This week, I am hosting the Nature Hack Challenge, where hundreds of families are coming together to commit to making incredible changes to their children’s learning spaces. In our first day, we talk about decluttering our space and making sure that we aren’t overwhelming our children with too many options. One of the most important ways that we can organize and keep down on clutter, while also ensuring a nice flow to our environment, is by setting up designated spaces.

Designated spaces are those areas that are clearly defined within your child’s environment. They know what to expect here, they know what resources and materials are available to them, they know how it is organized, etc. Having your home or care facility set up with clearly defined designated spaces will go a long way towards helping your space stay organized, and gives your children the best opportunity to naturally learn and express themselves in a variety of ways within the same space.

So what designated areas should you incorporate in your space?

Here is a list to consider:

* Creativity – This is a space for your children to freely create with a variety of materials/resources, so ideally an open-ended art space (see the photo above). Don’t be afraid to allow your children to access art materials! The key is introducing each new material independently so they know how to use it. My children are 3 and 6, and some of the resources they have freely available to them are: stickers, paper, scissors, hole punches, glitter, glue, paint, pipe cleaners, sequins, buttons, yarn, perler beads, clay, hot glue gun, etc. I never have to worry about the materials being used incorrectly or just to make a mess because I introduced each one meaningfully!
* Quiet Reading/Relaxation – This is either a reading nook or a specific quiet space (not a bedroom!) that gives the child the opportunity and safe place to escape if they need to. Young children go through many phases of emotional development, which can be challenging for everyone involved. If there is a space for them to escape and relax with comfy pillows, friendly loveys, happy books, calming sensory bottles, etc., it can help everyone navigate these tougher waters with ease. If you have the space for both a reading nook AND a quiet space, even better!
* Construction/Building – A space, ideally directly on the ground as children tend to move a lot physically when they are building, that allows for free building and constructing. Here you would have things like blocks, loose parts, Legos, Magnatiles, etc. I especially love putting mirrors down low along the building area so children can see behind what they’re working on!
* Dramatic Play – This is things like dress up, dolls, play kitchen, etc. These are not always housed in just one space – for example your play kitchen could be in the actual kitchen, while dress up is in another room. Children use dramatic play to act out emotions and situations in their lives (including hard issues like death, homelessness, natural disasters, etc.) as a way to work through their feelings about these issues. Allow them the space to work through these by providing a variety of dramatic play resources.
* Noisy/Busy Play – Your children need a “yes” space in the home where they can be physically loud, busy, and BIG! Somewhere that is ok to jump, run, bounce, wrestle, climb, etc. This doesn’t have to be a designated play area necessarily, but can simply be an area where the children know they are safe to be physically active – mattresses, couches, hallway, etc.
* Inquisitive/Discovery – This is a place for things like interest-based activity shelves, science materials, nature tables, etc. A place where children have resources to discover and satiate their curiosity. This could include an aquarium or plants they care for as well.
* Hiding – Consider having obvious nooks and crannies behind/among/between furniture as a place for your children to hide and be in small spaces. This adds fun and intrigue to the play space, as well as a security spot for children when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Not all of these have to be included in every space, but consider the ones you feel your child would benefit from the most, and find a way to incorporate these and clearly define them!

Need some more tips and advice? Check out this Facebook Video I did all about designated spaces and decluttering/organizing!

What spaces are you excited to add into your home now!?

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