Now, before setting about to physically create each of the Creative Curriculum’s ® interest areas I mentioned in my last post, I guess I should think about guidelines for them. In general, the Creative Curriculum® suggests the obvious – that the physical environment of a classroom has a profound effect on children and that a safe, attractive, comfortable and well-designed space helps engage children in activities. Likewise, it suggests dividing space into the separate interest areas that are stocked with varied, well-displayed materials that offer children a clear range of choices. As a whole, the classroom should, of course, have spaces which vary in size and set up, allowing for both quiet and louder play and for children to explore as individuals, partners and groups.
Now that’s all well and good for a classroom, but what about in a home? As I study the Creative Curriculum®’s ideas on setting up and maintaining the physical environment for optimal early childhood learning, I adapt ideas as I go. The curriculum’s Space Planning Guidelines were easy!
- Are there established traffic patterns for such things as entering our home, putting belongings away, using the potty, and moving from one area to another? Yep. No worries there. Although, when the new baby comes, we will have to adapt our entryway to include one more person, as well as include better space for visitors while we are at it. And, of course, we are always looking to improve the organization and accessibility of storage areas in all the rooms of our house!
- Have we clearly defined areas that need protection, such as block building areas, library areas, shelf areas, etc.? To some degree. In our current learn-and-play space, we had temporarily put down tape lines as a guide for where Luke and Nina could build constructions and leave them up. We also placed tape lines indicating space in front of shelving that needed to stay clear of toys and construction in order to facilitate putting things away. And, we put another line around our computer desk to remind the kids to ask before entering Mom and Dad’s work space. (These were working, but have recently been shrunk and adapted as the room has taken on another temporary use –storing sorted books until we get our home library together.) Plus, in almost all our rooms, we have cozy reading nooks that remain mostly undisturbed and allow for snuggly reading times. As we move forward, we will think more deliberately of how to define open spaces, protected spaces, etc.
- Do we have enough table spaces, allowing the whole family to be seated at once for a snack or meal, as well as for any writing, cooking or other activity that the kids might prefer to do at a table as opposed to on the floor? Indeed, we do! And, what a reminder it was for me to read in the Creative Curriculum® that there is no need for extra table space as kids prefer to work on the floor. Sometimes I envision having perfectly sized children’s tables and chairs in each area of our home – one for snack time, one for coloring, one for game playing, one for you-name-it – but, really, we don’t need these. The tables and chairs we have suit our needs just fine! We might even do well to get rid of some of the extra kids’ tables and chairs we’ve collected if we cannot find logical spaces for them. Cute and perfectly sized or not, they become just distracting clutter when they don’t have a home. So, I took the first step towards this by selling one such table at our big yard sale yesterday. Clutter, we release you!
- What kind of floor surfaces do we have and, therefore, where might different activities work best? Cooking, art, sand play and water exploration areas work best on floors that can easily be washed. Blocks require comfortable flooring where kids can sit or work on their knees. Between the hard flooring in our kitchen and living room, rugged floors in other rooms, a few movable foam floor mats and a handy old shower curtain drop or two, we are fine on this account. Now, it’s just a matter of training us all to do logical things on logical floor types!
- Are interest areas near needed resources? Yes and no. On the positive side, indeed, we do cooking and art in the kitchen, where a water source is vital. And, as we clean the basement, we can move some art down there, as we have an accessible ½ bathroom there. Plus, we have outlets near music and storytime areas, where CD players are used. However, on the negative side, our storage is a mess right now, with many things tucked in the most illogical places throughout the less-used recesses of our home. Granted, we did purge some things over the weekend and, in the past few months, we’ve made some headway at sorting and labeling in the garage and laundry room, but we still have a long way to go and our basement family-room-to-be looks somewhat like news photos of post-hurricane and earthquake areas. Thus, many resources are currently lost in the abyss. More focused sorting and purging are definitely in order, followed by finding logical at-hand homes for things. As such, the physical steps we partake in, inspired by the Creative Curriculum®, will undoubtedly bring beads of sweat to the brow!
- Are we capitalizing on areas with lots of light? Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of natural light in our house. But, we do place writing, drawing and reading areas near windows as much as possible and we are working on getting better mood and task lighting in all areas of our home. Plus, once I get some hanging plant holders, I intend to add “caring for plant” areas in naturally lit spaces of the house, too. (Right now, our small collection of house plants, which are on their last legs, are atop our entryway shelf – out of reach of curious hands and bumps from moving boxes of clutter but not basking in light.) As we move forward, we truly hope to let there be more light – figurative and literal – in our home. Until then, with the good weather upon us, we take a lot of our work and play outside!
- Are rooms organized so we can see as much as possible from every location to ensure children’s safety? Eek! How do you do this in a house with two floors and a ranch design – i.e not a lot of open space. Not sure, but we do our best to keep the kids within sight! ;) And, as Order in the Home continues, our sight lines will improve, we hope.
Thus, the space survey ends. And, I plan to take a break from thinking cap tasks to start some physical work creating one interest area. Thus, Step Three will be our Music and Movement Area.
In This Series:
- Step One: Declaring Areas for Interest in the Creative Curriculum® Home