As any child care provider is undoubtedly aware, children need room to grow and play. It's important for children to be able to explore their environment and discover the many different wonders hidden away in everyday spaces and objects. However, how does a care provider balance the need for ample room and maintaining safety for everyone in the space? In this piece, we'll establish the best practices for preparing a space that children can explore and play in that's both ample and controlled enough to ensure safety.
Explore The Environment
Consider the environment of your child care facility. While you probably know the space front to back, try considering how a child might view things. Get down and view the world from multiple perspectives, taking note of the furniture, lighting, available toys, and anything else in the space. Are there any exposed electrical outlets, or sharp edges that a toddler might bump into? What about uneven surfaces where someone could lose their footing? Tears in the carpet or chipping paint at ankle-level might be hardly noticeable to adults, but these everyday occurrences can be playgrounds to inquisitive minds, so take note of any irregularities.
Now move beyond the pure physical outlines of the space, and consider things a little more abstractly. Are the lights too bright? Are the colors in the room warm and inviting or cold and clinical? Is there fun imagery or are the walls bare and blank? What about the room's paint job? Is it fading or still bright and lustrous? There are lots of things to take into consideration when truly exploring your space, so try not to get bogged down in an adult mindset.
Remember that no matter your thoughts on feng shui or room design, the number one priority of your space should always be to guarantee the health and safety of the children for whom you're providing care. This doesn't mean solely eliminating unsafe furniture and keeping small objects away from inquisitive young mouths but also incorporating spaces into a room's design that can strengthen relationships between children and caretakers.
Preparing The Space
No matter how much space you're working with, always try to maximize the amount for children to be able to move around freely. Children move in a much more fluid and untethered way than adults - their arms are often swinging wide, they jump and spring and twirl around with no warning. You need as much open space as possible to allow children to physically express themselves, and you need a floor that's clean and free of any tripping hazards. Carpeting is a great choice, as it provides grip and will also soften any falls that a child might suffer.
Furniture will of course be part of your space's design, and it's very important that it's utilized correctly. It's recommended you provide various types of seating for solitary activities like reading and writing, and also spaces to sit with someone. Benches are great spaces that can be used for a number of activities, as they can be laid down upon, sat on, written on, and more! Versatile furniture is encouraged - while you might dream of a big comfy couch to layout on, you want to encourage movement, good posture, and inquisitive minds.
Furniture should be arranged in a way that limits enclosed spaces, chokepoints, or areas that just feel cramped or claustrophobic. Children should be able to move freely from space to space without feeling enclosed or corralled. Different areas can be arranged to serve different kinds of exploration - maybe some areas feature more verticality than others, or some areas are more brightly lit to emphasize exploration while others are shadier for naptime - you can get creative in how you arrange your space, but always try to design things with a clear goal in mind.
Designing Space For The Individual Needs Of Toddlers And Twos
When working with toddlers and twos, sometimes personalities can clash, and deciding between two separate sets of needs can seem like a difficult choice. However, based on the way you design your space, the more efficiently you design things the easier it can be to resolve conflicts. There should always be a way to separate feuding parties, and some areas should be more isolated for when someone might need a time-out - or just some time alone by themselves. By providing as many different kinds of environments as possible, you give yourself opportunities to resolve conflicts when they occur and even prevent them from ever occurring.
For example, if you have one child who's extroverted and loves conversation and physical expression, and another child who's more reserved and prefers solitude, you should be able to provide both children with spaces that fit their needs. A quiet comfy corner with books for introverts should always have an opposite space that's open and brightly lit for the extroverts to run around in and explore. There's no doubt that you're familiar with resolving conflicts between children, but well-used space can prevent conflicts before they ever happen.
When it comes to a child's individual needs, another thing to keep in mind is stagnation. Children can enjoy familiarity and routines, but there's no limit to how often you can change your physical space. Keeping things fresh and interesting will help keep children exploring their environments and discovering new things. This can mean changing artwork often and re-arranging furniture every so often will encourage your kids to take note of what's changing around them. This can even be a sort of game, with children noticing what changes you've made to their environments on a weekly or monthly basis. It's up to you how you decide to manage things, but the important part is trying!
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