I know everyone always says their house is messy (when it’s not), but I really am organizationally and spatially challenged in some ways….like the ways that keep a house clean and put away.
I love to see things organized, love baskets and boxes and labels and rows of things. It’s just that doing whatever it takes to get to that point doesn’t come naturally to me. Whether or not it is my strength, I need to develop a clear sense of organization and purpose in the spaces in our house, for the sake of every family member and friend who inhabits those spaces. Plus, with a little one on the way and due during the middle of winter, I want to make sure my daughter has an engaging and comfortable space to play inside when it’s hard to go outside. I have one room she can kind of take over, but otherwise I have always liked and tried to have a little play space in every room (including the kitchen). This calls for different structures for different spaces. I have some moving around of stuff and furniture to do, but more than that I needed to think on what those play spaces look and feel like.
I know I want them to be organized.
I would like for it to be easy and clear for my daughter and any adult to know where everything goes. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” If there are baskets and bins with clear purpose, everyone can use them. Eventually I would love to make my own labels (in English and Spanish and maybe even ASL), like Christine from The Aums did when organizing her clothing station. [Oh goodness, a clothing station was one of the things I wanted to maintain.....and haven’t. Clothes are my own worst offense, and now I'm in charge of someone else's clothes?!]
I, and my daughter, need the space to be as YES as possible.
The more YES the space, the less “no” I have to say. When she was smaller and just starting to get mobile, everyone was telling me about child-proofing, which we don’t really do much of. Every child is different, and some children need more safety boundaries than others. My daughter has always been a rather safe explorer with a will that can be reasoned with. (Who knows what #2 will be like…could change everything!) She began moving around, and we went through the house trying to make things as YES as possible. This meant that if she could reach it, we had better consider whether we wanted her to be able to reach that thing or not. Well, we need to do that again. She is considerably more mobile now, and I find myself saying “No” more than I need to just because of the way my space is organized and set up…..or not. Ideally everything in reach is touchable and ok for play.
The space, the things in it and the way they are set up should encourage and support opportunities for my daughter’s independence, confidence and sense of belonging.
Once she has a clear, organized space that is mostly YES, I want to make sure the things I put in there and the way it is set up fit her developmental needs. Right now, she wants to do everything she can for herself. One thing I would like is for her to have greater access to food and drink items so that she can pour for herself. However, this means, I need a developmentally-appropriate space for her to be able to do these activities. For instance, right now, there isn’t really a child sitting/work space. Having a more functional, child-centered space will most likely be good for her and good for us (and the new little one).
Now that I had a sense of what I’m looking for, I wanted to do some research and see what other folks want out of their spaces.
I liked what Childhood 101 had to say about creating a child space that is inspirational:
- Inspires them to play in more purposeful, meaningful ways.
- Inspires them to learn through those play experiences.
- Inspires them to value what they have.
- Inspires them to help maintain the space in an organised way.
- Inspires who they become…
Reading about Montessori principles and home/school spaces inspired me to get more clearly organized so that my daughter can take more ownership of the activities in her life. Here are some guidelines for spaces:
- They are attractive, orderly and clean.
- They have a place where children can store and organize personal items, as well as keep complete and in-progress projects.
- There is adequate open space for children to easily move around, and for everyone to sit together during group time.
- Children can independently access their Montessori materials from low shelves. They can also help maintain the order on these shelves. It is also important to have appropriately-sized tables and chairs so the children can sit and move with ease.
- There should be a few interesting, real-life pictures at child’s-eye level, a few beautiful objects that could break easily, living plants, and pets (even small, non-poisonous reptiles and fish are fine).
Reggio Emilia history, philosophy and approach, in addition to the concept of the environment as a child’s “third teacher,” gave me aesthetic ideas for an overall feel and look. Here are some aspects a Reggio class might have:
- indoor plants and vines
- natural light
- open to view
- capture the attention of both children and adults through the use of mirrors (on the walls, floors, and ceilings), photographs, and children’s work accompanied by transcriptions of their discussions
- displays of project work are interspersed with arrays of found objects and classroom materials
- ample space for supplies, frequently rearranged to draw attention to their aesthetic features
- encourage community
In addition, there are some RIE principles I’d like our spaces to facilitate. Similarities across the board, here. You are surely seeing a theme emerging.
- Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer and a self-learner.
- An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing.
- Time for uninterrupted play.
- Freedom to explore and interact with other infants.
- Involvement of the child in all care activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient.
- Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs.
- Consistency, clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline.
With a better understanding of the principles and values I’d like to encourage, I was ready to look at actual play/learning spaces other people have set up.
- http://childhood101.com/2011/09/our-play-space-inspired-to-create/ (Includes link to a gallery of spaces folks have set up. You can also submit your play space!)
- Living Montessori Now talks about how to set up a Montessori space at home (for toddlers), but also includes a link for older children and preschool spaces.