Designing the Home for Learning
By Demetria R. Giles
Are you planning on moving into a new home for the New Year? With 2020 here, like many parents, you are probably seeking to change things up in this year of clarity. During this time of vision setting, it is likely that you will start to clearly see the areas where your family could use some help.
Maybe it is getting ready in the morning in a timely manner, preparing meals, or working as a family to keep common spaces tidy. Whatever your family is troubleshooting, it is likely that you and your children are not alone.
Here are some principles that educators use when setting up a classroom that can easily translate into the way you design your home to maximize the learning potential for your kids.
Tip #1: Show & Tell
Treat your home environment as your child’s third teacher. The physical space can become a tool used to promote family values, priorities and future goals. When you design the space, consider utilizing materials that will help you to make your thinking visible to young children. For example, instead of only telling them what will happen be sure to also show them. You can start with hanging up physical calendars, maps, schedules and checklists to provide your children with access to a print-rich environment. As well as access to visuals that explain the internal dialogue of the adults in the home. We take for granted that we have phones and tablets that store most of our crucial information, but our child does not have access to this information. Using old-school visuals will give them access to see how we use the information.
Tip #2: Lower & Closer
Make sure the items your child needs often are in close proximity. This might seem obvious, but it is hard to apply when you are a fully grown adult living in a grownup world. However, routine tasks like using the sink are not so routine when you are a child-sized body and learning how to navigate the physical world. For example, if your child is constantly asking for help with hand washing it could be because the soap or hand towel is too far out of reach. Small adjustments like adding a longer towel, positioning the soap at the front of the counter instead of the back, and purchasing a child-friendly step stool for the front of the sink can allow more independence for your child.
Tip #3: Simple & Complex
Think “simplex”. Simple yet complex is the way to go when thinking about what to physically include in the spaces around your home. Children do not need every nook and cranny of their bedroom space filled in order to have fun and learn. The best learning environments nurture creativity and promote independence. This can be done with objects that provide open-ended opportunities to create and explore instead of one-dimensional toys that are made for only one specific function. For school-aged children, try adding in natural materials like stones, sticks, seashells and pine cones. These types of nature-made toys spark the imagination because the rules around what children have to use them for a left undefined.
In terms of furniture, the idea of “simplex” also applies. Besides a cozy bed, your child may only really need one or two low shelves and a small table. Consider making the remaining furniture flexible seating. These include easily portable seating options that children are free to bring to multiple spots throughout the home and reinforces that learning can happen anywhere. Items like beanbags, small mats, plush pillows and swivel stools allow your child to have a variety of sensory experiences and shows that “learning” does not always look like sitting up straight and tall at a table.
If this blog was helpful and you would like to see these environmental design principles in action, consider scheduling a tour of 9th Bridge School by calling (702) 724-1436 or visiting at www.9thbridgeschool.org to submit a request online. 9th Bridge School is an early childhood and elementary school located in Downtown Las Vegas, and is currently enrolling from 12 months old to 5th grade.
About the Author
Demetria R. Giles is a writer, school leader and education consultant who has been in education for nearly 15 years. She has served children and families in Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, NY. Passionate about culturally relevant pedagogy, project-based learning and social-emotional learning, Demetria strives to provide all children with high-quality education. She is currently the Director of Curriculum & Instruction at 9th Bridge School in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.