Setting up a learning space or playroom at home can be daunting. It can teach you a lot of things about your child and offers you the opportunity to learn those that you don’t.We have moved 3 houses since V’s birth and she isn’t even 3 years old yet. Which means, I’ve set up her space thrice- the first time, it was just a corner of the dining area, the other two times, we’ve been lucky to have a room. This has also given me a chance to introspect the differences between an infant play area and a toddler play room.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”Maria Montessori
Here are my top 10 important pointers to bear in mind while setting up a playroom for the child. The good news is you can take what you like and what is feasible and modify it according to your child.
1. Natural Ventilation
Choose a corner or room with plenty of natural light. Either a door or atleast a window, if possible. At, one of our houses, we used colourful cotton saris as curtains and it looked oh, so beautiful!
2. Child-leveled shelf for toys and books
This goes without saying. We have already discussed child-friendly spaces to foster independence. A place where the child can reach out to, independently and pick her toys or books is most important. For infants, one may consider using a soft basket to hold their toys and books. For toddlers, one could use a child-leveled shelf like the one in the image. We upcycled my old bookshelf by placing it horizontally. The closed doors just came off during the three moves, making it perfect to display her trays.
What goes in these shelves? This warrants a whole post in itself, but in short, learning materials or toys according to their age. Have a good mix of toys that develop different skills and are of different challenging levels. Ensure that you rotate books and toys regularly.
A place for everything, everything in it’s place applies here, more than ever.
3. Open space in the playroom
The child now has a place for her books and toys, but where does she explore them? I’ve always favoured a clearing in the centre of the room. For younger children, a play mat might help. For preschoolers, it would help to have a study or work table. But if you have space constraints, a clear space or mat or table at a corner would work too. This is where she would bring her toys out, manipulate them, learn, and most importantly, put them back in their place.
This is a fabulous opportunity to develop discipline in the child too- one activity/ toy before the next; putting them back in their place, etc.
4. Art corner
I’d recommend an art corner- if there is no separate space to create art or hold an easel and other materials, that’s okay. But do make space on a wall to display the child’s artwork and creations. If you don’t have a wall, just use 2 command strips and a string to hang them.
5. Playroom decor- pictures
Remember the principle of beauty? It is great if you go the minimalistic way and keep walls bare. But it doesnt hurt to hang a few pictures or posters at the child’s eye level either. Ensure the posters are reality based. Rotating them on a monthly basis would help, too.
6. Calm corner
It is lovely to have a calm corner or a place that the toddler can relax in, when she is feeling particularly cranky or restless or tired. It could be a simple mat or a sofa or just a comfy pillow or a playtent. I remember, last year, V would prefer to sit near the window and gaze at the plants outside. That was her calm place. This year, it is in her reading corner, amongst her books.
7. Nature in the playroom
I’m a big fan of incorporating nature into the playroom space. Simply because, children are naturally attracted to nature. A simple indoor plant with opportunity for the child to care for it or a nature tray that contains seasonal natural elements that the child picks, to observe and learn at leisure are great ideas.
8. A Mirror
Right from infancy, a mirror at child’s level is an amazing addition to her room. Babies do not understand reflections until much, much later. But it is a great way to explore emotions, facial expressions, speech, etc.As she grows older, the mirror also helps the child develop independence in grooming- combing the hair, brushing teeth, buttoning, etc.
9. A floor bed
We used this during day naps, but soon, V will be moving to an independent bed, so the floor bed has become a part of her reading corner, more or less, now. A floor bed helps the child understand her sleep cues and rest independently whenever required.
10. Cleaning materials
Lastly, this is the child’s sacred space. Have child-sized cleaning materials at her reach- a broomstick and dustpan, a dusting cloth, dustbin, etc . Encourage her to keep her playroom clean and beautiful. Somehow, the child automatically gravitates towards taking responsibility for her space and takes pride in keeping it beautiful.
“Children become like the things they love.”
The things the child sees in her environment are not just observed or remembered, but they form a part of her soul. Hence, above all, encourage in the child, a deep love for nature, their environment and learning.