phonics work with double sided tape. It’s simple, and we enjoy it this way. Peanut enjoys making “gingerbread men” using homemade play dough or Mary’s Softdough at times.

The Doodlebug’s Spaces

…are really becoming quite important to her, so I’m putting a lot of time and thought into her little spaces lately. She’s really starting to enjoy building and connecting and working with her little hands.

Above my map cabinet (in the picture above – it is bottom right) I had Rob install a new set of shelves a month or so ago. This is where my dry erase board **was**. I needed some project shelves and these do work nicely. We call these our *rainy day* shelves and they are quite functional. I keep educational DVD’s here, history coloring books (of which we have several) and maps, K’Nex (used in engineering and building projects), and a small variety of handwork toys available for the inevitable announcement of, “I’m bored!” It’s a good and useful collection…but it was the last remaining wall space. 🙁 I did make use of the ends of the shelves by gluing small strips of cork board onto the ends of the shelves. That’s fun and useful!

Doodlebug’s shelves…on the left are some issues of Babybug magazine which I picked up used from various sources – one was a dear mother who was so kind and just charged me shipping to get the little books to me because she was making room on her shelves and no longer needed them. Thank you! Doodlebug is really quite taken with these little half-book-half-magazines so they have a special place on the shelf. She loves puzzles and is quite interested in wooden blocks so there are a variety of those available, but what she loves most are…

…wooden blocks to string! You can find these all over. We’ve had ours for years – they were a gift from my mom to Sweet Pea when she was little and all the kids have loved them. It makes me smile to see the Doodlebug sit with them and work the little shoelace into the bead carefully and clap and smile when she strings a bead.

Well, it sure has been enjoyable tidying the learning spaces this afternoon! We’re done with formal lessons as of last week, and I just feel such a relief to have the spaces in here all freshened up for the remainder of Advent and awaiting our return in the new year. If you’ve made it to the mid-way mark of your school year, why not consider a day to freshen the shelves up a bit and consider your spaces? If you’ve got too much out and it’s distracting, put some items away and simplify. If the children are bored, see what you’ve got on other shelves and in closets that might be languishing that you could add to your learning spaces!

Happy third week of Advent to all of you! I’m off to enjoy a cup of tea after an afternoon well spent! Hope you’re all enjoying a lovely Advent so far!

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  1. At school ( a tiny little Montessori primary in the UK) we have a roving whiteboard! It fits onto the easel when we need it and slides out of the way when on. It is very popular with our mark-makers because it is a child sized easel and popular with the teachers because it is big enough to get a whole lesson onto but light enough to move alone!

  2. I'm still trying to come up with a shade for my windows that has the world map on it. What about some kind of shutters for your windows that had the white board on them?

  3. I've seen someone take a large laminated map like that and attach shower curtain rings to it and place it on a shower curtain rod. You can just pull the map curtain over the dry erase board when you need it and pull it back when it's time to use the dry erase board. Just a thought for the lack of wall space issue. 🙂

  4. Dear Jen,
    I so enjoy these organisational posts of yours. They are very inspirational. I love how you use all your space.
    I would love to know if you made your rolling picture ook display. I love the shelves underneath. I am looking at having someone , ie a son make one for me. Are you able to give me a rough dimeneion etc.
    Thank you for shaing this
    God Bless

  5. I hang my whiteboard vertically on a door, which is how I also hang my bulletin boards. But I believe my whiteboard is quite a bit smaller than yours is. My wall space is virtually non-existant, but I do have a few doors.

    Glad to hear the viral ick moved out for good. 🙂 Ours is just moving in… I have 2 down with it now, but am really hoping it's done by Christmas!!

  6. Oh ladies…I love your ideas for the whiteboard!

    You know…I was considering two ideas – one was to hang it vertically on the doors of our storage cupboard that's in here…but the board is a little too wide to do that. Need to think more on that. And, Annicles, I've seen those easel type whiteboards. I'm a bit stingy with my floor space in here as well…but I wondered if I couldn't somehow mount the whiteboard to the backside of my picture book cart?? It's another idea I'm pursuing. This would make it mobile, which I like. Both ideas have me thinkin' that Rob has some kind of project in his future over the winter! 🙂

    Paula…I can't tell you HOW LONG I tried to do the same thing with the window shade rollers…or HOW MANY window shade rollers I utterly ruined trying to do the same thing with my map! I'm convinced it's a sound idea!!! I LONG to hear if you figure it out!

    And Gae….I couldn't answer your questions in a comment…so I did a quick post with pictures for you…of the picture book cart.

    So glad you all enjoyed the little peek in here!

  7. You are such a mentor to me! God Bless you for sharing so much of yourself here and blessing us by it. Snuggle Bug and I were excited to see the bird book on your shelf! I immediately went and requested it from the library! What is the little bird gadget on the table beside it? Peace and Blessings, Lori

  8. Lori,
    You would absolutely LOVE all of Carol Lerner's books! They are so beautifully illustrated and written! We adore them. A few are out of print, but usually are quite inexpensive to grab at Amazon or other places and so worth the find!

    The bird gadget is called a “Bird Identiflyer” – it has a slot for different types of bird cards and then plays the song of that bird for you. We have identified some exciting birds in our treeline just through learning their songs! It was a gift from my folks to the kids for Christmas last year and we really enjoy it! Here's their site (note – the Identiflyer comes with 2 cards, but there are several available separately):

    Happy birding, Lori!

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