By Chandler Marburg, Montessori educator and contributor to Little Partners
As children grow, we as parents are forever rearranging and organizing their rooms and play areas. What is the best way that we can encourage our children to play and work independently? It’s important at an early age to create a dedicated play space that will encourage a child to explore on their own while also building their independent skills and fostering self-esteem.
So, where to begin?
Establish a space that you can dedicate solely to your child and their playthings. This does not have to be a large area. For example, a simple age-appropriate shelf will suffice for a young toddler. Make sure it is reachable for their height (and safely secured to the wall) so that they can put their things away without assistance from an adult.
Place items sparingly in the space; 4-6 materials will do. If your child can see the material or toy displayed neatly on a shelf, they will have a deeper respect for the item. Every few weeks or so, swap out the materials out to keep your child engaged and curious. It’s important to set little ones up for success. Be sure that the selected play materials are manageable for a young child. They should be able to grip and transport pieces independently. Place items in baskets or small containers to encourage organization and so as not to overwhelm the child.
You will also want to add an age-appropriate table and chairs. Toddlers love to pull chairs out and sit down, then push them in once they are done. Research has shown that children can focus better when their feet are planted on the floor while sitting. This works to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Establish a sense of order in the cadence of your child’s play. Encourage your child to choose one activity at a time and then return the toy or material to its designated place before moving on to the next activity. This will promote a sense of order and structure and establish an appreciation and respect for their things.
As a parent, observing your child’s developing needs is key to providing them with a successful play space to encourage independence. Guiding our little ones to always be mindful of their materials and their environment will help them develop into thoughtful and successful individuals with a respect for the world around them.
Photo by: @lifewithrowan