Improving a Play Space| Day 3 – 30 Days TYP

Nature on the Play Shelves - An Everyday Story.jpg

30 Days to Transform Your Play - Day 3 - Improving a Play Space {An Everyday Story}

30 Days to Transform Your Play  Contains affiliate links 

Today we are talking about improving our children’s play spaces. Firstly, before we start, I just wanted to mention what a wonderful sense of community I have been feeling from you these last couple of days. I also wanted to say that please don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to get each task done each day; keep chipping away at them a little each day, make plans to work on different tasks at times you have available. We’ve got plenty of time left.

Now. On to today. In order for us to improve a space we really need to think about what space we have available at the moment and how we can make best use of that space. Do your children have a dedicated play room? Maybe the bulk of their toys are in their bedrooms. Or maybe like us, you use a small space connected to your main living area. Embrace what space you have and work towards making that space an inviting area for your children to play.

Reggio playroom shelves {An Everyday Story}
This was our playroom set-up about a year ago (Jack was 4 & Sarah was 2)
Nature table - using a mirror
This nature table was made using an old tie drawer

Loris Malaguzzi (the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach) talks of environments which speak and ones which are silent. An environment which speaks sees and reflects the child as an active and productive person. An environment which is silent seems void of life with no real sense of who plays there.

How do you feel about your children’s play areas? Does it speak? Or is it silent?

  • Do you feel comforted in this space?
  • Does the style of this room reflect your own style?
  • Does this space allow your children to be themselves?
    • If they like to sit quietly and read, does it allow for this?
    • If they prefer to build sprawling Lego cities across the floor, does it allow for this?
    • Do they prefer to tinker and create? Just like the explorations and activities that we create for our children, their play areas should also reflect their own individual play styles and interests.
  • Does the space encourage our children to play independently? Can they easily see and reach everything and does it allow them to tidy up afterwards by themselves or do they need to ask for help?
Small playroom setup from An Everyday Story
This was our playroom set-up at the beginning of this year…I think 🙂
Small playroom setup - wooden blocks - An Everyday Story
Yesterday I switched out all the blocks because Jack and Sarah weren’t playing with them

I remember reading an interview with one of the founding Reggio Emilia teachers where she was commenting on the interesting way Western educators designed their early childhood rooms. She found it baffling that you could visit a preschool on one side of a country and another on the other and find an almost identical set-up; as if they had both shopped from the same catalogue.

What she was saying was that our children are individuals, are families are unique, our community and the culture we live in are unique and so why do the spaces we create for our children all look the same? Instead we should be working towards creating a dynamic space which holds the presence of the people who live and play within it.

Nature on the Play Shelves - An Everyday Story.jpg
Our nature collection is ever growing. This is what it looks like at the moment. I like to use beautiful clear jars and bottles to draw attention to the lovely treasures.

On the Playroom Shelf - birds nest {An Everyday Story}.jpgHow does your child play? If your play area isn’t being used in the way you would like, knowing how your child plays will help you to make changes which will make the space more inviting to your child.

  • Do they play big? Do they like to completely take over an area? Clear the room of any large pieces of furniture like tables and chairs and create a large floor space which allows them to do this
  • Do they prefer to tinker and draw like Jack does? Then maybe you’ll need to bring a table and chairs in for them to sit at while they are creating
  • Do they like to build? Dedicate a space like a shelf or side table for them to place ‘works in progress’ creations
  • Do they enjoy dressing up? Make a hanging space with a mirror to display the dress-ups in an inviting way

What really matters is that the space reflects your children.

Arranging Toys

Just a quick note on arranging your toys. As you work through your sorting think about each toy or material as you place it back on the shelf:

  • try to keep some space around each toy or material – you don’t want too much on the shelves
  • try not to put toys behind other toys on the shelf – this makes it more difficult for your child to see the toys
  • keep the corners of the rooms or some wall space clear – try to keep the room looking light and open
  • separate all your small toys and arrange them in baskets or containers – most of our baskets were bought from charity stores
  • bring some warmth into the room by displaying some photos of your children playing and some framed artworks – little narratives of your family
  • bring in some living plants
  • choose toys which reflect your child’s current interests

Task:

Think about how your child plays and make changes to their play area which will support this play

……….

If you missed a post, here’s the rest of the series

11 Comment

  1. This is a great series and has come at a great time for us as we are in the process of re-organising my son’s room. Loving your nature displays, we are always picking things up so I think it’s about time we did something with them. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  2. Hi Kate
    Just wanted to let you know I’m reading along and being most inspired. Practically I may not get to do anything till the hols but I’m thinking and envisaging.

  3. Thank you Kate for your inspiration. In nesting at the moment and so this series has come at the perfect time!

    Would love to hear your thoughts on encouraging miss nearly two to be proactive in play; for example engaging more, thinking about what she would like to do and independent play.

    Love your blog x

  4. Love the use of the glass jars. I have recently moved and don’t have much space at all so his toys are dotted around the house (bit I quite like that). His main toy area is a small shelving unit in the dining room which fits about ten items. I rotate these when it becomes disengaged with an activity. He takes a basket into the living room where he plays in front of floor to ceiling Windows which is just lovely. He has his books, rocking horse and garage in their too as I like him to feel his things are part of the house too and not just tucked away. He only has books in his room at the moment as he’s only two so tends to play in the main areas of the house with me.

    This is so inspiring and has come at a perfect time when I was starting to get stuck in a rut. Thank you!

  5. Hi Kate, I stumbled across your blog somewhere and have been very inspired. I have a pretty basic question, and would love your thoughts. I have two boys, ages 4.5 and 14 months. We have a large dedicated playspace with lots of light and natural bookshelves and baskets. Our toys though! Other than some wooden blocks and puzzles our toys are plastic, plastic, plastic. Fisher price, Thomas the train, toys r us type stuff. How do I transition to more natural materials like yours? In the past when I set up small areas with open ended natural materials they just get ignored! Would you truly recommend I toss all the plastic toys? Is there a certain type of material that my 4.5 year old train loving, block building boy might naturally gravitate towards? And how do you address choking hazards? My youngest has some delays so does need some of these plastic toys, and also puts everything in his mouth.
    Would love your thoughts on how to compromise with what we have and what you do!

  6. I have made a few changes, mainly separating playspace to allow both children to play independently (my 4 yrs old boy gets very frustrated if his little sister of 2 yrs disrupts his play). Reflecting on my blog: http://feelthesummerstorm.blogspot.co.uk/

  7. I’m excited to start this process! My son’s absolute favorite are his Legos. How have you kept yours from being everywhere? I have tried storing by sets and by piece type. Both systems have failed and now all Legos are just sitting in buckets. Suggestions?

  8. Hi Kate!
    This was my favorite day so far … huge impact in their space! Thanks for the inspiration. Here’s a link to my blog post for day 3. http://www.childrenartivy.com/children-of-art–ivy/day-3-improving-a-play-space
    Sandra

  9. Where is that shelf from in the top photo of this page? Or do you know the brand? Im in the process of planning a Reggio inspired playroom and love the color and style of that shelf!

    1. I’m not sure sorry. We bought it many years ago before we had children.

  10. I wonder what your thoughts are on having a few small nooks/spaces around the house? Our house in small all of our spaces need to be used by both adults and children. My boys tend to play in the lounge room, where they have a little library corner that they like to curl up in. Otherwise we tend to talk about what they want to play, and pull those specific toys out from shelves and they spread out on the floor.

    We also have a little corner near our dining table where we tend to put the big toys that we borrow from the toy library- so the space is changing, but it a small play area for them. They also do all of their drawings on the dining table, which is next to this area.

    I work from home, and I want to set up the study so that my older son can do quiet learning activities whilst I am working occasionally. We don’t home school, but my son is about to start preschool, and I have the intention to use school afternoons as inquiry based learning for him, whilst I do some easier work tasks such as emailing that won’t matter if I am frequently interrupted. I want to set up my spaces to inspire him, but with limited room to store art supplies and toys, it seems difficult to achieve

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