Monday, July 1, 2013

The Crate Bench Revisited - Monday Made It

I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics's recurring linky, Monday Made It today.  So last year, I made this little honey:

Which of course, was inspired by this lovely pin that is still going like gangbusters:

But see - not everything works out as originally planned.  The fabric for instance.  I used regular fabric that my mother found for me, and some stuffing left over from a broken trampoline.  Friends, this barely lasted until January.  The fabric tore and split, and the trampoline padding - well, I guess I could only describe it as - exploded.  So in January, I did do a reupholstering using thicker, more resilient duck fabric or canvas like fabric.  And for the padding I went and got a twin size foam mattress pad from Wal-mart and cut it into three pieces to fit my crates.  This held up better - buuuuut, there were some unforeseen issues.
My Dad comes to school to help me bring home my larger teacher furniture articles (we aren't allowed to store large pieces not owned by the school over the summer).  And he goes to pick up the first crate seat and he says "Hey- this is looking pretty good!".  So then I put a piece of scrap fabric on top of it.
Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaah.  For serious.  Those stripes ain't white like they should be.  Sheesh.  And Yuck.  And Dear God, is my own sofa that dirty but I can't tell because there isn't anything to compare it to?  Additionally, there is also marker, and crayon, and pencil, and glue, and who knows what else all over these babies ( I had three - they all look like this).
And here was another problem when it came to the crates themselves:

Three of the crates had chips (one per bench, I might add), and one of the crates was just busted.  These were going to have to come out.  Dad ended up being able to rescue one crate that had the smallest chip, by turning it so that the chip portion was hidden under the lip of the bench seat.  But the other three were not able to be saved.
Looking over these two dilemma, my top two tips for crate seat building would be
1.  Buy heavy duty fabric.
2. Buy good quality crates.
I've looked into the second tip, but I'm not rolling in the dough currently.  So I made the decision to use what I still had - just bring it down to two seats instead of three.  And over time, maybe start of a little savings jar for the expensive crates for a redo next year.  In the meantime, I will try to find a way to contact the local milk distributor to see about getting a donation or a discount.
So let's get back to tip one - the fabric.  It's not just going to be the heavy duty fabric that's going to get you by.  I discussed this at length with Flamingo Fabulous, and aside for being the genius that came up with the mattress pad foam idea, she also suggested clear shower curtain as a fabric protectant.
Why a mattress pad and why a shower curtain?  Because foam - when they know you want to use it for seating- is dang expensive.  Sort of like office supplies when they know it's a teacher that needs to buy it... And the same goes for clear vinyl.  Oh?  You're making a craft project?  Let me charge you triple!  This is why teachers are a creative, wily, and frugal bunch.  Commercial companies drive us to it!  Anyway...

Both of these go for just under ten bucks each.  And the shower curtain could have been $5 if I had decided to go with medium weight instead of heavy weight.  I opted for heavy weight based on the wear I already saw happen to the first set of crates.  The foam mattress pad offers enough cushion for little tushies without being so puffy that you need extra fabric.
And I do admit to initially thinking I would just reuse the foam from the last upholstering- but then,

that's not a shadow on the bottom layer.  Tossed.

So here's the redone finished product:

And, my Dad even went out and got two more crates.  Without asking first.  Which is why they aren't the right color.  But I'm not going to fuss at the Mayor McCheese, so I used the opportunity to use some fabric I had sitting around for over a year and made this little love seat.

It's cute. It works. I'll use it as a seat in my library. Or maybe up by the Promethean Board.

Ok - this is all well and good- but I think it's important to talk about the crate bench in terms of overall usefulness.

1.  It's a seat - it works, the kids like it, it makes some extra space during carpet time.

2.  Yes, kids do fight to sit on it.  You've got to be diligent all year on having a SYSTEM for rotating kids on and off the seats, or there is a break down.  With eight year olds, anyway.  And I was not always as diligent.  I think perhaps, I might assign a specific day to a specific set of kids, and then it just rotates, so I don't have to worry about it over all.  I can't have more that 23 a year, because of Title I, so I could split that over the week and just say students 1 - 5 are day one, 6-10 day two, etc.  And that might even work out well too- since our encore schedule runs on a five day system, and we never "skip" a day- so then kids would just KNOW when it was their day.  Special days could be a raffle.

3. At times, three crate benches made me feel a little tight on the space.  I ended up feeling sort of heh, "hedged in". So, I'm actually ok with being brought down to two now, and just the love seat.  And I might even reevaluate that at the end of next year.  We'll see what happens.  I'm moving from desks to tables next year, so maybe I'll have more space.

4.  Storage.  Yes, they have the capacity for a lot of extra storage.  My dad put runners down the middle of mine, which made it capable of holding eight shoe boxes.  But I didn't capitalize on the storage.  I never got into a groove of what should be specifically kept in these spaces, and so they ended up just holding whatever I didn't have a place for yet.  And that is not something I want to do again this coming year.

I like the idea of keeping the love seat near the Promethean board, and keeping shoeboxes of supplies I use specifically for quick group work - like the white boards, and scissors and my special chart markers.  But with two more crate seats- that's sixteen storage spots - I want to make this useable.  I did run across a pin about making math manipulatives readily available at all times to the kids- so maybe I can move them off of my built in shelves and then store something else up there.

Will I keep the crate seat?  Yes.  Will they have to be revamped again next year? Probably.  Do I need to do my part and make them useful for storage? Yeppers.  Anyone else making crate benches successful in their rooms?

Don't forget to link up what you've been making!



  1. Those are super cute! I love the extra storage idea.

  2. I don't have crate seats. I thought about it last year, but I figured that they simply wouldn't last in my classroom. My kiddos are very large for 3rd graders. Now, I figure I am right. I do want to find some stools for them to sit on at the teacher table though.

  3. I had crate seats 2 years ago but the kids fought over them so much that I just stopped using them. I love the bench idea and I'm looking into trying it again this year. I have a much smaller class so it might work if I start the year off with them and have a rotation going.

    The Busy Busy Hive

  4. They look like grandma crate seats! You know, covered in plastic... I love how sparkly and new they are and the little cupcake love seat is perfect.
    ❤ Karen
    Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade

  5. Thanks for the breakdown of how it went using your crate bench. I have seen the benches and the seats all over, but I haven't made any. I wondered if the crates would hold up to the kids sitting on them. I hadn't thought about asking the the "milkman" for a donation. those crates would definitely be more durable. I think yours turned out terrific! :)
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  6. FYI the milk-grade sturdy crates are on sale at the Container Store for $6.99... Deciding whether or not I want to try to make a bench...
    ❤ Karen
    Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade

  7. Lovely post! I had the same problem with kids marking on mine the first year I had them, so I switched to black (w/ designs) fabric so marks would be less visible. I wondered about the non milk crate versions. I was lucky to snatch my milk crates from a pe teacher who was getting rid of them for new pe containers. Good luck with the crate bench upgrades! :)

    Mrs. Jones Teaches