A changing environment is an alive environment.
If you’ve had the same environment for your child/students for over three months…. you’ve probably noticed that a lot of tools get forgotten about, it seems like they can’t see everything that is available, and they get bored easily, and frustrated frequently. This is just the nature of a static environment.
The environment is powerful.
I have found that effectively supporting needs in areas like self regulation, behavior, sleeping, learning, and identity happens through the environment more than something like “counting to three” or “giving a reward.” This gets especially WEIRD when kids try to use these tactics on their friends at school. “Sally I’m going to count to 10 for you to get off the swing so I can get on!” Or “Taylor I’ll give my yogurt treat if you play with me.”
As a side note this is a great way to to decipher between all of the “discipline methods” available. Just ask yourself “So if my child uses this method with other children how will that go?” If the answer is weird– you might want to look for something else. And unfortunately sometimes the answer is, “it would be cruel, or disrespectful or degrading.”
Whenever a parent, caregiver, or teacher asks me to help them solve a problem they are having with a child(ren) the first thing I say is, “well let’s look at the environment.”
To keep the environment alive we can change it along with the Earth’s seasons (about every 3 months), or along with the child’s seasons (forgotten tools, frustration, no longer sees what is available to work with etc.)
I tend to always change things to the season- and I pay attention to different needs or curiosities. Right now NJ has a growing love and confidence in learning about color and you can see that reflected in the most recent room change from summer to winter. She is also very interested in music, particularly the sound of drums and piano so instead of leaving instruments in a music basket I made a special spot so they are all visible. NJ has also become eager to point out letters so I tried to mix colors with words to bridge that confidence in colors onto learning letters. She also adores the moon 🌙
Another thing I’ve found with alive environments is how they build confidence. There are many reasons this happens- from mastering new materials to feeling supported by your surroundings- but one of my old students (age 4) I think put it perfectly- “this is serious work!” He said this after coming into a changed/alive classroom environment, and I thought it clarified the pride I always see on children’s faces when they walk into an intentional, new environment. Their face says:
“My work is taken very seriously here.”
This feeling of being taken seriously impacts focus, confidence, exploration, learning- the list truly goes on and on. And it’s true for adults just as much as it is true for children.
I know for some this whole “change a whole space” may feel a little overwhelming. I hope you can find some inspiration here, and if you’d like to connect with me personally for some tips and tricks on designing or redesigning your child(rens) play space just shoot me an email.
This last update from summer to winter took me about 1 hour. Some of the toys you can no longer see have been put in a “circulation” bin and will likely be brought out another time, but just weren’t fitting for where NJ is in her play right now.
We are lucky to have this dining room space I turned into a play area- but it is not necessary to have a playroom in order to create an enriching, alive environment.
Happy winter ❄️