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On a Budget? Inexpensive and Easy-to-Make Learning Materials
By Carolyn R. Tomlin

Whether you’re a novice or experienced teacher, you’re always looking for learning materials for your classroom. Two priorities are required: They must be simple to construct and be made of inexpensive materials. Use the following ideas to create learning materials for your classroom without breaking the bank.


1. Window Shade Hop-Scotch


·        2 discarded six-foot window shades

·        Tape or stapler

·        Wide, felt-tip markers

Directions: Using scissors, cut the roller from the shade and remove the wooden stick in the bottom. Staple or tape the two ends together forming a 12-foot length. Mark off a hopscotch pattern. Roll up when not in use. Use both indoors and outdoors.


2. Zipper Books


·        6-quart zipper plastic bags, one for each child

·        Colored construction paper

·        Yarn

·        Hole punch

Directions: Collect magazine pictures (families, pets, houses, etc.) or personal photos for each child. Cut paper to fit inside the bags. Insert pictures or photos pasted on both sides of the construction paper into the zipper edge. Punch holes on the fold side of each bag and tie with yarn. 


3. Egg Carton Organizer


·        Empty egg carton

·        Large, colorful buttons

Directions: Give each child a container of buttons. Use the compartments to sort buttons by shape, number of eyes, color, or size. (Adult supervision is recommended when using small objects.)


4. Tees-in-a-Row


·        Golf tees

·        Styrofoam packaging material

·        Fabric (burlap or T-shirt fabric)

·        Glue

Directions: Cut Styrofoam in the shape of a rectangle. Then cover in fabric and glue edges to back. Let dry. Punch five holes across the top. Teach numerals (first-fifth) by guiding the child to place a golf tee in the fifth hole or in the third hole as directed.


5. Sewing Cards


·        Styrofoam plates

·        Golf tee

·        Yarn

Directions: In advance, cut yarn into 12-inch lengths. Dip one end in glue and allow to dry before using. Using a golf tee, punch random holes in plate. Sew a design on the plate by inserting the yarn into the holes.


6. Ice Cream Bucket Organizer


·        One plastic gallon ice cream bucket and lid per child

·        Felt-tip markers

·        Stickers

Directions: Allow each child to make a creative pattern on their personal organizer using markers and stickers. Write each child’s name on a self-adhesive label. Store on a low shelf for personal items used throughout the day. For non-readers, place a picture on the shelf for identification.


7. Geometric Collage


·        Foam sheets in bright colors

·        Scissors

Directions: Using scissors, cut foam into geometric shapes. Allow children to make a geometric collage using the shapes. Talk about the shapes as they work.


8. Ribbon Wand


·        12-inch wooden or plastic dowel rod

·        3 yards of brightly-colored ribbon

·        Heavy-duty tape

Directions: Tape one end of the ribbon to the dowel rod. Move the wand in circles, figure 8s, and other patterns for a creative dance.



Carolyn R. Tomlin, from Jackson, TN, is a former assistant professor of education from Union University. She writes for numerous education workshops on writing to publish and developing grants.