Safe, accessible storage areas can be a valuable resource in the child care environment. Storage enables child care providers to rotate materials based on the developmental needs and interests of the children. A storage area makes it possible to create collections of materials and props around specific themes and to build those themes into the curriculum at appropriate times during the year. Storage also keeps children safe by ensuring that dangerous or hazardous materials are inaccessible.
The organization of your child care facility may dictate where to store items. Whenever possible, store materials close to the place where they will be used.
Within the classroom: Use cabinets, drawers, and closets to store materials that do not need to be displayed in the classroom. Especially in toddler rooms, store extras of popular toys near the play area so the child care provider can pull out additional toys if children argue. Store some toys out of children's sight, and rotate toys occasionally to keep children interested. Make sure each cabinet or drawer is labeled so you know what each one contains before you open it.
Outdoor Storage: Use an outdoor closet or shed to store outdoor toys, tricycles, and sports equipment. This saves classroom space and helps keep bugs and dirt outside. Be sure the closet or shed can be locked in order to keep curious children out.
Additional Storage Options: If you do not have storage in your classroom, choose an empty room or closet to store materials. When materials for a specific classroom are stored outside that room, labeling these items with the classroom number or name may help reduce confusion.
The key to making storage work for your child care program is organization. Here are some tips to keep your storage areas organized:
Learning centers are a great way to encourage children to make independent play choices and to select materials that interest them. To be effective, materials in each learning center should be organized for easy use and cleanup. Here are some ideas to consider.
Materials that are potentially harmful to children, such as cleaners and disinfectants, should always be kept in a locked cabinet or closet out of the reach of children. This also includes items like scissors, staplers, garden tools, or any other materials that require adult supervision. Check the storage cabinet or closet at the beginning of each day to ensure that it is locked.
To learn more about how to organize your child care facility, and for more ideas on selecting toys and materials for child care, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: