I’ve been reading a lot of different books that have inspired reflection on our environment lately.
One was The Little Book of Hygge which inspired me to create nooks and consider lighting and smells and a homely, cozy atmosphere.
The other was Willpower Doesn’t Work which discusses how we should set up our environment to ensure success. It emphasises how our environment should make our life and goals easier. It really made me realise I’m good at this for my children but not so much for myself!
Other schools of thought that have influenced my view of kids environment have been:
Maria Montessori – who discussed what she called the prepared environment which she said needed to be accessible, quality, organised and beautiful. I’ve always been drawn to Montessori-inspired environments and the thought put into them.
Reggio Emilia – which considered the environment as the third teacher and shared too about accessibility, documentation and creating a rich surroundings which inspired children with lots of open ended things to explore.
Waldorf (Steiner) – which reminds me of hygge with its beauty, nature focus and warmth. I love the protection of childhood and celebration of nature and seasons.
These all influenced my view of my children’s environment and the significance of it on our children’s learning.
Here are simple things that really help me in creating environments that get genuine use and cultivate meaningful learning:
- A useful environment starts with your child – their interests, how they learn, how much support they need with certain resources and how the environment reflects your respect for their interests and ideas. Their environment should reflect them and what matters to them.
- Make it accessible. Wherever possible, make their resources accessible to them. Maybe keep acrylic paint out of reach of toddlers for example, but keeping a well stocked art cart for example is sure to inspire them. Not only does this encourage independence but it shows your child you respect them and this space is as much for them as it is for adults.
- Atmosphere – from lighting to smells, how a space makes us feel is significant! Think of touches like seating windows with a view, outdoor spaces, candles, fairy lights, comfy seating, a hammock. Aromatherapy with essential oils can really change the mood too!
- Food. I cannot understate this one. Food brings us together, keeps little hands busy and helps make sure no one is hungry. We use platters to encourage healthy snacks while we read and while the kids work on projects! Poetry tea time is a great example of this in action!
- Nooks, trays and baskets. Creating intentional spaces that invite our kids to explore is as simple as setting up a basket or tray with all that they need for it! A letter writing tray for example has meant my kids are always creating cards and letters. Having caddies for nature exploration or clay sculpting are other examples too.
- If it is inviting to you, it likely is to them too! Create invitations (not expectations) that make you feel that pang of inspiration!
- Quality resources and real tools that are child sized when possible. Sometimes children’s versions of things are poorly made and don’t do a satisfying job. Like cheap crayons or plastic tools that just break. Investing in quality, real tools in children’s sizes is so helpful if you can. Try op shops, montessori online stores and get creative. With art supplies, we invest in quality with most things and it doesn’t have to break the bank. A lot of our supplies are from Mont Marte if that’s available where you are.
- Let the environment do some work for you! This ties into many of the points above. Our environment can really work for us if we set ourselves up for success. This can be simple things like having caddies that make light work of setting up an invitation or having most things accessible. But it can also be bigger things like using your home in unconventional ways like changing living areas to be a project/art room or changing flooring so that mistakes aren’t as big of an issue.
- Involve your children in keeping spaces functional and tidy. When children feel a sense of responsibility for their belongings, it’s easier to keep things in order. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t done this as well with my youngest!
- Have space/s for you and your own hobbies and interests. This not only makes the spaces more enjoyable for us as adults but also means our children get to witness our own passions – which is a gift in itself!
What would you add?
Please join us over on Patreon with more reading about curating intentional spaces and my other book recommendations about this.
I’ve tried to make this community really accessible with a $1 option – I’d love to see you there! I share Q&As, behind the scenes and a tour of our project room over there too!