I created a Yes Space for my son, but really I created it for me. By Erin Hanehan, Early Childhood Educator, Yoga Instructor, and Mom to Nate.
For my son’s first birthday my partner and I created an outdoor Yes Space. I learned about the idea of a Yes Space right here on the Tiny Earth Toys blog. I’ll outline what we did briefly at the end of this post.
The idea resonated with me for a few reasons. First, I was in the process of thinking about all things baby proofing and the idea of a fully baby safe space felt very reassuring. Also, I believe that babies and toddlers learn best when they are empowered and independent. I was excited to create an outdoor space for my son where he could safely explore and play.
What I didn’t expect is that this space would be as much for me as it was for him. Here are a few reasons why I created a Yes Space for my son, but really I created it for me...
When I am calm, my son is calm. And in the Yes Space we are both naturally very calm. I am not worried about his safety or his engagement. I already know that the space is safe and filled with things that delight him. The added bonus of creating this space outdoors means that we are both soothed by sunny skies and cool breezes too.
Parent burnout is real. Being a parent is a relentless, exhausting job. The Yes Space is a place that was intentionally created for safety and play, so when my son is there I can relax knowing that he is supported. Your child should always be supervised during play, but that doesn’t mean soft cushions can’t be used in the Yes Space for parental seating. Or that a deck chair can’t be placed just outside the perimeter.
Kid clutter doesn’t have to take over your home. When we create intentional spaces for our children, their play things can be kept there...instead of everywhere. And we know that providing our children with more play options doesn’t necessarily ensure their engagement (in fact it usually does the opposite). But even with less stuff, kid clutter has a way of sneaking into every nook and cranny of your home. I love using the Yes Space as a place for play things, and I know that someday my son will respect this gentle boundary too.
Mindful parenting takes practice. And in the Yes Space I can be present. I am not worried about furniture that could tip or small objects that could be swallowed. And because the space has been curated in advance, I can focus on practicing breathwork and mindfulness that supports my parenting practices outside of the Yes Space.
Yes feels better for me too. Having a toddler can feel a lot like playing defense. You are chasing, stopping, holding and watching everything. All the time. Because as a parent it’s my job to keep my son safe, but in the Yes Space we both get to feel the calm assurance of yes rather than no. It is easier and more fun to connect with my son in a space that is all YES and no NO.
So yes, I have enjoyed watching my son explore and enjoy his new Yes Space, but I have also felt my shoulders relax and my gaze soften. I have felt the air on my skin, enjoyed an uninterrupted cup of coffee and noticed how the sun dapples through the leaves. I have enjoyed the benefits of being outside alongside my son while knowing he is safe, he is happy and he is engaged.
Turns out this labor of love was the perfect birthday gift, for us both.
My Outdoor Yes Space is located on our back deck. We sectioned off one corner of our deck using a Superyard gate. We liked the flexibility and price point of this gate, but any weather resistant, baby safe gate will be just fine. We attached a piece of artificial grass to the deck floor to create a soft, splinter free surface. Any outdoor rug will do! We also use a box fan to keep the air moving and bugs at bay.
My Outdoor Yes Space includes:
- A small plastic container filled with sand—we reused a small storage tub. The lid is helpful to keep sand away from the elements. We screwed the tub into the deck railings so it stays in place and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.
- A tub for storage. Again, we reused an old storage tub. I wanted a place to rotate toys and to keep cushions dry.
- Outdoor cushions—for parental seating and toddler cozy time.
- Shovels, lids, plastic containers, hand me down plastic toys, etc. Anything that can live outside and does not present a choking hazard is fair game for play in the Yes Space! My son loves digging in the sand, banging on plastic bowls and fitting lids on containers.
Made for the phase they’re in…
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