1. Take Stock. Ask children which toys and games they've outgrown. They can help pack these away to make room for exciting new materials.
2. Make It Shine! Get out sponges and buckets of soapy water so children can wash toys and tables. Ask them to help you recondition the wooden blocks by sanding and nibbing them with a light coat of mineral oil.
3. Hold a Take Pride in Your School Day. Invite families to help spruce up the environment. Use tape and glue to mend library books. Clean out gutters and rake up playground debris. Paint walls and add fun wallpaper borders.
4. Provide Some Inspiration. Spread out a colorful quilt and sit on the floor to enjoy learning-center activities. You might try playing whale sounds to attract explorers to the discovery center!
5. Jazz It Up! Make dull containers sparkle with a coat of pastel or fluorescent paint. Add colorful rickrack and ribbon to create perky packaging.
6. Create Colorful Banners. Ask for donations of textured fabric scraps, buttons, trim, and other goodies. Children can create bold designs that highlight new activities.
7. Provide Inspirational Materials. Introduce natural found objects, such as rocks, shells, or pinecones. Add a hat collection to the block corner to put a new twist on construction play. Combine flour, salt, and water to make a fluid paste. Put the mixture in plastic condiment bottles for squeezy, fluid creations in the art area.
8. Share Surprise Boxes. Decorate boxes with glitzy wrapping paper and fill them with tempting, unrelated materials (foil wallpaper sheets, tickets, old shoes). Place them in the dramatic-play or science area and encourage children to create something "new" — maybe a whimsical play or an exciting science project.
9. Add Some Razzle-Dazzle. Hang prisms in your windows to act as sparkly light catchers. Place big sheets over the jungle gym to create a cavern. Then, use flashlights with colored cellophane to throw dancing shadows on the wall.
10. Introduce Special Days. Chase away the mid-year doldrums with "Backward Day" — wear clothes backward, read books backward, and end the day before you begin!