Imagining Our Totally Terrific Toy Store

Yesterday, I went to Shirley-Anne Stretton’s house to pick up the stuffed animals that her students had collected for mine as part of a classroom buddy initiative. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized how many stuffed animals her Grade 2 class had collected. Not only did each of her students bring in animals, but the Grade 2’s wrote announcements to collect animals from other students at Ancaster Meadow School. I don’t have the best estimation skills, but I’m guessing that I have around 200 stuffed animals to bring into the school this week.


While I knew that these toys were coming, and I intended to use them for some math activities before sending them home with the students, the volume of items now has me reconsidering my plan. I think that we might be able to open our own free Toy Store. I imagine students from JK-Grade 2 (or maybe even Grade 3) placing “orders” for toys. My students can explore …

  • sorting options.
  • storage options (and non-standard units of measurement as well as structures, as they look at creating shelving and/or bins for the stuffed animals).
  • counting, addition, and subtraction, as we look at totals, and how those totals change as the items are “sold.” 
  • data management, when surveying for preferred types, colours, and/or sizes of animals.
  • media literacy, as we create signs for the types of toys, as well as announcements to let people know that the toys are available for others to receive. 
  • writing using different forms, as students create order forms, stories, and/or poems to go with the toys.
  • writing songs to help advertise for the toys (adding in a music component to the writing).
  • name reading and writing, as students match toys to the people that selected them.
  • telling time to the hour and half-hour, as they create open and closed signs for our store.

And these are just my initial thoughts. I can’t wait to see what the students think and do. So even though I have plans for this upcoming week, and even though a few of these plans include using these stuffed animals, I think that these toys make end up taking a bigger role in our classroom learning. That’s okay.

I can’t help but think back to the amazing presentation that we listened to on Friday morning at our PA Day session, and the important reminder that phonemic awareness skills need to be taught in context — through comprehensive literacy and inquiry. I see this toy store as providing this potential: allowing students to take what they’ve learned orally about the sounds at the beginning and end of words, as well as segmenting and blending sounds, and using these skills for multiple reading and writing opportunities. The possibilities are endless! What would you do with these stuffed animals? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.


4 thoughts on “Imagining Our Totally Terrific Toy Store

  1. I’m glad you are so enthusiastic about the toys. I know Ms Stretton and Mr B and their students really loved collecting them. I wonder about setting up a stuffed animal adoption centre. They could write descriptions of each stuffed animal and create adoption certificates for the new parents. They could also pay it forward and suggest small donations for their adoptions, and then use the money raised to donate to something important to them. Having taught in the inner city, you are frequently given donations. Teaching students who are frequent recipients of donations about how they can also be donors is important. (If raising money is out of the question, determining if there are some stuffed animals that they could re-donate to another agency could do the same thing).
    Enjoy the excitement of these new classroom “pets”!

    • Thank you so much for the comment, Kristi, and the wonderful ideas! Now you’ve given me something totally different to consider. I love the adoption idea. I remember when I taught Kindergarten many years ago, and we made paper mache dinosaur eggs. We actually put a little dinosaur inside the egg. Each student made an ultrasound picture and a birth certificate. Making an adoption certificate would be awesome! I know that all of Shirley-Anne’s students wrote cinquains to describe their stuffed animals. I initially thought that my students could work on reading the poems, and using the descriptions to help identify the animals. Maybe they could even use them as a model to write their own descriptions. Some could be through poetry. Some could be through a story or a song. There are so many possibilities here. Now I need to go do some thinking, and then see what the students think as well.

      I don’t know if we could really look at collecting money donations, but I LOVE the idea of donating some animals to someone else. We could maybe even investigate some options as a class, and work on writing a letter to go with our donations. Students could see the benefit in giving to others — not just others in the school, but also others in the community. It would be great if there was a local place where we could donate, and then we could even possibly walk the donation over (when it’s a bit warmer of course 🙂 ). Then students could see the impact of giving back.

      Thank you so much for all of your ideas, and thanks to Ms. Stretton, Mr. B., and all of the students for the generous gifts!

  2. I had typed a whole comment and it disappeared. Ugh 🙂 I like the idea of adoption for the extras. Could you save some of the animals? They could be EQAO buddies for anxious students or “friends” for whoever needs them. If you are doing adoptions, students could include the time of birth (using an analogue drawing or crafted clock) to work in some time with the writing. It is also a great time to teach about adjectives as they try to describe their furry friends.

    • Sorry that your comment disappeared, Heather, but thanks for posting another one. I love the time additions to the adoption certificate. We usually try to avoid keeping stuffed animals at school, but maybe I could save a few. I do like the idea of saving them for anxious students, whether for EQAO or otherwise. Stuffed animals can be great “buddies” for reading too. Thanks for giving me more to think about!


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