In creating our play space at home, we are largely inspired by Montessori principles. We talked about the Montessori principles we follow in our Learning Approaches.
It took us about 6 months of trying out different layouts - moving furniture here and there, arranging toys in different ways etc - before we finally created a play space for T which we are extremely satisfied with.
His play space is separated from his sleeping area.
Initially, his play space was in his bedroom. But we wanted to clearly define the area where he plays and creates, vs the area where he does quiet time (reading, bedtime stories) and sleeps.
So we created his main play space in our living room instead (picture above).
And in his bedroom, we created an area for quiet time. He has his books in one corner (white bookshelf on the right), and all his puzzles in the other (blue bookshelf on the left).
His play space is baby-proof and safe.
This is really important and crucial, not just for safety reasons, but also to encourage free uninhibited play. To cultivate spontaneous learning, his learning environment and hence play space has to be 100% safe. This enables the child to explore freely, without having an adult to constantly stop him from touching dangerous items or going near sharp corners.
Below are some simple basic tips to baby-proof your play space:
- Ensure there are no dangerous electrical points or wires within his reach.
- If you have big windows, ensure grilles are installed, or windows are locked with child locks.
- If you have window blinds, ensure the cords of the blinds are tied up out of the child’s reach to prevent strangulation.
- Ensure all shelving units and cupboards are anchored to the wall to prevent them from falling on the child if he pulls them.
- Make sure all sharp corners are baby-proofed with corner bumpers (I bought mine from IKEA).
All the furniture in his play space are within his easy reach.
My favourite Montessori principle is encouraging independence in children by ensuring their learning materials and toys are within easy reach so they can reach for them anytime they want, instead of depending on an adult to do so.
All the furniture we have in his play space are low and child-friendly.
I bought all the shelving units above from IKEA.
At the side of his play space, you will also notice a small little shoe rack we have created for him.
We bought this from IKEA, and it was meant to be a bookshelf, but we decided it works perfectly as a small shoe rack for him!
I really love this, because we had used it to train him on how to independently wear and remove his footwear.
Shelving units are used to section his play space.
We use different shelving units to place different kinds of materials and toys for him.
The brown shelving unit was used to place big-item toys. We bought these trays from IKEA, so each toy type is placed in each tray.
In the picture above, I have:
- Loose and recycled materials in the upper green tray.
- Sticker and magnet books in the lower green tray.
- Dinosaur counting activity in the upper yellow tray.
- His vehicles (he loves vehicles! He has a ton of these!) in the lower yellow tray.
- Magnatiles in the orange tray
Aside from his sticker books and vehicles trays, the other toys are rotated every 2 weeks. We used the orange tray to put building and construction toys, so the magnatiles are usually rotated with his Lego blocks every 2 weeks.
The white shelving unit is used to place different kinds of toys in each cubicle. Similarly, we rotate these toys every 2 weeks.
When we are on themed play activities (such as Farm Animals theme, or Letterland themes), we would use this shelving unit to place each activity. Though, I’m thinking of getting another shelving unit just for themed play activities.
Toys are arranged to encourage open-ended play.
We arrange the toys in a way that T would know some work needs to be done with the toys.
For example, his bees and beehives toys are meant for a color matching activity. Instead of arranging the toy such that the bees are already in their respective beehives, we place all the bees into a separate container, so he knows there is work to be done here.
For example, his clock toy is meant for a shape and number matching activity. Instead of putting the pieces on the clock where each of them belongs, we place the pieces in a separate container, so he knows there is work to be done here.
He has his own personal work table.
Like all the other furniture in his play space, his work table and chair are low and child-friendly so that he can sit on the chair and get off anytime he wants independently.
This table and chair set is from IKEA as well, and they cost less than SGD 30! Extremely value for money.
I love to call this his work table, because this is where he, well, does work! He draws and colors and does some of the themed play activities here.
On his work table is a Melissa & Doug paper roll dispenser. I bought this because he used to come to me all the time asking for paper so he could draw. Again, in the spirit of fostering independence, I decided to get him this paper roll dispenser so he can pull out the paper anytime he needs it.
On his work table is also a container of all his colouring materials. This contains his crayons, markers, pens and pencils.
Sometimes, he does his themed play activities on his work table too.
His sleeping area is created to encourage quiet time.
As mentioned above, we had made the conscious decision to separate his main play space from his sleeping area. His sleeping area is created to encourage quiet time just before bedtime.
We created a small magnetic board for him, where we place some of our photos, and a mini weather board there.
We bought a white bookshelf for him, where books can be arranged in such a way that all the titles are visible to him so he can easily choose which book he wants to read.
On the side of his white bookshelf, you can see a laundry basket which we had used to place his bolster and pillow. This laundry basket is from IKEA as well (yes, we are big fans of IKEA!).
We placed his pillow and bolster here, so he can easily reach for them whenever he’s getting ready for bed.
We have a small blue shelving unit in a corner of his sleeping area, where we placed all his puzzles there.
He loves puzzles, and he’s extremely focused and quiet whenever he’s doing puzzles. It’s one of his favourite activities to carry out before he goes to bed.
You can also see a huge collection of red-coloured books there. These are the Timmy & Tammy series! I love these series, each book tells a story of different aspects of Singapore (visiting the zoo, taking the MRT, going to Chinatown etc). They are extremely relevant, and they come in both English and Mandarin!
I really love what we have done to his play space and sleeping area. I love looking at other children’s play spaces, to continue to get inspiration. To foster creativity and cultivate free play, a good learning environment and play space is necessary.
There are still some changes I would love to make to his main play space.
- Creating an area for pretend play
- Having a dedicated shelving unit for his monthly themed play activities
Let me know if you have any further ideas to create play spaces! And I do hope the above provided some inspiration for you as well!