As mentioned in my beliefs about children’s play and learning, I believe in the Reggio philosophy of the environment as the third teacher and so I do my best to create the play environment for my children as such.
The environment is recognised for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests.
(An excerpt from An Everyday Story)
We currently live in a really old and small rental house and haven’t got the space for a separate playroom so this is just an area within our living room (Ok I lied, this is pretty much our entire living room 😂). This photo is taken from the couch where I’m usually observing my children’s play from if I’m not engaging with them on the mat. To the left is just a tall bookshelf and a wall where the television goes. To the right is an activity table made simply by throwing a piece of white cloth over two milk crates as well as a tray table for them to do puzzles or sensory activities on and that’s pretty much the whole room.
A Designated Calming Space
I set up this area with the idea that I wanted to have a designated space sufficient for my children to play either on their own, with each other or with others (usually me), yet have the option for me to simply sit back, read a book or do my own things (i.e. fold laundry etc) while still being close enough to supervise and observe them playing independently. The choice for a plain neutral-coloured playmat was intentional as I wanted to create a soothing environment that encourages concentration and where my children are free to play and create with limited distractions.
An Open Shelf
All toys/ activities are placed in baskets or trays on low open shelves to encourage their sense of independence and sense of autonomy. Everything is accessible and within clear sight as I want them to be able to decide for themselves what activities they would like to engage with and to help themselves to whatever they need while playing and creating. This system also gives them the ability and confidence to pack up the activity or resources after they are done as every activity has a designated place.
I implement a toy/activity rotation in which the activities or materials presented on the shelf are rotated regularly depending on my children’s interests. This means that the items on the shelf are always fresh and relevant, and my children are more likely to engage with the activities on offer instead of being overwhelmed and bombarded with too many options. That said, some categories of items are always out permanently due to the importance conferred to them. I always include books relating to their current interests, fine-motor manipulatives and open-ended materials that encourage imagination, creativity and open-ended play on the shelves, and some sort of construction materials is always available on the mat.
Occasionally I do set up invitations to play on the mat to make it more inviting for them so they will have a go, especially when I introduce a new activity or material, or when I notice that an activity or a particular resource has not been used much.
For more details on how each play shelf rotation is set up, check them all out here 🙂