Creating “Yes Spaces” for Children
Kids & Company’s partner, Lyzabeth Lopez, posted a thought-provoking Instagram post the other day. She recounted the days before she had her son, Tyson, when she had pretty things on her coffee table: coffee table books, candles, and fancy glass trays. When he was around 12 months old and grabbing everything in sight, she realized it was no longer sustainable for her to have fancy (and very breakable) items within his reach. As she decided it was time to remove these items, she remembered some advice she received about creating "yes spaces" for children.
"Yes spaces" are those areas which are both child-proof and child-friendly where children are free to explore safely. Whether that’s at home, in a classroom, or in their outdoor spaces, we wholeheartedly believe children should have spaces that provoke thought, movement, and discovery. Lyzabeth chose to transform her coffee table into a space where Tyson could be free to explore, play, and learn by incorporating rainbow circles and blocks, as well as beautiful water blocks. She was blown away with how creating this space benefited the whole family.
A "yes space" does not need to mean we have to give up our pretty coffee table items or the little knick-knacks on our shelves. As Lyzabeth suggests, just because you are creating a safe environment for children, it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your home aesthetic. There are many alternative items you can have in your home that will still give your house the aesthetic you’re going for, while also creating a special station for your child. The Mula Stacking Rings or the Wintergreen Rotating Music Box are great replacements for your coffee table items, ensuring everyone at home is happy. Another way to create a safe space for your children is with a play couch. Companies like My Puffin specifically design couches that are part furniture, part toy. They are designed to create forts and other child-friendly environments that spark imagination and creativity.
For toys that are out in the open, consider displaying blocks, books, or shape toys. Consider using bins or baskets to organize other items such as craft materials and puzzles which are still accessible to your child but clutter-free. You can also create separation between areas accessible to your child and areas that are off-limits. For example, in our classrooms we have child-height shelves with rotating toys and development activities that invite open play and exploration; in contrast, items that might be dangerous or are not appropriate for children are tucked higher into locked locations.
On the other hand, we also want to provide you with the perspective that you don’t need to buy expensive, pretty things in your mission to create ‘yes spaces.’ Kids & Company’s Director of Learning Environments, Kristine Grant, believes each family likely already has amazing options that can be accessible in your home for children. When her oldest son was younger, she did not want to halt his curiosity by limiting his ability to move freely in her home. Instead, she gave him the freedom to roam in the bottom cupboard as much as he liked. The important thing to remember here is anything your child can reach is fair game. In her home, the bottom shelf always contained Tupperware and plastic cups. By allowing her son to open the bottom cupboard, she created a safe space that was available to him and empowered him to follow his curiosity.
Whether it’s at home or in the classroom, creating environments that are safe and conducive for learning can make children feel comfortable and inspired. Kids & Company follows the Emergent Curriculum philosophy of teaching that focuses on being responsive to children's interests to create meaningful learning experiences. We want to open our children’s minds and allow them to learn on their own. Every child learns differently, and one of the most important tools of Emergent Learning is creating an environment that is intentionally set up with learning centres that focus on different discoveries and skills. These areas are strategically set up in ways that are easily accessible to children.
Our educators have the goal in mind of encouraging children to learn through play, curiosity, collaboration, and creativity by exploring different topics the children express interest in. At Kids & Company, we want to encourage and inspire children by using the Emergent Curriculum philosophy, giving them the choice and safe space to move freely around the classroom.
When families grow and children are introduced into homes, it can certainly change a lot of things! But as Lyzabeth discovered, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your interior design; subtle changes can mean children (and breakables) are safe while encouraging them to explore the world they’re seeing at their height.
Do you create “yes spaces” for your children? Let us know in the comments below!