Set Your Play Space Up For Success

Set Your Play Space Up For Success

It is hard to overstate the importance that the home environment has on our young children.  The "environment", in this case, means everything your child comes into contact with - the toys, furniture, pictures, music etc. 

 

The environment is one of three elements that Montessorians believe impact young children’s learning the most. Knowing this, one of the most impactful things we can do for our little ones is to set up an environment that will support their learning and their well-being.

 

The good news is, while there is an art to setting up the environment, the basics are simple. Here are a few main guidelines:


Less is More

playroom that is cluttered
  • An overfull or chaotic play space can overstimulate your child. 

  • When they are overstimulated they often have a harder time listening and focusing and are more prone to melting down. This makes it very hard for them to build the essential skill of concentration at a pivotal time for developing it. 

    • Research has shown that the quality of play increases dramatically when fewer toys are present. We recommend  8 to 10 toys out at a time. 

    • Count books separately, but do always include a reading spot in your play area! We suggest 5-6 books for infants and 6-10 books for toddlers and preschoolers out at a time. 

    • Everything else that you would like to keep, can be stored out of reach and out of sight until those items get rotated in for play. 


    Declutter Consciously

    • Another great way to lower overstimulation and increase settled, high quality, educational play is to limit or eliminate the number of high stimulation toys in your space. These are toys that beep and flash or play music.

    • If your child has a few of these they love, consider bringing them out only for designated periods of time, and tucking them away all other times.

    • Prioritize toys that are either open ended or that target one skill acquisition. Open ended toys, like blocks, can be played with in many different ways. Puzzles, shape sorters and matching games are examples of toys that are intended to be used a particular way, and that way develops a specific skill.

    • Look for simple but functional designs. (These are some of the guidelines we use when we are picking the toys in our library.) 

     

    Set up for Independence

    • Organize your play space so that your little ones can easily access their toys on their own. Use low shelves so they can easily reach items. 

    • Place toys to the front of the shelves, making them easier to access.  

    • Place all loose parts that go together in one basket or tray so they can be moved more easily. 

    • Attempt to put things back in the same spot on the shelf every time you clean up. This helps promote a sense of order and helps your child know where to go to get that item when it is wanted. 

     

    Rotations are the Magic Ingredient

    Use baskets to help with rotations
    • Every few weeks, you can rotate the toys by changing the 8-10 toys that are available for play. 

    • Definitely rotate toys back in at a later date so they get played with again!  

    • If a child is loving a toy and still working with it regularly - keep it in play for them. If a child requests a certain toy to be out for play, for sure get it out for them! Have them pick something that gets stored away to swap it out for.  

    • If a toy isn’t getting played with try putting it in a different place on the shelf when you do bring it back out.  




    Vibe is Everything

    • The guide, which is the parent/teacher or other caretaker, is one of the other three elements that most impact a child’s learning. 

    • The way we interact with our little ones deeply impacts their learning and wellbeing. 

    • One way we can support our children as they discover new things in their environment is by letting them explore each new toy before doing any modeling or instruction. Lend your warm presence and observe their exploration.  

    • Try to let go of the idea of a “right” way to play. 

    Watch the Video for More

    Inspiration for Play Spaces by Age: Newborn 

    newborn play space with mirrors, mat and art cards

    Inspiration for Play Spaces by Age: Baby 

    Playspace for a baby with play gym and shelf

    Inspiration for Play Spaces by Age: Toddler 

    Playspace for a toddler with a climbing gym and shelf with toys