By Courtney Gault, Founder of Greenwich Play
Organizing a play space in a way a child understands subtly promotes independence and provides cues for imaginative exploration. It also teaches the value of order and responsibility and maximizes learning and enjoyment.
We’re breaking down the five things NOT to do in your playroom to reduce distractions and frustrations, and encourage more independent, purposeful play.
1. Do NOT organize materials by color or size.
Organizing by color or size can limit a child’s creativity. Mixed items encourage children to see connections between shapes, sizes, and colors and to think more flexibly. In real life, objects aren’t always organized by color or size. Teaching children to categorize and find items in mixed conditions can be more practical for real-world situations. And from a practical standpoint, maintaining an organization system based solely on color or size can be just a tad tedious!
2. Do NOT keep the floor bare.
Keeping the floor bare in a playroom can have several drawbacks. Firstly, a hard floor is not a surface conducive to safe landings. Soft flooring or mats can cushion falls and reduce the risk of serious harm. Carpets or rugs also provide insulation, making the room warmer during colder months and creating an environment where your children will be comfortable spending time. Some floor mats and carpets are designed for play and help define the area. For example, a rug with roads and city layouts is a great way to communicate to a child, “This is where the transportation and building play happens.”
3. Do NOT make the room a no-mess zone.
Messy play allows children to fully engage with their environment, test boundaries, and strengthen sensory and motor skills. By making everything too tidy and restrictive, we risk stifling a child’s natural curiosity and inhibiting their ability to experiment and learn from their surroundings.
4. Do NOT buy furniture because it looks good.
While stylish, attractive furniture might be what you usually gravitate toward, it can also be costly and may not withstand the test of time in a play environment. Investing in functional furniture can be more cost-effective in the long run. Furniture designed for children’s use is typically ergonomic, ensuring it’s comfortable and suited to their size and posture. This can be vital for activities like drawing, reading, or building. While functionality should be a priority, aesthetics should not be ignored. There are pieces designed to be both practical and visually appealing.
5. Do NOT use labels your child can’t understand.
Can your child read? If not, the “Blocks” bin in fancy writing means nothing to them! The label should allow a child to locate their materials easily and just as easily put them away. Labeling in a way your child can understand provides them with opportunities to work on their problem-solving skills. They also get to practice sorting, classifying, and learning to be responsible for their belongings.
BONUS TIP: Do NOT expect your child to know what to do in the space!
Where do things go and why do they go there? Explain! For example, “The play food bin is right next to the kitchen, so you can easily cook yummy food!” When you demonstrate how to keep the space organized, your child has a clear model of the behavior that’s expected of them.
A child wants to feel empowered by their space. It builds a natural level of confidence that cannot be taught. When your child owns their play from start to finish, you will see how differently they interact with the world around them.
Greenwich Play provides family-focused interior design services to parents looking to incorporate style, functionality, and fun into their homes. Through client consultation, research, and experience, we develop and present concepts that support a family’s current needs and future goals and use space most efficiently. To learn more about how we can help your family, schedule an appointment today!