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Elementary education teachers have the important task of educating young children while also aiding in their developmental growth. Younger students have a juvenile mindset and therefore require more stimulation by bright and creative design than older students, which is why elementary classrooms are often awash in color. But decorating these classrooms can be costly for teachers, especially those that must use their own money.

That’s why we’ve pulled together the best affordable classroom décor for elementary teachers. Every item or idea on this list costs under $20, because to teachers, every penny counts!

1. Balloons

A bag of balloons won’t run you more than $5, but the possibilities are endless! Create a cloud with white balloons while studying weather or make your own very hungry caterpillar inching up your classroom wall. An “Up” themed door or bulletin board will welcome students to class everyday while red balloons can be transformed into cherries or apples with the addition of green construction paper “leaves.” And Halloween wouldn’t be complete without some balloon pumpkins and mummies.


2. Tissue Paper Pom-Poms

Tissue paper, found at the dollar store and big box retailers like Walmart and Target, is easy to turn into pom-poms that hang from your classroom ceiling or are mounted on your wall. Instead of buying expensive pre-made poms from the party store, use these instructions to make your own. Color code your pom-poms to match your classroom theme or change them up during the holidays!


3. Windows – Tissue Paper and Electrical Tape

Have windows in your classroom? Jazz them up with tissue paper and electrical tape to create a stain glass effect. Go simple with large colorful squares or get artsy with a Mondrian-inspired design. Even better? The tissue paper blocks outside distractions while allowing light to filter into your room.


4. Jelly Fish – Shower Caps and Ribbon

An under the sea themed classroom isn’t complete without a few jellyfish, and making your own is incredibly simple. Just grab some shower caps from the dollar store (or a previous hotel stay) and add some curled ribbon “legs” to each cap. Hang your creations from the ceiling for maximum effect. Not sure how to curl ribbon? Watch a tutorial here.


5. Crayon Clock

A pack or two of crayons and a hot glue gun will create a classroom clock your students are sure to remember. Or, glue your crayons to a wooden wreath outline (found at the craft store for $3-$5 each) for a crayon wreath that can be transported from classroom to classroom throughout the years.


6. Classroom Curtains – Ribbon/Fabric and a Tension Rod

For those of you lucky enough to have a window in your classroom, this DIY curtain idea will add color and class to your room. Simply tie ribbon or scrap pieces of fabric to a tension rod ($5-$10 at home improvement and big box stores) and you’ll have a curtain. Out of fabric? Old t-shirts cut into scraps make great fabric and won’t cost you a thing.


7. Book Fireplace

Perfect for the winter holidays but suitable for year-round use, this book fireplace was crafted from color-coded books and construction paper. Your school library may have extra books for you to use but if not, local garage sales are a great resource for cheap books. If you are unable to find color-coordinated books, simply cover the book covers in construction paper.

book fireplace

8. Christmas Lights

Holiday lights are magical year round and can be used to frame bulletin boards and add a little twinkle to your classroom ceiling. They also ensure the classroom is not entirely dark when the overhead lights are turned off, a smart idea for younger grades where students may still be afraid of the dark.

Pro Tip: Christmas lights are often on sale for steep discounts in the days immediately following Christmas. Stock up over your holiday break!


9. Fabric for Bulletin Boards

Butcher paper is often used to cover classroom bulletin boards. But if you want to add some pattern to your boards, fabric is the way to go. The average classroom bulletin board takes 3-4 yards of fabric to cover, which will cost under $15 if you are strategic with your fabric choice. Be sure to shop holiday and anniversary sales as fabric may be discounted up to 70%. For that price, you may be able to purchase an entire bolt of fabric for under $20, giving you enough fabric to be used for years in the future.


For more classroom decor ideas, follow the American Board on Pinterest!


About The Author

Rachael is the Online Marketing Specialist for the American Board. She enjoys blogging, social media, and DIY.