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?
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, Playful Learning, and her Ecourse, Playful Learning Spaces, 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?