“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences.”
Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia Approach
One of the most frequently asked questions I get about parenting is, “How can I create a child-centered home?” My last blog was an overview of loose parts & open-ended play. Today, we’ll take a look at some simple ways to set up an inclusive home where your child has access to items that provoke wonder, curiosity, and metacognition.
I’ve spent a lot of time searching, changing, re-designing, and creating so Harper has access to a multitude of loose parts and open-ended outdoor play as well as opportunities for sensory integration and creating art through many mediums.
As she gets older, I change things around to make sure each area in our house is still developmentally appropriate and accessible. The beauty of loose parts is that they meet the needs of pretty much all age groups because each child uses their imagination to play with the parts in their own way.
The environment is the third teacher. From an educational perspective, this means teachers should set up the classroom environment with the child in mind.
This applies to your home, too.
- How does the living room, kitchen, outdoor space, help or hinder my child’s learning?
- Is my home set up in a way that my child can be independent? Or does it create a need for my child to constantly come to me for help?
- Are there unsafe obstacles in my house that drive me crazy as I constantly hear myself say, “Be Careful!”
- Do I provide access to a variety of materials for my child to use?
Let me walk you through three learning spaces in our house that allow the child to unlock a creative mindset to build, deconstruct, create, persist, and learn through play:
- Find eclectic bins and baskets at thrift stores to store loose parts.
- Keep toys at eye level or below for toddlers so they can access easily.
- Rotate toys if you notice they are not being played with. Donate them to your local thrift store or give them to a friend who will use them!
- Provide access to an array of loose parts. For ideas, check out my last blog.
- Find a learning tower. This inclusive tool is one of the BEST finds we’ve had at Goodwill ($4.99). If you are unable to find a used learning tower, check out this more affordable version.
- Create a “just for you” art space for your toddler. I have a space set up on our counter that is always covered in cheap, brown packing paper. We found a huge roll at Home Depot for a few bucks because it had some holes in it. I keep crayons, markers, glue, scrap paper, play-dough, and so many other craft supplies there for H to use. We’ve discussed the importance of keeping the art supplies at her art table. I’ve had to remind her a few times recently, but 98% of the time, she understands the expectation for other spaces in the house.
- Design a kitchen area for your toddler. Even with a learning tower, it’s nice for your toddler to have their own space. Fill the space with mirrors, potted plants, cooking items & utensils, trays, tea sets, etc.
- Keep recycled materials in a cupboard and get them out when the time is right. Whether you have access to branches, foil, corks, gems, or leaves, your toddler will benefit from access to a range of possibilities. Check out 3 Collaborative Cardboard Projects for Toddlers for ideas.
- Collect loose parts from nature and store them in baskets and bins outside or on your porch.
- Search yard sales and thrift for the “big” items such as a small house, easles, tables, mirrors, etc.
- Express interest in items that your neighbor’s children may outgrow!
- Equip your outdoor space with with cooking items, climbing areas, and opportunities for your child to imagine and create.
- Create a garden for your child to care for (tomatoes, basil, rosemary, etc.)
- Spend as much time outside as possible!
Make sure you supervise your child when allowing them to play with smaller loose parts (e.g. seeds, acorns, & rocks). What would you change or add to my spaces? How would you make them more inclusive/accessible to ALL children? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
As always, thanks for stopping by!
With much heart,