Environment affects mood and behaviour
Studies have shown that children with a positive perception of themselves grow up to achieve good social and academic skills later in life. To enable this it is essential to encourage your child’s hobbies and interests and let them explore a variety of activities that will allow them to develop essential skills. A well designed indoor environment can increase efficiency, improve mood and develop talents.
When I design child-centric spaces, be it a bedroom, playroom or family room, I constantly refer back to my list of essential play zones. I know that each of these are essential for the early years and can be worked into any space. As children grow these zones merge and some disappear all together so a fluid approach and flexibility need to be woven into your room design to accommodate the changing needs of your child.
I like to break up the zones so that (though sleeping is the main focus of the room) your child’s other needs (play, exploration, relaxation, music etc) are also catered for and given the space to be encouraged.
1- Gross Motor Play Area
This usually involves ride on toys, swings or climbing and is mostly catered for outside. With enough space and creativity it can be included in an indoor setting. For example by adding a swing seat or climbing wall to a playroom or bedroom.
2- A cosy corner
As a quiet area or reading nook. Twos could be on a bed with easy access to books and a light or it could be in a den or tepee, cushions in a corner near a bookcase. To create a cosy, contemplative space for relaxation and quiet time. Popping a book shelf within reach of the bed or cosy corner will encourage a love of reading and make it a habit for the rest of their lives.
3- A fine Motor Station
Usually involves a child sized table and chair with access to puzzles, threading toys, games and kits which would be stored in a nearby bookcase or storage unit so children can independently access them (and tidy them away!). this could equally be at the kitchen table with a little more supervision for younger toddlers so that all the puzzles don’t come out at once!
4- A Construction Area
Where children use building bricks, wooden blocks, train tracks and other types of linking toys to stack, link and connect parts to create structures. This often falls part of their small world play – creating a backdrop for their action.
5- An Arts and Crafts Area
Often the kitchen table with an area set aside for storage of all the supplies – often a cart or art box works best. To encourage self expression through the creation of visual art such as sculpture, junk modelling, mark making, drawings and paintings using a variety of mediums. If you are lucky enough to have a separate playroom then this could be the ideal spot for an easel, table and chairs with art supplies on shelves within easy reach of children that can then be out away(out of reach of younger children) when you are not there to supervise!
6- A Sensory Area
To allow children to stimulate their senses of touch, sight and hearing need not be a defined zone. It could involve having a sand/water tray outside, exploring bubbles in the bath, playing with play dough at the kitchen table.
7- A Small World Area
This involves having floor space near to where the small world toys are stored so that it is easy for children to access the toys and they have enough space to play with them. This is where children create small worlds to tell stories and often re-enact real life situations to reaffirm their learning. Farm sets, doll’s houses and character figures are all examples of such toys.
8- An Imaginary Play Zone
This is where children make believe and tell stories. Having free access to costumes and fancy dress, play kitchens, baby dolls, phones and puppets helps children in this type of play. A child height clothes rail or hooks with costumes or hats along with a play kitchen or shop are great ways of implementing imaginary play into your home.
9- Musical Play Area
This involves having some instruments such as drums, a keyboard or a whistle so that your child can explore making different sounds and music. These do not need their own physical space but should be stored together near a floor space so that they can be pulled out and easily played with.
These zones are fluid and really require each type of toy being stored together within reach of a place to play with them and within reach of your child. So small world, musical and construction toys need to be near a floor space where they can be played with. Fine motor toys near a child sized table and chairs, arts and crafts in an easy to clean area either in the play room or at the kitchen table, some sensory experiences around the home and gross motor skill toys like a tricycle, outside. I highly recommend creating a cosy area for reading and quiet time in the child’s own room to promote a connection with their own space and encourage their notion of privacy.
The zones will amalgamate and change as your child grows so the physical space needs to be flexible.
These zones work in tandem will allowing your child to express their individuality and interests in their room, so that they can forge a strong sense of individuality and good self-esteem.
To encourage open ended play it is crucial to have accessible toys and space to play with them. I cannot stress enough the importance of a tidy, quiet and calm home environment for the development of self-regulation (the ability to understand and manage your own behaviour and actions) in children. Good design will encourage your child to feel proud of their home, filling them with happiness and a space to explore and thrive.
Design your child’s environment in a way that will respect them and help their cognitive, physical and emotional development.
I hope that this post has helped to show you a bit more about how I work and the fundamental ideas behind why I design for children. Should you need any help with your child’s room please take a look at my services and feel free to contact me.