If you are a parent then you no doubt understand how difficult it can be to keep on top of the accumulation of toys. And random stuff. It builds up. And just like all other areas of the home, children’s areas need clearing out and organising occasionally.
I feel a little guilty when I take their things away. But I also think it’s important to create calm spaces for children. Just like adults, if our physical environment is unorganised and we are surrounded by a large amount of choice, it can often leave us struggling to focus or make a decision.
I quite like the Montessori method and just completed a great course by Simone Davies on Setting up your home Montessori Style. Some of the elements we have already implemented into our home, and I learned many more great ideas. In particular, I like how the Montessori method encourages independence and mastery, teaches children to respect their belongings, and to appreciate beauty.
With my personal experience of having two young children I’ll share with you the elements that work for us, and may inspire you also in creating child-friendly spaces in your home.
Create a calm feeling and beautiful surrounding
Less is often more and it helps to keep children’s spaces simple.
Light colours on the walls create a sense of space. Windows open allow natural light to flow in. Keep the amount of toys to a small number and present them so they look appealing - in natural woven baskets or wooden trays. Lean towards simpler toys or activities rather than battery operated noise makers.
It’s also nice to bring nature indoors to help children appreciate natural beauty.
Adding plants to their playroom or bedroom. And a nature basket where they can display collected pieces from their walks outdoors. My daughter Leila (2) is currently not liking this one - she says yucky and won’t go near the basket. But my son Soren (5) has added a couple pieces and seems to respect the idea. I had to laugh though when he recently carried in a large brick to add to the basket. Hmm.
Encourage independence by making daily tasks easy for them to do
Children love independence. And it’s often the cause of much parental frustration when children have to do things on their own and we say no due to concern. Which can result in a little meltdown.
But it’s important to encourage it and welcome it, as frustrating as it can be. And it can actually help us out once they master everyday skills like getting their breakfast or clearing the table. It also builds confidence.
We can encourage independence by making daily tasks easily accessible to them. Like having plates in a drawer at their level, a step to climb up and reach the bathroom sink, clothes within their reach and so on. And refrain from always correcting how they do it. There will be spills and it won’t be the way we do it ourselves, but that’s OK. It’s how they learn. Just keep demonstrating how it’s done ourselves.
I’ve made a few recent changes like having a dustpan at their height, changing their plastic cups to glasses, and adding a mirror in their bedrooms along with their own hairbrush.
Teach them about respecting their surrounding and belongings
One way I encourage this is by teaching our kids to clean up their space themselves. When our kids play with a toy and walk away to start on something new, I gently remind them that if we are finished with this one then we put it away before bringing out a new one. And I show them where it belongs.
There are exceptions to respecting toys - like how 5 year olds like to crash and smash their trucks. But we know this is to be expected with certain toys. If however they begin to throw coins across the home then I step in and explain they could hit and smash a picture or each other, so they understand.
Observe their interests and have items that help them explore that interest
I think it’s so important as a parent to notice and encourage what a child is interested in. To help them master an activity they gravitate towards. And to do this it first comes down to presenting a various selection of activities to them - music, art, construction, motor skills and so on. Observe what they enjoy, and make it easily accessible for them to explore further.
Our son for example currently loves construction. I recently went through his room and stored many items that weren’t of interest and cluttered his room. And reduced it to those that he seems to be gravitating towards - like Lego, Superheros and Bruder trucks and cars. My daughter seems to enjoy music. So we have instruments always available in their playroom.
They may get bored after a while, and that’s normal too. But it’s about giving them an opportunity to play and explore their interests that matters.
Create cosiness and a sense of intimacy
Children like to feel safe in those earlier years. And creating cosy spaces and a sense of intimacy can help them feel safe at home. I also think it’s nice once they start at school to have a calm and cosy space to come home to that helps them wind down after a pretty busy and loud day.
Ways that we can create this is by having a big comfy floor cushion with a basket of books beside it, or window seat with soft cushions. A lamp on their desk in their bedroom or string lights hung from their window. An oversized chair for sitting together to read a book or a throw blanket for snuggling together.
Store and rotate
This one I learned from Simone’s course and love. We don’t need to get rid of all their toys and belongings. But instead invest in a few storage tubs to store items and put out of sight to reduce the clutter. And then rotate items on a weekly basis, or when they are no longer interested in an item. It means that new toys they tend to forget about become new and exciting again. And it helps to keep the home spacious and calm.
It is possible to create a home that accommodates all the family, without colourful plastic toys taking over the house. And no matter what size, creating a space for children can happen. We recently moved into a house which has a playroom. But in our last home which was a small townhouse we didn’t have such a thing. Instead I created a little cozy area beneath our stairs for the kids to play in. And it was just as special.