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Creating Nature-based Classrooms Webinar – Presented by Sandra Duncan and Jody Martin

When you think of the aesthetics of an early education classroom, what do you see?

  • Brightly colored plastic toys.
  • Shelves stacked high with lesson materials and paperwork.
  • Walls covered with color-by-numbers artwork.
  • Commercial posters with letters, numbers and cartoons.

Consider how this makes you feel. Are you calm or are your senses overwhelmed with all the colors? Can you find a comfortable spot to relax? Most likely, if you don’t feel comfortable, little ones will also feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed in this type of environment. This is a familiar aesthetic for teachers, but not necessarily the right one. Early childhood experts are beginning to look at new ways to break this antiquated classroom setup by designing beautiful classroom environments filled with nature and natural objects.

“Traditionally accepted notions of what early childhood classrooms should be have persisted because, until recently, they haven’t been challenged.”

Natural, recognizable spaces welcome children and allow them to relax and deeply experience the moment without unfamiliar distractions. A child who is calm, at peace and centered will be able to experience and remember information better than a child who is constantly distracted, uncomfortable and forced into focus.

Beautiful, realistic elements are vital for creating a classroom space that promotes positive cognitive learning. In this thoughtful webinar session, Creating Nature-based Classrooms: Breaking the Aesthetic Code of Early Childhood Environments, Sandra Duncan and Jody Martin encourage teachers to break the traditional aesthetic code by bringing the outside in and creating nature-based experiences for young children to enhance their learning potential.

Click here for a full recording of the webinar.

About the Presenters:

With almost 50 years of experience in the early care and education field, Dr. Sandra Duncan has extensive experiences in publishing curricula and teacher resources, playing with young children, training early childhood professionals, teaching at the university level, designing professional development programs, working with parents and CDA candidates and authoring articles and books.



Jody Martin has 34 years of extensive and diverse experience in the early childhood field. She taught preschool, directed a child care center, and worked at the corporate off1ces of two national child care companies. She is presently the Professional Learning Content Manager for Frog Street Press. Jody has authored several courses for online training companies, written several articles for early childhood publications and authored several books.

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Introducing IO Blocks Makerspace

Guidecraft is proud to introduce IO Blocks Makerspace as a free online resource for teachers, educators, and students interested in combining technology and design with the limitless opportunities of Guidecraft’s original building toy system, IO Blocks. Curated lessons on familiar subjects; such as insects, robots, and bridges, encourage children to explore the world around them using IO Blocks and 3D printed pieces of their own creation.

IO Blocks are Guidecraft’s friction fit building system influenced by virtual world design elements. Each of the 11 unique shapes are designed to a 1:1 ratio standard building unit. While playing with the toys, children become familiar with many concepts vital to understanding STEM concepts such as spatial and number sense, structure, and balance. These characteristics make IO Blocks an ideal physical model for introducing children to digital 3D design and product and part creation.

The IO Blocks Makerspace Community was created to deliver a complete platform to teachers and librarians interested in integrating 3D design into their curriculum. Students are asked to solve problems or tasks presented to them using their classroom’s IO Blocks set. Using 3D design programs, students can download and tinker with original IO Blocks shapes to create unique IO Blocks pieces that help accomplish their prompt or task. At the end of each lesson, students will have used problem solving, creativity, technical skills, and perseverance to accomplish their task.

Everyone is encouraged to share their designs, builds, and unique lessons on the Guidecraft IO Blocks Makerspace Community. All lessons and inspirational Makerspace submissions can be found there. The lessons and shape files (CADs) for the IO Blocks pieces may be download directly from the website. For more information about the IO Blocks Makerspace page, or to become a part of the IO Makerspace Community, please visit

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The Impact of Natural Elements on Early Learning Spaces: A Global Perspective

Join’s Webinar on Monday, May 21, from 3-4pm EST as our very own President, Gary Bilezikian, takes us on a global tour of Early Childhood Education from New Zealand, to Thailand, to Chile, to China — in search of nature-based environments that promote a holistic educational model. You’ll learn how the legal, cultural, political, and religious frameworks impact and shape our understanding of the environment. Gary will also discuss great products and ideas that will inspire how you think about your environment, as well as provide ideas and strategies to enhance organic experiences within the built environment.

Eight lucky attendees will win $250 worth of early childhood education products for their classrooms. Register here to sign up to participate in the session and please join Classroom Management for Early Learning Community to learn more about events like these.

Click here for a full recording of the webinar just in case you missed joining us live on Monday. See the webinar for more details on the chance to win Guidecraft products for your classroom!


Gary Bilezikian, President of Guidecraft

Gary Bilezikian, President of Guidecraft

About the Presenter:

Gary Bilezikian is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s Art and Design Education program. He taught art in the New York City public schools, was a children’s book author and illustrator, and founder of children’s new media, and furniture companies. For the past 20 years he has worked in product development, design, supply chain and compliance on children’s products in both the consumer and early childhood education markets. As President of Guidecraft, a provider of STEM-based toys and early childhood education furniture, his work focuses on the global early childhood education environment, and working towards a universal set of ideas and standards. He works in the United States and internationally with ECE distributors, as well as designers, architects, and educators to implement new ideas, products and strategies into the preschool landscape. He’s married to the fine artist Heidi Lanino, and lives in the Hudson Valley in New York State with their wonderful kids and pets.

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Introducing Block Science

Introducing a new kind of block play: Block Science.

Our entire Block Science system, which debuts this year, is created around physics to harness the energy of play. It is designed to be used with all standard unit blocks and every set includes Concept Cards, or visual cues that show the correlation between the world we live in and how we can shape that world and the related concepts using the Block Science system.

The Foundation Sets exercise early engineering concepts, collaboration, and the study of matter, motion and mathematics. Plastic building and roadway clips stabilize builds, drawbridges and loops to enable taller, sturdier and movable tracks and builds. Simplified, wooden cars with plastic wheels easily glide across the solid wood tracks while carrying algebraic people designed for mathematical and dramatic play activities.

This pioneering extension of the unit blocks system adds a rich layer of cognitive development to traditional classroom block play. To see samples of the Concept Cards, or for more information about the Block Science Foundation Sets and corresponding Unit Blocks Sets, please visit our Block Science Inspiration Page.

Sherry Artemenko, founder of Play on Words, an award-winning speech therapy site where Play Advances Language, experienced our Block Science system first-hand at the New York Toy Fair. To watch her review, please click here.

If you would like to shop our entire Block Science system and corresponding products, please click here.

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Vote Today! IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders Nominated for Toy of the Year!

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit to vote for favorite toys, including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!

On November 21st, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) announced the Finalists for the prestigious 2017 Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) – also known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry and we are proud to announce that both IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders are in! With 700 entrees from over 250 toy companies, both IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies are among the seven finalists for their categories. This year, Guidecraft is represented in the TOTYs by IO Blocks Vehicles in the Preschool Category and Grippies Builders in the Construction Category.

IO Blocks Vehicles includes 12 vehicle parts to create an unlimited array of vehicles and expands the award-winning building toy system of IO Blocks. This large set of 96 pieces comes with fins, wings, bumpers, cabins, wheels and more. With pixelated, digital world roots, the high-quality design of IO Blocks Vehicles, and its open-ended building possibilities and puzzle-like qualities, makes it a great fit for educators and parents interested in STEM skill development.

In addition to becoming a TOTY Award finalist in the Preschool Category, IO Blocks Vehicles has received the 2016 Tillywig Toy and Media Brain Child Award and the 2016 Play Advances Learning (PAL) award.
The STEM building toy system for toddlers, Grippies Builders combines tactile exploration, magnetic play and an introduction to the basic principles of engineering and geometry. Unique in concept and design, Grippies provide a fun, safe and exploratory experience for toddlers. Watch for Guidecraft to add four new magnetic toys to the Grippies system in 2017 – all of which encourage STEM skill development in toddlers through original designs and the addition of new and exciting features.

Grippies Builders has received accolades from several leading toy industry experts such as the 2016 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, the National Parenting Seal of Approval, and the 2016 Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award. See all of the independent Grippies Builders awards and reviews here.

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit to vote for favorite toys (including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!), games and properties across 14 categories and enter to win exclusive prize packages. Winners will be announced at the TOTY gala on February 17th (the day before Toy Fair begins) at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.

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