As you consider how to support your child’s education at home it is also important to give some thought to how you can set up your home to create an inviting child-friendly play space.
The way that a play space is set up is really quite important; in fact, in early childhood education, the learning environment is referred to as the ‘third teacher’ because the physical set up of the play space is so critical to how children engage with their learning activities.
Here are a few simple things to consider as you begin to organise children’s learning experiences at home:
Less is more
Avoid overcrowded baskets/ boxes of toys or resources where everything is tossed in together. This makes it more difficult for children to see what is available and to self-manage keeping their play space tidy and organised. Instead, separate and group your children’s toys into smaller baskets and containers that are easier for a young child to see what is available and to keep their own equipment organised. E.g. Cut down milk containers make ideal small containers for things such as separating crayons and pencils. This way children can easily see the writing tools that are available.
It is also helpful to keep equipment and toys displayed at child’s height so they can independently access what they need. It can interrupt a child’s engagement with an activity if they have to stop and come and ask you for that special something, they need to continue their work. Pre planning the things that your child is likely to want or need for the activities you have planned, and making sure it’s available at child height, will help your learning session run smoothly.
Visual cues to help children self-manage their play space
Teachers and educators use pictures or drawings as visual cues, displayed at child height, to help children understand a range of ordinary tasks throughout the day. For example, to help children self-manage the organisation of their play space, teachers will place pictures or drawings of the toys and equipment that belongs in a certain container, shelves or baskets. This makes it easier for children to help at tidy up time as they can see what is supposed to go where.
Simple pictures of your child’s routine also help them to be able to predict what might be coming next, or as a reminder of the rules such as “we use our walking feet inside”, or reminders of sun safety rules at the door.
Floor and table space
Children often use floor space for many different types of learning activities. Consider where you can make a space of about 4m2. Giving children enough room to spread out, helps children to fully explore and engage in the learning experiences you have planned for them. Cramping children into cluttered or small spaces can make them frustrated and lose interest in what they are doing. Arranging your baskets of toys and equipment for a learning activity near the open space helps children to be able to select the things they need and are interested in to take back to the mat area to add to their play.
If children are doing activities that involve writing, cutting, gluing etc they will need some clear table space. If you do not have a child size table and chair and are using your dining table that’s Ok just make sure that your child can access the things they need within easy reach; dining tables tend to be quite wide for a child to reach the other side.
Providing a booster seat or cushion to a dining chair will also help your child to be in a better working position. An alternative can be to use an upturned strong cardboard box, with a hole cut in one side for your child’s legs to fit through. Place the box on the floor and the child can use this as a stable surface for writing.
This helpful article was written by Dr Lesley Jones, Senior Advisor, Pedagogy and Practice at Affinity Education Group. Affinity Education Group proudly owns and operates Lifelong Learning Centres. For more information, visit lll.edu.au