A well organised play space is absolutely crucial if you want you children to start playing independently.
Contrary to what Instagram might have you believing, this is more than beautiful photographs of expensive toys in immaculate houses.
Having a prepared, organised play space is super important if you want your children to start playing independently without everything descending into chaos.
Both the Reggio and Montessori educational philosophies teach is the importance of the environment. At home, that is essentially the play space.
In the Montessori world, it’s called the ‘prepared environment‘, whilst Reggio teachers refer to ‘environment as the third teacher.’
Regardless of the name, there’s no denying the fact that the environment plays a crucial role – and that’s not a crucial role in getting likes on Instagram. The crucial role is helping your child via learning through play.
With that all cleared up, lets talk steps to preparing your home environment.
Step 1: choose the location of your play space
Which area of your house would be most suitable for a play space?
I have play space areas in my lounge room and office space. here’s why:
my youngest child is too young to be left unsupervised for any length of time, so I need spaces where I can observe him and continue with my own work.
the space suits our apartment living. There’s no chance I can dedicate a whole room to play.
observing play behaviours and interests is key to preparing future play activities
Step 2: declutter
Honestly, I’m 99.9% certain that your child has waaaay too many toys and most of the time, they are left ignored.
Part of the beauty of play space rotation is the fact old toys will seem brand new again because their will be fewer items out on display.
Throw: items that are broken or have missing pieces (by throw, I mean, recycle where you can!)
Donate: items that have been outgrown or never favoured by your child. e.g. unwanted gifts
You’re child should really be a part of this process so that they can take ownership of their possessions.
Step 3: sort
Once you have eliminated all of the unwanted, broken toys from the proceedings, it’s time to organise the toys into categories. Group like with like – so for example, all the cars go together in one storage basket, then Duplo’s in another – and so on.
This will also help you decide exactly what storage containers and baskets you will need for step 4: choosing suitable furniture.
Step 4 choose suitable furniture
Whenever I share my play space on Instagram, I’m undoubtedly asked where my shelves/table/mat/posters are from.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to go out and buy brand new furniture unless you really want or need to.
Try utilising what you already have – it really doesn’t have to look like a magazine shoot.
That being said, the furniture needs to be:
secured to the wall – especially if you have a climber!
accessible for your children – so that they can become independent
devoid of sharp edges (or at least protected with corner covers)
If you do opt to buy new, IKEA has a great selection, which you can read more about here
Step 5: The rotation process
The toys that make it out on display are those which best cater to both the interests and developmental stage my children are in.
All toys, in the main living space at least, have to cater to the needs of my youngest child. For us, this means no choking hazards such as Legos or anything that would be broken if thrown by an over-exuberant toddler.
Identifying interests and schemas in children is an important part of the play space rotation process. This is something I go into in more detail in the ‘Your Playful Home’ course – sign up to the mailing list so you don’t miss the launch date.