Imagine you go to a room in your home to complete a task but get distracted by the pile of laundry that needs to be folded. You fold some towels and go put them in the bathroom. Next you notice spots on the mirror so you clean it up and wipe the counters. And now you’ve gotten some things done but you’ve forgotten why you went into the room in the first place. Or simply consider how frustrating it is not to be able to find something you’re looking for.
This is how it is for young children when their play materials are not set up in a way that makes sense and prevents distraction or their space is too cluttered. By taking a few steps to evaluate and set up your tot school environment your toddler will have the opportunity to explore and learn freely.
Most early childhood education philosophies consider the environment as a third teacher. Here we’ll discuss how to set up a tot school environment that promotes learning and purposeful play and will make things less stressful for everyone.
Evaluate Your Space
- Evaluate the areas you use most from your child’s point of view. Assess for potential safety concerns and observe what seems most appealing.
- Consider the accessibility of your space. Children should have tools to be as safe and independent as possible. If your child is constantly asking for assistance in a certain area think about what you can change to help them be successful.
- Eliminate clutter. A cluttered or messy space will be distracting. Find some drop off areas you can use to contain clutter that accumulates to make the play spaces as clutter free as possible.
- Think about your goals for your spaces and your child and plan accordingly.
Remember less is more. If you take advantage of the benefits of rotating toys you will be able to set out a few carefully selected items that are changed every week or so to maintain engagement and curiosity. And, a more neutral color scheme will maintain focus more effectively than bright and colorful.
Create Areas for Your Tot School
- You may not have a completely separate space to use for play and activities. You can still designate certain parts of a room for certain activities.
- Take into consideration activities that make sense together. You may want a small table for writing practice next to the book area, for example. It would not make sense, however, to put riding toys or gross motor activities near an area where you usually do quieter, calmer activities.
- Include materials for the areas of cognition, dramatic play, literacy, art and gross and fine motor.
Once you have materials selected and areas planned out remember that if everything has a place children will be encouraged to be independent and motivated to put things away.
Also, keep in mind that things can always be reevaluated and rearranged and the main goal should be learning, play, exploration and fun!
Amy is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and writer. She loves sharing what she knows about family, play and early learning. When she’s not at her computer you can find her spending family time, organizing or decorating her home, reading a good self-help book or pretending she knows how to cook but she usually leaves that to her awesome husband!