Tips for Creating a Child-Centered Space

 The following is by contributor Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute.

With spring creeping in, I often get the urge to start reorganizing and redecorating.  With Tsh’s Project Simplify on top of that, there are many of us who are or soon will be swooping in to reclaim and renovate our kids’ spaces.

But as we do so, I often wonder, are we approaching the project with the image of a magazine spread in mind or with our children in mind?  Here are a few things to consider when preparing a child-centered space.

Point of View

As we survey the room with our eyes perched at their usual adult height – say five feet or so off the ground- we are assessing the room in a way that is completely different from the way our children experience it, toddling about at just a few feet tall.  It”s certainly worthwhile to consider how we view the area and consider how we feel about our own perspective, but if the space is to be truly child-centered, it helps to get down on the ground and see it from their point of view.

Sit on the floor from many different spots in the space and consider what your experience is from that frame of reference.  While most art and decoration in an adult room is centered around that five foot high standard for “eye-level”, for a child-centered room, the art and decoration should be at their eye-level.  Are there ways you could bring more interest to the lower part of the walls of your kids” spaces?

As an example, Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids offers a tutorial for a magnetic alphabet giraffe here (pictured below) as well as a variety of magnetic wall ideas from around the web here.

This certainly isn”t to suggest that you should have floor to ceiling decorations all over your home, but consider the areas that you intend to be child-centered or even family-centered and put some thought and intention into the bottom three feet of the space that is often ignored.

Photo byModern Parents Messy Kids


Likewise, from your child”s point of view, can appropriate supplies  be accessed by them independently?  Can they get their own toys out (and more importantly, put them away)?  Can they get themselves a drink?  Can they get their own coat and shoes?

Preparing your child”s space in a way that encourages independence not only makes things easier on you, but it also helps your child to practice and master self-help skills and bolsters their self-esteem as well as their sense of responsibility.

Think about what you want your child to be able to do for himself and also consider the things your child would like to be able to do for himself.  Look at your space and consider whether you need to lower hooks and shelves, add step stools, or move supplies from a high cupboard to a low drawer.


As I have worked in preparing classrooms as well as areas in my own home, I have become more aware of the concept of creating visual invitations.  In preparing a classroom environment at the university lab school where I worked, we would set up each activity area in a way that invited the type of participation we wanted to encourage.

So if we wanted children to build with blocks, we usually set up a few blocks in a simple, unfinished structure in the block area.  As the children walked by, they would get a visual invitation calling to them to join in and build.  Likewise, in the reading corner, we didn”t just set out books, but arranged pillows and blankets to invite children to get comfortable and stay a while.  Art tables were prepared with attractive baskets filled with colorful supplies and art trays to define individual space.  Without words, children were invited to sit down and create because the environment was prepared in a way that encouraged that.

Simple Kids contributor Mariah Bruehl has an amazing gift for preparing spaces for children.  Both her book, , and her Ecourse, , provide fantastic insight on preparing a child”s space to include invitations to engage and participate fully in that thoughtfully prepared environment.

It is key to remember that when it comes to a child-centered space, it is more about what it invites children to DO, than simply how it looks.  Be aware of the active elements in the area you are preparing for your children.  Think about not only what you want the space to look like, but what you envision happening there.  Prepare the space to visually invite children to that activity.

Likewise, consider what types of invitations you may unintentionally be sending out.  If you have large open spaces, you are encouraging large motor/rough and tumble play.  Is that your intention?  If you set out scissors, you are inviting children to do some cutting.  Are you prepared for that?  It isn”t so much about what elements are right or wrong, but whether or not the invitations you”re creating match your intentions.

Taking these three points into consideration — the child”s point of view, independence, and invitations — will help you to create and organize a child-centered space that will appeal not just to your eyes, but to your child”s senses as well.

What things do you keep in mind when creating a child-centered space?

About Amanda

Amanda Morgan is a full time mom to three busy boys and a part-time trainer and consultant for a non-profit children's organization. She also writes at Not Just Cute, a blog full of ideas that are more than just cute, for preschoolers who are much more than cute too.

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  1. Great post, I will definitely be getting down on their level today to evaluate their play spaces.
    Marci´s latest post: Happy Pi Day

  2. As a former Montessori teacher, I try to focus on independence over everything else. This changes ofcourse as they get older and can safely accomplish more things. Recently, I’ve changed the pantry around to give my kids (4 and 5) access not only to their non-breakable cups and plates, but also the peanutbutter and bread now that they know how to make their own sandwiches. The dog and cat food is kept in smaller bins that they can carry now that they have taken over those chores. I put their underwear in their bottom dresser drawers (that was the hardest! I so wanted to put it the top), followed by their pjs and sweats. Socks are kept in bins on the floor. Every bin and drawer is labeled so they can help put away their own clothes after I fold. The whisk broom and dust pan, towels, and washclothes have been recently moved so they can clean up their own messes. Now that the youngest (knock on wood!) has finally stopped coloring on the walls, art supplies are kept out for them to use at will. Honestly, the less I have to do for them, the happier they are and the easier my life is.

    • The Montessori philosophy is brilliant when it comes to preparing the environment. Maria Montessori herself was a pioneer in creating child-sized furniture, recognizing the importance of a beautiful environment, and especially in encouraging independence. What a gift to have that philosophy in your background!
      Amanda Morgan´s latest post: Mind in the Making: Chapter 3

  3. That’s a gorgeous room! In our living room, we reserve the bottom two shelves of our bookcase for his stuff so that he can reach them. I could probably do a way better job with his table. We just got him a wide table but realized that his knick knacks are all over the place; crayons are just in a shoebox lid, paper is in a pile against the floor… yikes. I’ll try to find some smaller bookshelves where he can store those little things perhaps.
    Sleeping Mom´s latest post: More mood swings than Jekyll and Hyde

    • I’m always wrestling with whether or not to reclaim my kitchen table from the lego factory it’s become! Sometimes I look less at how disorganized it appears to me and more at whether or not my boys are using it productively. If they are, and it’s fairly contained, sometimes I just look away from the mess. :0)
      Amanda Morgan´s latest post: Mind in the Making: Chapter 3

      • I completely agree and believe in going a step further… While a beautiful kitchen table and clear space is lovely, those projects are laboratory, you know. Serious creation and exploration are going on, and the process may not appear tidy. We all need space and time to create, consider, explore…

  4. We’ve recently been rotating our daughter’s books in and out so we can display them with the covers to the outside. She seems to pick up a book much more often this way. Like Sleeping Mom, we also reserve the bottom two bookshelves for our daughter. Thanks for the idea about putting artwork down low; I’d never thought of that.
    Steph´s latest post: Boredom

  5. Such a great article! As an architect, I’ve never thought about the special aspects of a children’s room… but your tips are very useful and cool, a children’s room must be really a very special place!
    Julie´s latest post: dentist surgery

  6. What a great post! My daughter is in the process of setting up the “playroom” in the basement for her 6 kids, I am going to forward this post to her. I am sure she could glean some tips for her space!
    Bernice @ The Stressed Mom´s latest post: Learning to work with the time you have

  7. Thanks for sharing these great ideas! We keep shelves of books in our reading nook while also displaying 5-8 books based on seasons, celebrations, authors, or themes on top of the shelves. This seems to encourage reading and choosing all of the books. It’s also been interesting to watch child-initiated book displays!
    Our Learning´s latest post: Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day

  8. Amanda have you been inspired at all by the Reggio Emilia methods? They are very into beautiful spaces

  9. This is wonderful advice! While I do keep certain things at kid level to encourage independence, I had never thought about looking at a space from a child’s vantage point to aid in decorating, and the idea about the unspoken invitations that we send was simply brilliant! I’ll be considering that one a lot in the coming days and possibly rearranging our home a bit to send invitations more in line with what I intend! Thanks!


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