I spent a week and half of this summer working on the preschool room at my kids' school, organizing, sorting, and labeling all of it's contents. We're due for a remodel next year, but the teachers wanted to make some improvements this year so that the room would function a little better. As teachers have come and gone over the last 20+ years of occupying the vintage building, it may have never had a complete clean out. Enter me, a parent of a preschooler who actually likes to do this sort of thing.
It was mostly a fun process-- of course there were moments when I was overwhelmed-- but overall, I loved finding just the right place for the teacher's supplies and helping to rework the floor plan so that it was a more calming space for the kids. We were there until the eleventh hour the day before school started, moving and hanging artwork to complement the new plan.
As any teacher, or even parent, of a preschooler knows, signs are very helpful when teaching little ones to clean up their space. Words alone are not enough, since many preschoolers are not yet readers. When it came time to label the space, I consulted one of my favorite fellow organizing nerds-- Jennifer of The Write Start, and she gave me the lowdown of her preferred classroom labeling methods. One method she mentioned that she used to do when Polaroid film was more plentiful was to take a Polaroid shot of a bin (or basket, or whatever you're storing things in) and then write the name of the item along the bottom border with a permanent marker. I liked this idea, so I came up with a way to mimic it in our Polaroid-less world.
I found a Polaroid template online, and I opened it in Adobe Illustrator (it would work just as well in Photoshop, but I prefer Illustrator). I then poked around the internet for a photo of the items I was making a label for. So for example, if the bin was filled with plastic dinosaurs, I would find a simple photo of a plastic dinosaur and then "grab" it using the Preview software on my Mac. (for a PC, I suppose you could just right-click it?) After placing the photo behind the polaroid template, I then added the name of the item in Helvetica, figuring that's a widely available font in case people need to replicate the labels at a later time. You could of course hand write the labels, but I knew I would be happier with printed ones.
Finally, I printed them out on photo paper, trimmed them and laminated them on my Xyron. Our school has a laminator, but I liked the results better on the Xyron. I then trimmed the excess laminate with scissors (the paper cutter proved too fussy).
I wish I had a shot of the labels in the classroom, I'll try and get one when I get a chance. I actually have a few more to make, and then I want to label the cabinet doors with words only for the teachers.
This would work well in a home setting of course, that's really the point of this post, since most of you probably aren't in charge of labeling a preschool room. This took me a fair amount of time, but for your own home it would be much simpler since (I hope) you don't have as much stuff. It would also be a great way to label things around the house for kids who are trying to learn to read, or even those learning a second language.