8 Ways to Set Up a Home Learning Space for kids
What is a home learning space?
The preschool years are a critical time for your child’s cognitive development. While they do a ton of learning and exploring at school, creating a learning environment at home encourages and nurtures your little one’s growth even after they have left the classroom or the play structure for the day. Educational toys that teach your preschooler through play are a great way to make learning fun at home.
Setting up a learning space in your home does several important things for your child. First, it provides them with a space set up just for them, with the tools they need to grow at their own pace. Second, it encourages them to work on new projects of their own and express their creativity, knowledge, and sense of humor. Finally, and perhaps most important to parents, setting up a learning space in your home shows your child how excited you are for them to learn and grow through play. While children inevitably learn all around the house, research suggests that when a space is created for a specific task, your little one naturally gravitates to that space for that particular task, like knowing to go to the kitchen to help out with a snack or to go to the bathroom to wash their hands when they get home. Likewise, when you set up a learning space in your home, your preschooler will know to go there when they want to play.
What are the benefits of a learning space?
Learning spaces are important for your little one for several reasons. Not only will learning and play be more accessible to them, but your child’s confidence and sense of self will be strengthened each time they accomplish a task on their own, especially when they are given tools and toys made just for them and their learning stage. Italian physician and creator of Montessori theories and practices, Maria Montessori popularized the idea that children are great at creating their own learning opportunities. Learning spaces are ideal places for your little one to do exactly this, as their needs are taken into account and space is set aside just for them to explore and grow on their own within the comfort of their home. All of this is not lost on your child, as they will appreciate the consistency of having a place for them with a specific purpose, one where they can go when they want to grow and learn at home.
The best learning spaces are created and kept up not just by setting aside physical space and sorting your little one’s toys for them, but also by the attitude with which you treat them and the space. A learning space requires discipline and encouragement, as you dedicate space for your child’s play and stimulate their learning with positive reinforcement. A learning space also brings freedom and a measure of autonomy to your child’s life, freedom and autonomy that strengthens their sense of self and their confidence. The ideal learning space is simple but nurtures your child’s curiosity, inspires that growth in their confidence, and encourages them to interact actively with the world and others around them. Designing this space should be an achievable and exciting process, and we can walk you through it!
DESIGNING A LEARNING SPACE AT HOME
How to design a learning space?
1. Keep it Simple
One of the main design elements to keep in mind is simplicity. Avoiding too many distractions and keeping toys and furniture organized will help your little one focus on and enjoy the tasks at hand. Choose simple arrangements for the furniture and storage that are easy for little hands to reach and open, like putting items in bins and boxes close to the floor. Spaces, toys, and furniture can all be identified at home and organized for simplicity so the focus can be on your child and their play and learning.
2. Less is More
Montessori stresses the “less is more” philosophy when creating a learning environment for children. To avoid distracting and overwhelming your preschooler, it is important to declutter the space as much as possible. Doing so ensures your child can stay focused on playing instead of looking for missing toys or tripping over books that aren’t being read at the moment. Keep most of your little one’s toys and other belongings in storage and take only a few things out at a time. This will not only help keep things exciting and new, as not every toy will be used every day, but limiting your child’s options reveals their preferences and encourages curiosity in toys, games, and books they haven’t played with or read in a while..
3. Keep Things Child-Sized
Because children often shape their own learning experience, their learning environment should make this easy for them. One way to help this happen is to make sure the space, its furniture, and the learning materials there are all kid friendly. Find smaller chairs and tables, as well as markers big enough for little hands to hold onto so they can sit and draw, or throw in some soft blocks for them to build. The more comfortable your preschooler is, the more enjoyment they will find in the learning space and the more playing and growing they are likely to do, so make sure to incorporate low shelves, low cabinets, and soft places to sit and tinker with their toys, read stories, or write-and-wipe activity mats and stationary for your little one to get creative.
4. Bring on the Knowledge!
Learning spaces are great places to bring in books written with your preschooler in mind. Make sure to include learning activities too, ones that encourage your little one to start recognizing numbers and letters, developing their motor skills, and identifying body parts. Preschoolers can also start exploring rhymes, number lines, and practicing their sorting skills as they get a little older. Having established the space as a place your little one can go to learn, it’s easy to make learning fun and accessible with activities that weave practicing skills and gaining knowledge into interesting games and stories that will stimulate your child’s imagination, sense of humor, and creativity at the same time.
5. Create a Reading Nook
Speaking of reading, make your learning space even cozier and encourage reading by creating a little reading nook where you and your kid can cuddle up to share a story or where they can escape into the world of a story on their own. Put down some cushions for them to curl up on and stack a few books on a shelf or in a basket where your preschooler can pick out a few to read. Make sure the area is uncluttered so your little one can get to their favorite books without any distractions to ensure they can enjoy story time.
6. Play with Nature
Bring the outside world into your child’s learning space to improve the light and energy in their own little place. Try putting plants safely out of reach (but in view!) so your child can notice how they grow and respond to water and sunlight, and open a window to let in fresh air or listen to the rain if it isn’t too chilly outside. Not only will doing so give your preschooler more opportunities to learn about the natural world, but increasing lighting and ventilation can improve both attention and mood, making your little one’s learning space even more pleasant and effective.
7. Create a Routine
Developing the learning space you’ve set up also includes developing your child’s relationship to it. Routine, order, and repetition are important for your little one’s cognitive development, giving them a consistency that is both formative and comforting. Asking them to help sweep or dust the space, organize their toys and books, or put their games back in their designated learning kits can give them a sense of responsibility and belonging to the space. Giving your child these responsibilities and gently guiding them through their daily tasks also instills trust in them, improving their confidence.
8. Enhance the Space
A final tip for making your child’s learning space even more dynamic and engaging is to include artwork and music for your little one to enjoy. Put up artwork from different artists, cultures, mediums, or family photographs to stimulate your little one’s mind. Put on some tunes made just for kids, or even some of your own favorite songs. Ask your little one to try to draw everyone in a family picture or make up to their favorite song, or just encourage them to sit back and listen to some soft music to help them better immerse themselves in learning activities or reading.
Ultimately, setting up your child’s learning space is an achievable and dynamic gesture of love for your little one. Make it an interactive process, paying attention to what your child enjoys and what stimulates them, including them in the process by giving them responsibilities, and participating in learning through play with them in the space you’ve created together. Setting up a learning space empowers your child to learn on their own at home and have fun in their own little place. In Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic Cinderella, the protagonist sings about her “own little corner” where she can “be whoever she wants to be.” With a learning space, your little one can find the same joy.
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