5 TIPS for Flexible Seating: Creating an Alternative Classroom on a Budget

Alternative Classroom

As a teacher, you have probably spent HOURS arranging (and rearranging) your desks, chairs, tables, and various other items in your classroom space.... trying to find the perfect classroom design.

Sound familiar?  Find out how you can create MORE options for students who need to wiggle, stand, or get more comfortable.  Plus, you can acquire quality furniture, without breaking the bank!  

This post may contain affiliate links to materials I recommend. If you purchase something using these links I may receive a small commission.



Fewer desks: Try keeping 2-3 desks. These are great because you can move them around easily, and they provide a more 'private' space for kiddos who seek that out. You can vary the heights on them, too!

Tables (a variety): Teachers love tables, but you don't need to spend a fortune on them!  You don't need fancy whiteboard tables or expensive 'collaborative' tables.  Here are some basic options that work very well: u-table, small or large round tables, and rectangular tables.  Students will choose tables based on size, height, or location.  Try using contact paper to spruce up tables! 

Collaboration is the key, so a variety of tables are great.


Different Sizes and shapes: It is a good idea to have 1-2 rugs, which to designate areas (ex. reading nook or whole group meeting spot).  Don't go too big (I made that mistake before).  If you keep them small (8x10 and 5x8) it is easier to move them around, if need be.  Find affordable rugs here!

Smaller rugs: I found a lovely round braided rug for less than $40, which I keep under one of my small round tables.  It really brightens up the space and is appealing to kids.  

On a Budget: You can buy small throw rugs for as low as $5 on stores like Amazon or 5 and Below.  You can duct tape two throw rugs together to make a larger rug.  It's also nice to use small throw rugs, to cover a floor space during independent work.

Smaller shag rug (5x8)

TIP #3 VARIETY: Classroom Seating Options

Different Sizes and Shapes:  After you have your space planned, you should think about seating.  It's important to take in consideration your budget, the needs/ages of your students, and your personal preferences.  Unlike my first attempts, this time I visited many classrooms and did a lot of research before making purchases.  Remember: You don't have to buy the most expensive items out there!

Options that work well in an intermediate classroom and won't break the bank:

These hold up to 300lbs! They also stay on top of each other.

  • traditional chairs
  • contour chairs
  • stools (wooden and plastic)
  • wobble stools
  • yoga ball chairs
  • floor pillows
  • mediation cushions
  • stadium seats
  • a bench
  • unique, fun seats

Fun Chairs: Saucer, Rocking, Director's
Learniture Wobble Stools I purchased the 18" for my third graders
Traditional and Contour Student Chairs
Low-to-the-Ground: Stadium Seats, Floor Pillows, Meditation Cushions

TIP #4 HAVE FUN: Unique Pieces

Garage Sale finds: Want to really save a buck?  You can find cheap flexible seating options if you look for used pieces.  I found two (slightly different) square tables for $10 each.  I spray painted them and voila!  We have two kid-sized, small tables which are probably the favorite place in my room! 

Hand-me-Downs: Are other teachers or families looking to recycle some furniture?  Look for used, upholstered chairs or couches, with a slip cover on it if need be.  Consider side tables or coffee tables.  Pillows are always a great addition!
Small Coffee or End Tables
Upholstered Chair

Tip #5 BUDGET and SOLICITATIONS: Donorschoose.org

Budget: It's important to realize that this process may take time.  There's a great benefit to slowly building your collection up.  We tried beanbags our first year and they were a disaster!  Now, each year, I choose a quality item I am willing to spend my school budget on.  This way, I slowly introduce pieces and have time to evaluate them.  

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  There are often teachers, parents, and community members who willing and able to help teachers get creative or search for items.  I have personally put out public requests on Facebook to our local Marketplace page on several occasions.  

Want to make a big purchase, but you don't have the funds?  Look into Donorschose.org This non-profit organization is AMAZING!  

If you want to write your own proposal, check out the Top Ten Benefits to of a Flexible Seating Classroom.

In Conclusion: Plan and Budget

There are oodles of flexible seating options out there.  Don't let yourself become overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and prices.  Take your time!  Start with one element and plan out what you truly want for your classroom space.  

Still not sure?  Visit some classrooms!  There's nothing more thought-provoking for teachers than seeing what is working or not working in another classroom! 

Check out these lists, put out by Donorschoose.org, about the Most Popular Flexible Seating Options for Schools:

Flexible Seating in Early Elementary (Grades pre-k-2)

    1. Wobble stools (42% of all requests)
    2. Balance balls
    3. Stackable stools
    4. Bean bags
    5. Floor cushions and seats

Flexible Seating in Intermediate Elementary (Grades 3-5)

    1. Wobble stools (35% of all requests)
    2. Balance balls
    3. Floor chairs
    4. Bouncy bands
    5. Bean bags

Flexible Seating in Middle School (Grades 6-8)

    1. Balance balls (25% of all requests)
    2. Wobble stools
    3. Stackable stools
    4. Floor cushions and seats
    5. Bean bags

I'd love to hear from you!
What is YOUR biggest challenge with Flex Seating?

I hope I have given you some ideas or inspiration! 
Thank you for reading along.