Whether at home or within a child care or preschool environment, creating rich, playful spaces for children inspires them…
- 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…
“The space we live in has a powerful influence over us, particularly the space we grew up in…The spaces that teachers [parents/child care educators] create for children seem to hold enduring memories for them that have a powerful influence on what that will value later in life.”
-Susan Fraser, Authentic Childhood, 2000
10 Tips for Creating a Great Space to Play [and Learn]
I believe a great play [and learning] space for children of any age is one which;
1. Is welcoming, inspiring and engaging
The space should feel nurturing and familiar at the same time as inviting children to explore and investigate by capturing their attention and provoking their interactions with the space. For more information about making play spaces inviting, visit Irresistable Ideas for Play Based Learning for simple but effective ideas to use at home or in a group setting.
2. Is rich with good quality children’s literature and a range of ‘texts’ – fiction, non fiction, magazines, catalogues, maps, menus, brochures, photo albums
Encouraging children to see reading (and writing) as both enjoyable and useful from a young age can be achieved by engaging them with a range of texts. For example, a child who is less interested in story time may enjoy looking at and talking to you about the map of a zoo from a recent outing.
3. Includes space for using and easily storing a range of creative materials
Creative materials provide children with the opportunity to express their knowledge, ideas, theories and feelings about the world. Having a system and space for using and storing pencils, paints, crayons, glue, scissors, etc, will make the use and clean up easier and more efficient, which is what every Mum needs
4. Includes elements of nature and natural materials
The natural colours and textures of materials such as stones, seedpods, pinecones, tree blocks, and wool, make a nice change from the bright colours and flashing lights of many modern day toys. They also encourage children to play more creatively as seedpods become ‘food’ in their home corner play or pinecones a ‘family’ enjoying a day out.
5. The majority of toys are ‘open ended,’ allowing for active exploration and many different types of play
Before purchasing a toy consider if it is something which can be used flexibly, in many creative ways. These are they toys which will be worth the hard earned dollars you spend on them as they will offer an infinite number of new play scenarios, and not just now but for many years to come.
6. Feels cozy and comfortable, with a sense of homeliness achieved through including sentimental family items and/or beautiful objects
Plants, photos in frames, thoughtfully displayed artworks, cushions – all create a sense of homeliness. By including objects important to the family, you have an opportunity to help children learn to treasure and respect their belongings and those of others.
7. Includes areas where children can play together or alone
Children need time and space to play both alone and with others. By setting up an activity at a small table with just one chair (or alternatively two or more chairs), you are providing an indication of how that space should be used – like the space shown to the left, perfect for a single child to play in. Consider a balance of small, independent play and larger, collaborative play spaces when planning your space.
8. Includes space for ‘works’ in progress
Know when it is NOT so important to pack away and have a plan in place to store important works in progress. Read more about not packing away here.
9. Represents the interests and developmental needs of the people (both small and large) who use it
Children are given so much nowadays and they just don’t need it all, especially not all at once. To help keep children engaged with what is there, take away toys that they have outgrown or are not currently showing any interest in. Create special spaces for those toys your child is really interested in at the moment, you can find an example of how and why here.
10. Is clean and organised in such a way that the children can easily access what they need and easily assist to maintain the environment
Most of us think more clearly when we work within an organised, uncluttered space. By planning an easy to access way of organising toys and materials, you empower children to make their own choices when playing, at the same time as making pack away time a whole lot easier.
I also ideally believe a play space should include space for and resources to encourage;
Where do your kids play? What do you love about your child/ren’s play space, or what changes do you wish to make?