Category: Learning Spaces


The Art Cart

By Mariah Bruehl,

The Art Cart

As the girls get older I am making a slight shift in my outlook on creating spaces for them… With younger children I recommend a more curated collection of materials that can be rotated in and out according to their interests. Yet, as I set up this new space (more will be revealed in the upcoming Playful Learning Spaces Workshop) for my 10 and 11 year olds, I decided to take a lot of our supplies out of the storage closet and bring them into the light of day and on display.

Art Cart...

Older children are able to handle more choices and need easy access to interesting materials. They can quickly become interested in exploring an idea, yet just as quickly move on if they don’t find what they need. The goal of any space created for children continues to be the encouragement of independence and exploration.

For the older artists in our lives there is a shift from teaching them how to use and explore a variety of materials to experimenting with materials in order to solve design challenges. They come to this space with their own ideas and inspiration for projects and their time here is spent making the image they have in their mind a reality through trial and error.

It is just that kind of problem solving and persistence we want to see develop within our children. Creating spaces that feel safe (so they are comfortable taking risks) and enticing (to get the ideas flowing) is a small thing we can do that makes a big difference in their lives…

topartcart

In many ways it has become a maker lab, because, makers gonna make, especially if they have an inviting space…

At this point we have discovered many different tried and true art supplies, which we like to have on hand (although we always love new recommendations). Being well-stocked and organized comes in handy for last minute school projects and when spontaneous DIY inspiration strikes.

 

artcartshelf

More Art Area Inspiration…

 

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

 

Playful Learning Spaces

By Mariah Bruehl,

Playful Learning Spaces

Now open for registration!

Join us for a pre-holiday session of our most popular workshop, Playful Learning Spaces! It’s the perfect time to rethink our spaces in preparation for making thoughtful gift choices for the playful learners in our lives…

I can’t wait to “see” you there!

To register, click here.

 

What will we explore?

Playful Learning Spaces is a three week workshop, designed to support parents and teachers through the process of designing thoughtful spaces for children. We will explore and share ideas for creating areas that invite children to engage in reading, writing, science, art and more. We will also discuss educational theory, organization, storage, and selecting materials for different ages and stages of child development.

This video-based workshop introduces basic educational principles, provides simple guidelines, and promises big doses of inspiration. You will also have access to helpful printables and links to relevant research, products, and resources. As a community we will have the opportunity to look at the spaces we create for our children, tackle overdue projects, post before and after photos, and receive practical feedback and support.

Topics covered:

  • Image of the Child
  • Encouraging Young Writers
  • Nurturing Budding Readers
  • Artistic Explorations
  • For the Love of Science
  • The Corners of Our Homes + Classrooms

 

Testimonials

“The blend of visual materials, video, informative articles, and useable printouts made this workshop invaluable and well worth the investment. Really, I wish this would never end. I can’t wait to sign up for the next workshop, no matter what the content!”

– Sommer

 

“Thank you very much for this workshop. It has been very inspiring, and oh so good for all of our family. I will listen to these videos again, as I realize that each time I listen, I hear something I didn’t hear before, or a new idea pops in my mind.”

– Valerie

 

Dates + Registration

Start: November 4, 2014

End: November 21, 2014

* All participants will have ongoing access to workshop materials and content.

 

To register, click here.

 

 

Creative Spaces: Halloween

By Mariah Bruehl,

Creative Spaces: HalloweenThe holidays are a perfect time to add simple, imaginative supplies to enrich your child’s playful learning space. Today I’ve put together some creative ideas to inspire your writing, reading and science centers and delight your little learner.

Self serve writing/art center:

Material ideas:

  • Interesting storage container (eg: partitioned box, metal buckets, wicker baskets, etc)
  • Halloween themed pencils and erasers
  • Halloween colored* papers, folded cards, tags
  • Halloween colored* crayons, felt pens or colored pencils
  • Halloween stickers, paper cut outs, shaped confetti
  • Pumpkin rubber stamp and orange ink pad
  • Baker’s twine
  • Halloween themed washi tape
  • Halloween bookmarks (or have your child make them!)

 

Books to learn with:

*Halloween Colors: orange, black, lime green, purple, golden yellow, white

 

Early writers:

Halloween words: (print words onto cards for young writers): Halloween, night, moon, bat, candy, costume, pumpkin, cat, ghost, witch, trick or treat.

 

Science learning:

Creative Spaces: Halloween

Pumpkin Science Center

Material ideas:

  • Mini pumpkins (in various colors)
  • Pumpkin seeds (including the stringy bits!)
  • Magnifying glass
  • Microscope
  • Pumpkin life cycle cards (free printable here)

 

Books to learn with:

 

Skeleton Science Center:

Creative Spaces: Halloween

Material ideas:

  • Mini plastic skeleton
  • Found animal bones
  • Magnifying glass
  • Labeled skeleton diagram – (free printable here)

 

Books to learn with:

 

Initially have your child explore the items and books on their own. Then offer to discuss the topics and encourage your child to

ask questions. Through discussion find out what your child wants to learn about these topics and investigate them together.

Children are naturally curious, let them lead in the learning!

It is important to try to keep the space simple, tidy and inviting. Although it can be tempting to buy all the supplies and fill your

space to the brim, too many items or choices can overwhelm a child leaving your hard work and clever ideas ignored. Rotating

the supplies you have chosen keeps the activities fresh and appealing and allows you to surprise your child with new learning

opportunities throughout the season!

 

Happy Halloween Playful Learners!

Designing Spaces for Children: Getting Started

By Mariah Bruehl,

Designing Spaces for Children: Getting StartedAs the end of summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, many of us with children will begin preparing for a new school year. Whether you are a teacher awaiting the arrival of a room full of children or a parent with children at home, this time of year offers the perfect opportunity to consider the spaces where children learn, play, grow, and thrive.

 

Over the past several months, I’ve shared ideas for incorporating color, texture, and transparency into your spaces and have asked you to consider how light, aroma, sound, and movement contribute to the overall feel of your space. Today, let’s think about what to do once you’re ready to start implementing changes in your space.

Designing Spaces for Children: Getting Started

Here are a few ways to begin:

 

  1. Choose 1-2 Elements to Guide the Design

What element of design are you most drawn to? Is it color? Perhaps light or sound? Spend time observing where one or more of these elements is already present and then brainstorm ways to incorporate more of it in your space.

  1. Follow the Interests of Children

What are your children’s current interests? Identifying a few specific areas can help guide the setup of your space. Is it nature? How about setting up a nature table. Books? You might create a cozy book nook or storytelling area complete with puppets and a stage.

  1. Find Inspiration

Take note of the way other spaces for children are designed. Visit your local children’s museum, library, and park for ideas. Pin, Tag, and bookmark the many photos available on the web.

  1. Include Children in the Process

Ask children what they want in their space and encourage them to express their ideas through drawing, clay, or wire. You might just be surprised by their creativity!

  1. Observation and Reflection

One thing is for certain. Taking the time to observe your physical space and how children use it is an essential step before, during, and after you make changes.

 

And perhaps most importantly, enjoy the process! Creating spaces for children is ongoing. Just when the space feels right, a new interest is sure to emerge…

 

Are you planning a space for children? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. How do you get started? Where do you find inspiration?

 

Be sure to check out the Learning Spaces Index for additional resources.

 

Designing Spaces for Children: Movement and Flow

By Mariah Bruehl,

 

Designing Spaces for Children: Movement and Flow

“From a child’s perspective, everything is an interactive surface with the potential to be sculpted, painted, draped, or molded artistically…. Their play is often a response to subtle variations in the places and sensations that surround them.” – Anita Rui Olds

 

Have you ever noticed the way children move through a space? Imagine a hallway – at the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or even a typical public school. It’s almost as if a long corridor silently screams to children, “Run”. And, what do they do? Run, of course! Children take cues from the environment and the way space is arranged can have a significant impact on their learning experience. Whether you are designing a classroom or simply creating a corner within your home, you’ll want to consider how the layout encourages movement and creates a natural flow among different areas.

 

The design of your space will likely be determined by the amount of space you have, the location of doors and windows, furniture, and the type of flooring available to you. Carpet and area rugs provide softness and help define areas while hard surfaces like linoleum or tile are great for “messy” play, like art projects and sensory exploration. A combination of both is ideal. Most classrooms are organized by learning centers, such as areas for block play, art, and science. Determining the type of play that will occur in your space will help you design a floor plan that optimizes learning.

Designing Spaces for Children: Movement + Flow

 

Here are some tips for considering movement and flow:

 

o    Think about the functionality of each space. What furniture best suits each area? Seek out flexible furnishings that can grow with your children and accommodate their emerging interests.

 

o   Avoid setting out materials on the perimeter of the room and instead create small areas that are enclosed on 2 or 3 sides. Children are naturally drawn to small spaces where they can be alone or with one or two others. Small areas encourage focus and attention and appear more manageable.

 

o    Create clearly defined areas using low shelves and other furniture but take care not to overcrowd the space. You might experiment with hanging plants, artwork, or beaded curtains to create a visual divider between areas.

 

o   Arrange quiet areas (like reading) apart from louder areas (like block play) to minimize distractions and disruptions.

 

o   Create wide pathways that allow children to move freely without bumping into one another.

 

o  Some areas of your space may hold multiple functions, like a kitchen table, so creating a storage system is essential. You might roll out a drop cloth to protect the floor or a table surface.

 

o   Use baskets and bins to organize and store materials in an attractive way. Check out the following posts for great tips on minimizing clutter and Toy Organization.

 

Every child is different and our spaces should reflect their growing interests and needs. How does your child move through space? How do you account for movement when creating your spaces for children?

 

Toy Organization: Tackling the Living Room

By Mariah Bruehl,

Toy Organization: Tackling the Living Room

Adrienn is with us today with some great tips for tackling toy organization the living room.

I believe that creating beauty around us has a deeply transformative effect. When our children experience and live in the calmness of a sensibly organized home they will later hopefully create one for themselves.

Today, let’s take a look at the living room.

I know that it can seem overwhelming and problematic for various reasons. Not only is it probably the most used space in your home, furthermore the list of activities taking place there is endless.

Whether you have a separate playroom, or a “no toys in the living room” rule, toys have a tendency to appear magically everywhere.

Ask yourself these questions: Is it important to you that the room feels restful and the kids can jump on the couch? But do you want it to look good when friends come over or when you want to relax?

Addressing the toy situation can be a rewarding project, even for the kids. Because sometimes you need to rethink your storage and organization solutions as the kids grow and your lifestyle changes.

My darlings are allowed to play everywhere in the house, but the majority of their toys is stored in the living room. We don’t have a playroom and their bedroom is used solely for sleeping (less distraction before bedtime has proven to be a good choice). With our toy rotation system set up I was able to match the quantity of toys to the available space. Two drawers, some open shelving for books, and the top of the drawers is all we can count on here. I was completely satisfied with the system, except the toys on top of our low level drawers were stored in see-through baskets of all kinds of different shapes and sizes. It proved to be great for easy access and it took us no time to clear away the toys. But, it had one major disadvantage.

When the house was quiet and we longed for some grown up time, the living room didn’t feel as relaxing as I wanted it to be. It bothered me that I could still see the majority of the toys, making it a bit more difficult to unwind after a fun day with the kids. I longed for a chic and grown up living room.

So I wrote a short list with the requirements:

  • practical (like the baskets)
  • sturdy
  • lightweight
  • beautiful to look at
  • must have lids
  • affordable
  • easy to find
  • flexible
And I found exactly what I was looking for after a bit of online searching. Sturdy, rectangular, woven baskets with lids. As they come in two sizes I could mix and match, but still keep the overall feel chic and modern.
I truly believe if we try to find better solutions for those annoying or uncomfortable systems that have or haven’t worked in the past our lives become easier. The sense of comfort and relief you will feel after the project is accomplished is always worth it.
Toy Organization: Tackling the Living Room
To make your project a success here are 4 simple tips to keep you on the right track:
  1. Find our what the root cause of your unhappiness with the toy storage. Maybe it is just the lack of storage space, but more often than not, that’s not the real problem.
  2. Imagine the end result. What do you want your living room to look like? How do you want to feel sitting on the sofa with a book by yourself? Having quality time with your partner? Playing with your little ones?
  3. Set a limit on the quantity of toys you want to store, even if your don’t rotate toys.
  4. Choose grown up storage solutions if possible and leave the multicolored action figure extravaganzas for the kids room.

Now tell me, what are the problem zones in your living room?

{ photo 2: source }

Designing Spaces for Children: Sound

By Mariah Bruehl,

Designing Spaces for Children: Sound

 

What sounds do you associate with childhood? Is it the sound of an ice cream truck making its way through the neighborhood or the reverberating sound of a diving board as someone plunges into a swimming pool? Or maybe it’s a child exclaiming, “Ready or not, here I come!” For me, it’s the sound of a screen door closing when running inside after a long afternoon of play.

 

The way we perceive sound has an incredible influence on our sense of time, place, and wellbeing. “Every cell in the body registers sound waves,” writes Anita Rui Olds, “We actually hear with our entire bodies, not simply with our ears.”

 

Unless you are a musician or sound engineer or happen to be undergoing a renovation or building a new space, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about acoustics. Often we don’t think about the impact sound has on our experiences. We hear what we want or need and tune out the rest. So, what happens when we tune in to our spaces?

 

If you’ve spent any time in a preschool classroom or a children’s museum you can likely recall the sound of children playing. And it’s probably loud. Perhaps too loud. Spaces for children tend to focus on the bottom half of the room. This makes sense because young children spend a lot of time on or near the floor but when we’re thinking about acoustics it’s important to consider the entire space from floor to ceiling.

Designing Spaces for Children: Sound

Hardwood floors reflect sound and high ceilings create echoes. Including absorbent materials like area rugs, soft pillows, curtains, and other textiles help minimize noise and add texture to your space. To distribute sound more evenly you can vary the ceiling and floor height using furniture like lofts and risers, which also provide children with different perspectives to view their surroundings. Hanging a shadow curtain or draping sheer fabric from the ceiling also helps diffuse sound and creates a “lowering of the ceiling effect” giving way to soft and cozy spaces below.

Designing Spaces for Children: Sound

Sometimes simply opening a window will invite sound into your space. Wind chimes and plants like bamboo and tall grasses respond to the movement of air with sound. Birdhouses attract songbirds. Even incorporating circulating fountains and aquariums in your space will produce the soothing sound of water.

Designing Spaces for Children: Sound

 

Children are naturally drawn to experimenting with sound and there are so many possibilities for exploring its properties. What does sound look like? Can you draw sound? How does sound feel? Seek out your local museums and parks for sound installations and sculptures. You might experiment with building a sound wall or take a sound walk with children. I just discovered there’s an app that turns footsteps into sounds while walking the High Line in New York City! Once children begin observing their surroundings, there’s no telling where it might lead…

 

What sounds do you notice in your spaces for children? What strategies help you manage sound? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Sign-Up Now!

For more inspiration on creating spaces for children, check out our Playful Learning Spaces Workshop.

Start: November 4, 2014

End: November 21, 2014

To register, click here.

Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency

By Mariah Bruehl,

Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency

The word transparency holds multiple meanings. It refers to the transmission of light through an object, such as a window or piece of fabric, and can also serve as a metaphor for visibility – making visible what is valued, what has happened, and what is underway.

So, how might you consider transparency when designing spaces for children?

One way to begin is looking at the environment from the perspective of a child. What happens when you position yourself at the eye-level of a child? What do you see? Is the furniture setup to encourage exploration in an open and inviting way? Are materials easily accessible and organized in a way that makes sense? “Seeing” supports autonomy and independent thinking, as children learn how to access the materials needed to support and extend their learning.

Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency

Glass jars have a way of making small objects look like precious things, just waiting to be discovered. Using transparent containers to hold objects highlights their attributes and can reveal rich details that may otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally, including light tables, mirrors, and other objects that catch and reflect light can invoke a sense of wonder and inspire new ways of thinking.

Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency

Transparency connects you to the outside world. Do you have windows in your space?  How might they be used to invite further exploration? In this photo, a plant clipping is placed in a glass jar and set on the windowsill where children can observe the regrowth of its roots.

Designing Spaces for Children: Transparency

The spaces we create for children ultimately communicate our values. When we display children’s artwork along with photographs and other forms of documentation, we give visibility to their unique process of learning.

Where does transparency exist in your spaces for children? How do you make your values visible?

Sign-Up Now!

For more inspiration on creating spaces for children, check out our Playful Learning Spaces Workshop.

Start: November 4, 2014

End: November 21, 2014

To register, click here.

Raising Helpers

By Mariah Bruehl,

Raising Helpers

We’ve spent a great deal of time trying to decide how to create a system of chores that works for us and our young family. Like many other parents, we started out using a rewards based chore chart when our oldest was a toddler. Prizes were a great motivation at first, but over time we could recognize that she was largely missing the point and I eventually grew tired of handing out prizes for the simplest of tasks. Now we’ve fallen into the trap many parents are in: besides asking our children to be generally neat and pick up their toys, we tend to do most of the chores ourselves.

 

The conclusion we’ve reached is that everyone who lives in the house with the family should be expected to contribute in some way. Rewards and allowances shouldn’t be given as a response to this contribution. Young children love to help, all they need is encouragement, consistency, and a loving parent or teacher to teach them how to help. For those of us applying this way of thinking to an existing family-where do we start? And, what can really be expected of young children?

 

Every family has their own way of operating, but hopefully the progress we’ve made in our journey can help you define your own approach. Our children are 6, 4, and 18 months. We’ve been allowing our youngest to help and teaching him new things when he seems interested, such as sweeping, throwing things in the garbage, and helping move clothes from the washer to the dryer. It’s fun to see him excited about helping, but there are no expectations or set chores for him yet at this time.

 

Here are a few suggestions for children from 2-6:

 

1. Define your everyday expectations. These are simple tasks that are attached to daily family life. Our 4 and 6 year old are expected to bring their dishes to the kitchen after meals, clean up spills, put their laundry in the basket, help put away clean clothes, pick up toys and games, make their beds, and throw garbage away. Speak of and enforce these tasks often and they will become a way of life. This is an area we are hoping to grow in! I believe my children are capable of more and I would love to see them become more independent and confident as their skills grow.

Raising Helpers

 

2. Rotating and Sporadic Tasks. These are tasks that don’t come up everyday, but on a weekly or sporadic basis. Examples would be: taking the garbage out to the curb, mopping floors, yard work, and watering plants. Look at your tasks for the week and ask your children to help you.  To make things fun, we’ve decided to add a “helping envelope” for both children to the wall. A slip of paper with a picture of their “job” for the week will be inside each envelope at the start of the week. You can get creative with these. Does your child really love to sort things? Does she love to help in the kitchen? Does he love to be outside? Put them to work doing something they love!

 

3. Have Patience.  As much as children love to learn a new skill, it can be difficult to learn a new task. Look at it as an opportunity to spend some extra time with your child. No, they’re not going to clean things exactly as you do. And yes, it will take them much longer. But, by teaching them to contribute and care for the things they own you are giving them an invaluable gift. Turn up the music and make it fun!

 

Here’s a helpful chart that’s been making the rounds on the web lately (source) :

Raising Helpers

How does your family handle household chores? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Rediscovering Your Child’s Space

By Mariah Bruehl,

Rediscovering Your Child's Space

Joey from Made by Joey is with us today to share some great tips for keeping our children’s spaces fresh and inviting.

As our children mature, it is inevitable that we will encounter times when their personal spaces need to be reassessed and/or refitted to accommodate their new interests and activities.

Rediscovering Your Child's Space

After recently deciding that we were ready to pass along our beloved homemade play kitchen, I felt it was time to look at the kid’s space with fresh eyes and assess how they were using it.

Rediscovering Your Child's Space

Before I embarked on this task, however, I knew that I had to have a heart-to-heart chat with myself.  I sensed that this was going to be an emotional project, with moments of remembering my children playing with these cherished toys and now feeling like I was saying goodbye to their childhood.  I reminded myself that their childhood was not in the toys themselves, but in my memories and there were other ways of preserving those memories.  Once I felt that I was emotionally ready to proceed, I was far more successful with the purge.  Certainly I had no trouble tossing the annoying, loud, poor quality toys… but the timeless, high quality items… were a little more difficult to sort through!  I included the kids in most of the decisions of what to pass along and what to keep and we decided to put a few items into storage for “rotation“.

Rediscovering Your Child's Space

Trying to ensure that the small room felt spacious and tidy, and wanting to keep the cost minimal, I opted to “shop around my home” for furniture that might work.  I found the bookcase in the living room (that housed more of the kid’s belongings) to be the best solution for the room.

Once the toys and supplies were sorted and I had chosen the best storage option, I used the tools learned in the Playful Learning Spaces ecourse to regroup the remaining items with similar items so that they are now easily accessible and fresh with new possibilities!

Rediscovering Your Child's Space Rediscovering Your Child's Space

We know that we will be experiencing a lot of transition in our lives this coming year and I feel the best way to face these challenges is to enter as “light” as possible.  Clutter weighs me down both physically and emotionally, and makes change and decision-making even harder to deal with.  I believe that our children will feel the benefits of this purge as well.  This project proved to be as important to our souls as it was to our house!

Do you feel that clutter weighs you down?  I’d love to hear how you manage your children’s spaces and how the process makes you feel!

Suggested read:  Simplicity Parenting – Kim John Payne

Playful Learning Spaces eCourse