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Flexible Seating Task 1: Crate Seats

After a lot of research I've decided to make the change to flexible seating in my classroom!  My classroom is already relatively flexible in that students can work around the room with clipboards on the carpet, in the bowl chair, with a cushion... They can also stand along the back counter during instructions if they prefer.  As long as it is safe, I let them sit in their seat any way they choose.  We've got wiggle cushions, foot fidgets and a wobble stool already.  But, the desks are all essentially the same height and at the end of the day... they've all got their name on a desk and that's their spot chosen by me.

I recently attended a meeting, which was all about the plans for a new school in town. It is very "21st century" and the seating will be all flexible. I asked my kids about their thoughts on the topic.... do you need your own desk with a name on it? Is there comfort in that? Approx. 6 said yes... the rest were like "Get these things out of here!" They were so jazzed up about the possibility of adjusting the height, not sitting in those awful plastic chairs.... One student was willing to get to work with a screwdriver at that very moment. I can't stop thinking about the conversation. That was on the last day before Spring Break, so I'm going to have it all ready to go when we return. I have at least 3 kids who will have a spot with their name on it, and anyone else who requests can have that too.

I have decided to include some bath mats, exercise balls and crate seats in my flexible seating plan.  A friend's husband scored me some milk crates from his work, and I've been hoarding them for a while.  I'm happy to finally have the push to want to create the seats (and so is Ryan, so they can get out of his way in the shop!)  I'm making 6 seats.

I've decided to go with outdoor fabric for the seats.  I'm hoping it will be more durable and easier to keep clean.  My fabric search happened in Fabricland.  So many pretty choices!


I really liked this letter print, and the colours would be great for my room decor, but I was afraid of all the white.  I ended up going with the bright yellow dots shown above.  They are cheery - still light, but safer than white.

Ryan sprayed the crates with Krylon for Plastic in Navy Blue.  All of the angles made them tricky to paint and they required A LOT of paint!  Four and a bit cans to do the 6 crates.

The trouble with using milk crates, and not the file folders people are using from office supply stores, is that they don't have the ledge inside to prop the wood up on.  I whined and batted my eyelashes and Ryan devised a way to make it work.  He cut 3/8" plywood he had laying around to match the size of the crate and then made some pieces to go inside as a brace so that it wouldn't slide around.

I wanted to buy high density foam, but it was $28 a meter, and I needed 3 meters.  Not going to happen!  I ended up purchasing a queen size foam mattress pad at Walmart for $31.  I cut two pieces per seat and stacked them.  There's enough left over for 4 more seats and I'll be passing this on to a friend.  I just used a highlighter and traced the wood and cut them out.

Stapling was a bit tricky because of the braces underneath.  I folded the corners just like wrapping a present.  They aren't perfect, but they are pretty good for never having upholstering anything before.  There's no major wrinkles or anything.  Here's 4 of them complete:

Materials needed:
- 6 milk crates (free)
- Spray Paint - Krylon for Plastic in Navy Blue ($6 each x 5 cans)
- Outdoor fabric ($40)
- Foam ($31, but I used just over half of it)
- 3/8" Plywood and lumber (free as they were all leftover scraps)
- Scissors, ruler, marker, saw, nails, staples and staple gun (all free because they were around the house)

I ended up spending approx $15 per seat.  It's a bit more than I would have liked to spend, but they are certainly more comfortable than the hard plastic seats in my room and will be well used, I'm sure!

Read my other flexible seating posts here:
Bathmats as a Kneeling Option
Putting it All Together

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  1. I remember noticing these all over teacher blogs a few years ago. I always wanted to make them, but the cost scared me. I hope your students love them!

  2. Love the idea of creating something new from something old. I absolutely love those milk crates. Your idea and review is outstanding. Keep sharing!

  3. I'm curious how your outdoor fabric has held up? I have had crate seats for about 3 years, but last year some of them became full time seats. My crates took a beating from the students! The fabric (an old bed spread) is so dirty, they definitely have to be re-covered! I've decided to switch to actual milk crates instead of the Staples version because they cracked part way through the year. I do love the crates as a flexible seating option though!

    1. Hi Kerrie-Ann,
      Funny you should ask that! I actually just recovered these a few days ago. The fabric itself was fine, in that it had no rips, tears, or thin spots. But it was DIRTY! I tried to clean it, and I just couldn't. They are used every day all day, so the dirty was inevitable. I just recovered them in black denim. I, too, use actual milk crates. They are very sturdy!