Why I design for little humans (and why you should care)


Hello friends,

Zack here—the Canvas in Chalkboard & Canvas. As our Doodler-in-Chief, it's my mission to introduce little humans to great design at an early age. Because design is important. And it's about much more than pretty pictures.

Simply put, a great designer is an expert at communicating visually. They know how to combine images and words in just the right way to get their point across meaningfully and simply. And often, the best design is so powerful because of the designer's ability to draw unexpected connections and make you see the world through different glasses. So when someone says:

"Wow, that's so creative!"

they usually mean:

"Wow, I never thought to make that connection!"

I could ramble all day about this—trust me—but I'll get to the point.

Young brains are like sponges, soaking up information and creating zillions of neurological connections that form the basis of a young person's understanding of the world. To a young brain, every new tidbit of information is an adventure witnessed through fresh eyes, and kids are so creative because they're constantly forming new connections between their experiences. It's the reason Pablo Picasso said:

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Tell me about it, Pablo. That's why I believe all kids are uniquely equipped to appreciate great design, and to benefit from all of the playful connections their brains will form as a result. And when kids with design-brains grow into adults with design-brains, the world benefits, because we have even more creative thinkers and tinkerers out there solving the world's problems.

Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988) Eames 2007 production, 1945 design. Plywood, 16.5 x 16.25 x 31". Courtesy of Vitra Inc. © Charles & Ray Eames

Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988) Eames

2007 production, 1945 design. Plywood, 16.5 x 16.25 x 31". Courtesy of Vitra Inc. © Charles & Ray Eames

We're certainly not the first to see inspiration at the intersection of education and design. Charles and Ray Eames—two of my personal heroes—saw it back in the 40s, when design was still a relatively new idea. Their products were stunning syntheses of form and function that were as beautiful as they were useful, and the things they designed for kids were no different, blurring the line between learning and play.

Now, more than 70 years later, design for young brains is not a new new idea. But when my wife and I started talking about what we could create together, we quickly realized that there aren't a lot of designers out there making amazing stuff for teachers and the classroom. We're here to change that. It's my goal to leave behind a legacy of great creations that helped grow a generation of brilliant humans. It's the most important thing I could imagine doing with my abilities, and I'm excited to be sharing it with you.


Zack Mueller  | C&C Co-Founder & Doodler-in-Chief

P.S.—Charles and Ray were also married. Just sayin'...

P.P.S—The Canvas will be my recurring column on the C&C blog, and a place for me to share what's inspiring me. Subscribe to stay tuned!

5 Fantastic Insect Books for Kids That are NOT The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Each new topic of study in the classroom brings about new books for our little ones to read (or have read to them). I know when I think of books about insects, my mind immediately goes to The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It was one of my favorites when I was a kid and is still one of my favorites today. I can't wait to do butterfly crafts and laugh with the kids about how much the caterpillar in the story ate. But after this book, can you quickly think of any more? And what am I going to do? Spend a whole month on JUST this one book? Of course not! That's why I have put together this little list of 5 books about insects that are NOT The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

1. Hey, Little Ant | written by Phillip & Hannah Hoose, Illustrated by Debbie Tilley

This book has quickly become one of my favorites for the message it brings. It doesn't teach much about insects themselves, but rather it uses them to teach about empathy & compassion. The premise of this book is that a little boy is about to step on an ant, but then the ant starts talking & begs the boy not to squish him. What does the boy decide in the end? We don't find out, but this can lead to a great discussion to have with your students about what they think he should do. This book was originally a song by Phillip & Hannah Hoose, a father-daughter team, and the music is featured in the back of the book to sing with your class! 


2. Ten Little Caterpillars | written by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

This counting book is brought to you by the same team who wrote & illustrated Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, so you know it will be a hit in your classroom. The beautiful watercolor collages are eye-catching & beautiful. In this counting book, we see each caterpillar take a different path—some of them even becoming another animal's lunch! By the time we get to the tenth caterpillar, we hope it will successfully become a butterfly, and that's exactly what happens. This book is an excellent tool for not only teaching about the butterfly life-cycle, but for counting and quantifying up to ten as well.


3. From Caterpillar to Butterfly | written by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by Bari Weissman

This is another book about caterpillars & butterflies, but it focuses much more on the amazing transformation these insects make. In this book, a class has just caught some caterpillars and placed them in a jar with some leaves for their classroom. Your class will learn some important vocabulary about butterflies, like "metamorphosis" and "chrysilis". From Caterpillar to Butterfly is more about the facts than a story, but we get to see what happens to the caterpillars through the eyes of the students in a fictional classroom. This would be a great book to use to introduce your own caterpillars into the class and follow along as they undergo their own metamorphosis. (I got my butterfly net with caterpillars from Insect Lore)


4. Bugs Are Insects | written by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

We call them "bugs" all the time, but what makes a bug an insect? Find out with this non-fiction book from the Let's-Find-Out-Science series. We get introduced to different common insects and even learn about the difference between insects and spiders. The cut-paper illustrations are beautiful and some even look like real bugs! This book has just enough information to keep your students interested & learning, but not so much that they begin daydreaming about what game they played before bed last night. 


5. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs | written by Catherine D. Hughes

Non-fiction is such an important part of the classroom, and I think it is often overlooked as a valuable resource. This book from National Geographic is full of bright illustrations of insects and short entries about each image to keep your students engaged. Some of the topics covered are metamorphosis, honeybees, and ants. I know my class was wowed by the closeup images and couldn't wait to learn more about what they were looking at, making this a book they got out to read again & again.


Why You (and Your Kids) Should Goof Off More

Image by Lotus Carroll via Flickr.

Image by Lotus Carroll via Flickr.

Goofing off is important! Yes, I said it—I should know. I’m a goofing off professional. But it’s not only important for adults (and it really IS important for adults), but for kids too. And I’m not just talking about recess, although that’s definitely important and I’ll get to that as well. Goofing off in places where we’re really not supposed to, like in the classroom or even over a family meal, can have a positive, lasting impact on a child.

Let’s start with the basics. Usually goofing off leads to laughter, and laughter is incredibly important to our overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are both short and long term effects of laughter. Some of the short term effects include: stimulating your heart and lungs, releasing endorphins, and stimulating circulation which can aid in muscle relaxation. As for the long term effects? It has been shown to help with your immune system and lessen depression and anxiety. So crack a few more jokes. It’ll benefit yourself and everyone around you.

Children goof off in all sorts of ways, and physical play is probably the most important. Early Childhood teachers already know that play and learning go hand-in-hand, but what happens if they don’t get the play time they need so much? Play helps children develop important physical, social-emotional, and cognitive skills and without this precious play time, children can grow into “adults who are less trustful and less cooperative” according to the Urban Child Institute.

So have a sense of humor and encourage the kids in your life to do the same! KidsHealth says, “Kids with a well-developed sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle differences (their own and others') well.” Now, I’m not suggesting you take all the seriousness out of your day—everyone needs structure. But consider injecting a little more time to goof off into your everyday life or classroom routine.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out our latest free Goody. It’s the perfect way to get your goof on!

Felt Sushi DIY

To celebrate the launch of Arigato, we've created a great DIY guide that shows you how to make this adorable felt sushi.

You'll need:

  • ruler
  • craft knife or sharp scissors
  • cutting surface
  • felt sheets in the following colors: dark pink, light pink, orange, tan, white, light green, dark green

Purchase materials through our affiliate link to support Chalkboard & Canvas!

To get started, you'll need to cut your felt to the following dimensions:

  • dark & light pink (fish): 1.5 in. x 6 in.
  • dark green (seaweed): .5 in. x 6 in. for nigiri, 1.5 in. x 6 in. for sushi roll
  • white & tan (white & brown rice): 1.5 in. x 12 in.
  • green (avocado): .5 in. x 1.5 in.
  • orange (carrot): .5 in. x 1.5 in.

Sushi is an art form, and sushi chefs pride themselves on their knife skills. So take your time and make sure to cut straight, uniform pieces. It'll look awesome!

Once your prep is done, it's time to assemble. The felt naturally sticks to itself, and your kids can unroll and rebuild these alllllllll day.

Your kids can mix and match these basic pieces to dream up all kinds of different combinations!

Roll on over to our store to get your hands on Arigato—it's only six bucks, and it's the perfect companion for the delightful felt sushi you're about to create.

Go forth and play!


Sneak Peek!

Today, we are beyond excited to give you a sneak peek at our first Dramatic Play Kit, which leaps into our store on Monday February 29.

Ready? Drumroll please! Or maybe a tuna roll?

Meet Arigato—a sushi restaurant perfect for your classroom’s dramatic play center. Why a sushi restaurant? Well, we just really like sushi. Plus, it’s likely most of the children in your classroom have never tried or heard of it before, so consider this an introduction to Japanese cuisine. Why did we call it Arigato? It’s the word for thank you in Japanese. Look at that! Your students have just learned a new word in a new language.

This beautifully designed, custom illustrated kit includes everything you need to turn your classroom into a delightful sushi restaurant with a click of the print button! Here’s what’s inside:

Educational benefits:

  • social skills
  • writing and recognizing numbers
  • world languages
  • quantifying
  • picture cues
  • fine motor skills

What’s included:

  • menu
  • sushi order forms
  • hours of operation
  • open/closed sign
  • 2 unique table tents
  • how to use chopsticks placemats
    (for righties & lefties!)

The kit drops on February 29th and we can’t wait to share it with you. It’ll be available through our website for six bucks, and your purchase gets you a DRM-free digital download that you can print in the classroom whenever you need.

Plus, sign up for our mailing list below to get an exclusive coupon when Arigato launches!


Free Valentine's Day Goody!


And I will always love yoooou!

Ahem... sorry. We just think Valentine’s Day is super-duper fun, and we have a goody for you to use in your classroom on this sweet holiday.

Sign up for our mailing list below* to download our brand new Love Letter Set. This print-at-home PDF set includes delightful red, yellow and blue heart envelopes and a fun "3 Things I Love About ______" sheet for your kiddos to put inside and take home to their loved ones. After you sign up, you’ll see a link to download your very own copy. We’re all about making your life a little easier and more beautiful, and we hope this spreads joy and curiosity in your classroom.

If you appreciate this goody, don't forget to check back on February 29th when we roll out our very first Dramatic Play Restaurant Kit. We can't stinkin' wait.



Coming Soon!


The two of us have been hard at work dreaming up some amazing new stuff for your classroom, and we’re excited to tell you about our flagship dramatic play products—which we’re launching soon!

Dramatic play is the heart of the preschool classroom—and a favorite among students—so we knew it was the right place for us to start tinkering. It’s important to use intentional, well-crafted materials in your dramatic play center, but it’s not always easy to find quality resources; nevermind the time and energy to create your own. That’s where we come in.

We’re developing a series of 5 deee-licious dramatic play kits. Each one is inspired by a different culture from around the globe, and contains all you need to transform your dramatic play center into a delightful restaurant. But, we won’t tell you yet which type of restaurant we’re releasing first (that’s just how we roll).

Forget the clipart and curlicue fonts. Our dramatic play kits are custom illustrated and beautifully designed with young brains in mind. Your little restaurateurs will love that their stuff looks and feels like it belongs in a real restaurant, and you’ll love all of the tiny teachable moments we’ve crammed into them.

The first one drops on February 29th (we thought we could use the extra day) and we can’t wait to share it with you. It’ll be available through our website for six bucks, and your purchase gets you a DRM-free digital download that you can print in the classroom whenever you need. Plus, you’ll have access to any future updates to the kit. For life.

Until then, stay tuned and stay curious.



Sherry, Zack, Lemon & Storm.

P.S. — Be sure to join our mailing list so we can keep in touch!

Welcome to Chalkboard & Canvas!

CC Portrait


We are SO excited to be starting our blog and our brand new business and we can't wait to share all of the fun ideas we have for you. But first, I want to share a little bit about ourselves so you can get to know us.

I'm Sherry... the Chalkboard in "Chalkboard & Canvas." I teach pre-K in Cincinnati and absolutely love it! Every day, I get to see bright young faces and teach them new things about the world around us. I like to think I'm a pretty creative teacher, but we all need some help sometimes and that's when I turn to the internet for help. Teaching blogs and Pinterest have become my go-tos in those situations, but as I gain more experience I find myself using them less and less and start thinking out of the box more often. I have only been teaching for four years, but it gets easier (and more fun) every day. 

My husband, Zack, is the "Canvas." He has been working as a graphic designer for four years and has had a creative mind since the day he was born. We met in high school, and I have trouble remembering a moment when he wasn't doing something creative. He has challenged my thinking and I am a better teacher and person because of it!

Together, we are Chalkboard & Canvas.