Tag Archives: indirect guidance

Playroom Update

It has been a while since I wrote about making any changes to our play space – that doesn’t mean I haven’t made any changes.  I have actually made many, many changes since last summer but just never wrote a post.  Maybe I didn’t feel the project was complete, maybe it was just a small change not worth a post, or maybe it was a change that I didn’t like – that happens sometimes, my visions don’t always translate into reality.  Most likely though, I waited to see how the change ‘worked’ and then got busy and forgot to write.

So, here are some updated photos of the playroom after the most recent long weekend reno.  First, an overview (it is impossible to get everything in one photo – and this one is blurry too).

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The shelf units that house the mini scenes were moved from the nature area to the housekeeping/dramatic play side of the playroom.  I think they may be used more often now that they are here instead of the dark corner of the nature area.

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The dollhouse shelves are here too – they need some repairs and new furniture.  This space hasn’t been a priority for a long time due to lack of ‘appropriate’ interest from the current group – I’m hoping to change that.  For now the addition of a new steering wheel has been the highlight of the reno for the boys.

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They have always used the spinning maze as a steering wheel for their car/truck/school bus dramatic play – now they have two, and the mirror is an added bonus – they love to watch themselves play.

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I recently moved the table and the dress up clothes but the rest of the housekeeping area hasn’t changed since summer. It looks like this;

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The cash register was moved off the kitchen counter and now has its own space – not sure yet if I’ll add anything to the shelves or leave that for the children to decide what to ‘sell’;

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The nature area is now a ‘toy free’ zone intended solely for reading, relaxing or looking out the window.  This has already dramatically improved the issues related to running and jumping back and forth between play areas and fighting over space on the old reading couch.

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The block bin was moved over to make room for the table – which now is also used as a serving counter or ‘take out window’. The new angle of the block bin means the building area is not blocking a walkway anymore either.

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The music area hasn’t really changed since last summer but I don’t think I ever posted a picture of it – and I still haven’t got more green paint…

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The other ‘favouite’ new addition is the workbench.  This was the storage area for tools and miscellaneous toys before but it didn’t have a workbench.  I always considered the top of the block tin to be a workbench – the children did not.  They love this.

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I like it too – I’m going to add some more tools but first I have to buy some…. 🙂

Indoor Space

My list of summer renovation projects was two pages long – more than 3/4 of the items have already been completed 🙂 Revamping the outdoor space (see previous post) was the largest project.  Many of the indoor projects just involved sorting and reorganizing stuff but that takes time.

Of course there were some storage units that had to be re-built to fit in different locations but no ‘new’ pieces were necessary.  In fact, a horizontal storage unit became a vertical unit and the items in two other units were consolidated into one so we actually gained a fair amount of extra floor space – bonus!

Much of the work was done to areas that are off-limits to the children so they are completely unaware of the  changes but I am certainly pleased with the results.  When you’ve only got 1200 sq ft to work with and you want to make it usable for a dozen people every little bit helps.

I felt there were several issues with the arrangement of the playroom and I definitely wanted to address at least some of them.  First, this was the old storage space for the workshop tools and musical instruments;

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The problem I had here is that the floor space allocated for constructive play and music activities was just 6o square feet. When most of the toys are stored on one shelf unit on the longest wall the play space becomes a very narrow rectangle.  I wanted to make two smaller storage spaces – one at each end of the long, narrow space which would result in a more usable almost square play space. So, the above corner now looks like this;

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Just the tools, puzzles and stuffed animals are stored here now.  The musical instruments are stored separately on the other end of the play space;

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There used to be a basket of old phones, remotes, and walkie talkies in the space under the cash register.  The children often dumped everything out of the basket when looking for a specific item but no one liked to pick up all the leftovers.  Now the items are stored like this instead;

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This is my new view of the playroom from my desk if I was ever inclined to sit down to do any paperwork;

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And this is as close as I can get to showing the entire playroom in one photo;

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Housekeeping, dress-up, library and quiet corner on the left, entrance to nature area on far wall, blocks, tools and music on right side.

I’m not particularly fond of the way all the housekeeping toys are currently stored – some items are too high for the children to easily reach. I can’t complain if children climb when I’m the one who put things they are allowed to play with on a shelf that is too high.  Reorganizing that storage space is one of the not-yet-completed items on my list.  I am still not certain how to address all the issues there so until I’ve devised an acceptable plan it will have to stay as is.  Sigh.

Play Room

It was back in July that I wrote about removing the loft from our play space.  At that time it looked like this;

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I liked the way the block bin looked when it was placed diagonally across the room but it did not function well.  There was limited room in the block area and the angles were causing issues with my plans for replacing the old rubber floor tiles.

So, a few weeks ago I moved the block bin back towards the cozy couch.  This move makes the reading nook into a smaller, quieter area that is less prone to active play and heavy traffic flow.  It also provided a much larger space for block building adjacent to the workshop/music area.

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Love the new flooring now too.

I added an another shelf between the back of the block bin and the dress-up clothes rack.  This adds stability, provides extra counter space for the housekeeping area and creates a ‘tunnel’ so the children crawl through to the cozy bench instead of running and jumping 😉

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The larger, combined block/workshop/music space has also allowed me to incorporate the new-to-us/second hand ‘science table’ that was donated to our program – thanks Jamie!

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I certainly had no intention of restricting the use of the table to only science activities.  With all the tools in the workshop area beside the table I thought it might make a good workbench. So far the children’s favourite use for the table is another tunnel – they much prefer to crawl under the table to get to the nature area instead of walking (running) around the table.  They also like to use the spaces in the table as tunnels for the toys;

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Maybe it is the new room arrangement but dropping – and catching – objects through the pipes has been gaining popularity again too.

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We’re loving all the new activity with the old stuff.

The Window

When I first opened my childcare home I had used the dining room of my home as the main play space.  In 2009 I rearranged the spaces so the living room became the new and improved play space.  This renovation gave the children access to the North-facing front window of my home and a whole new world of things to observe. Watching neighbourhood events like cutting down the old tree became a favourite activity.

The play space by the window is our indoor ‘nature’ area – here you can read more about the evolution of our nature space.  Due to the placement of the shelves containing our mini nature scenes some of the toddlers were not tall enough to see out the window so I had created a wooden stool which looked like a stone bridge over the imitation river;

14-08-NS00Over the past few months the bridge has caused some issues.  The toddlers who are tall enough to see out the window still like to stand on the bridge.  Those who are too short to see out become upset – there has been a lot of pushing and jostling for the premium spot.  The bridge can accommodate three cooperative toddlers but not all toddlers are cooperative and I have more than three.

As much as I like the design of the bridge I’ve been working on a plan to eliminate the need to use it to see out the window.  Two weeks ago I completed another small renovation so the shelves are no longer blocking the lower portion of the window.  The North wall now looks like this;

15-05-nature00The shelves have been moved to the East and West walls;

15-05-nature01Access to the full six foot window ledge is now level.  Most of the toddlers are thrilled.  Some are still adapting to the loss of their ‘power position’.

My Problem With Winter

I have a problem with winter and it may surprise you that my problem is related to the weather.  I know, that statement makes me sound like a hypocrite since I so often promote outdoor play in all types of weather.

Yes, we do play outside every day and we love it – climbing, digging and building with snow and ice.  However, we spend considerably less time outdoors in winter than we do in other seasons like summer when we spend the majority of our day outdoors.  There are parts of our program that I’d prefer to do outside but in winter we need to keep them inside.

So, my problem with winter isn’t really our time outdoors, it is the increased time indoors.  Day after day with extended periods of time playing indoors and I begin to remember all the things I wanted to ‘fix’.  All those parts of our indoor environment that were bothersome last winter but I put off tackling.  Once spring arrived we again spent more time outdoors and all those thoughts faded away.  Now it is winter again and I remember.  With prolonged time indoors the space issues are becoming apparent again.

For example, the sunroom;

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The sunroom is where we do art activities and other types of messy play.  I can easily move the small toddler table and then there is a 8′ x 8′ open space where I can put down a tarp for messy play activities.  During quiet time when the little ones are napping in the playroom the older children play and do art in the sunroom.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the wall opposite the windows.  The wall that is home to the dog bed and the green house.  The problem is that I have four infants and toddlers who love painting, and playdough and sensory bins – and the dog bed.  The toddlers love every activity that I set out on the table or in a bin for them but after a few minutes one of them decides that it would be even more fun if they moved it to the dog bed and soon everyone wants to join in.  Playdough and dog hair, paint and dog hair, bird seeds and dog hair – everything is better with dog hair! Hey, what if we add it to the dog’s water…

Here’s another ‘before’ view that includes the green house;

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The green house is where we are supposed to put the things we plant but mostly it just collects ‘stuff’.  In the above picture I’ve already started the ‘reno’ so the miscellaneous stuff is all over the room – just like the way the toddlers prefer it.  The green house is actually pretty easy to assemble and disassemble so I’ve decided to put it away until we actually have plants to put in it and that way the empty shelves won’t be tempting me to fill them.

So now the sunroom looks like this;

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There is still enough open floor space for a tarp and messy play but there is no dog bed – I love how the sunlight shines on the toddler’s art table here;

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The dog bed is now on the other side of the filing cabinet by the back entrance – the back entrance area now has more space too – bonus!

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So now we have a better space for art and messy play until the weather improves and we can move all our activities outdoors again – and I can paint that filing cabinet.  The green doesn’t match anything else in the room but I can’t paint it inside and it is too cold to paint outside….

Solving Problems – Creating More

It was about 14 months ago that we did a major building project in the playroom space resulting in this combination block storage/housekeeping area counter;

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That renovation was done to eliminate a ‘runway’ to the nature area and gain more play space in the housekeeping area.  You can read more about it here.  I loved that design then and I still love it now but it had a minor flaw that became magnified when I made subsequent change to the music/workshop area.

Last winter I reconfigured my office area in the corner of the playroom – I was certain I had written about it but I went through the blog archives and could not find that post.  On the left side of the picture above you can see that the playroom originally had a 3’ x 3’ walkway that leads to a 4’ x 5’ music/workshop area.

This was fine for the workshop and housekeeping areas but when all the children wanted to play instruments and dance there was not much room.  So, I turned my desk which enabled me to add eight square feet to the music area;

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The extra space in the music area is wonderful.  Even when building projects from the adjacent block area spill over into the workshop area there is still room for a couple of music lovers to dance too.  The only issue was that the walkway was now very narrow but I figured it would be sufficient since it was just an entrance into a play area.

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Still, I did often have to remind children “Please keep moving, this is not a play area”.  I considered making ‘NO STOPPING’ signs or taping diagonal lines on the floor to designate it as a ‘no parking’ area.  Then over the spring and summer we spent most of our time outdoors and I didn’t think about the indoor walkway issue much.

Over the last few months several of our ‘old’ children moved away and new, younger, children have been enrolled.  Now that the remaining older children are at school I only have four children here in the mornings.  The oldest of the four little ones is not quite 2 ½ years old.  The walkway issue is bad – very bad.  In fact, the place where all four walkways converge has become the babies’ favourite ‘gathering’ spot and a dumping ground for toys.

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Sitting here they can see it all – my desk to the South, the music area to the West, the housekeeping area to the North, and to the East there is the hallway to the front door/kitchen and stairs.  They think it is the perfect spot.  These little ones don’t read signs or understand the meaning of diagonal lines on the floor. Even the older children are getting frustrated because the babies are always in the way.

They bring bins and baskets from other areas and sit together to play – effectively blocking all four walkways.  I sit on the floor in one of the ‘proper’ play areas and try to entice them to move.  They look at me, smile, and babble as if to say ‘If you want to play with us you’ll have to come and join the circle’.  I am outnumbered.

I have a plan.  I’ve been working on it all week – measuring, imagining, reconfiguring – I think it is going to work.  The indirect guidance necessary to solve the walkway problem but it also creates another one – my plan requires the assistance of someone with power tools.  My husband doesn’t always read my blog but if he’s reading this post – there’s a long weekend coming up, hint, hint….

Artificial Nature

It was back in 2005 that I first created a nature area in the playroom as a way to bring nature indoors.  Originally it was just 16 sq ft nature loft;

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It was a very popular picnic spot so in 2009 I redesigned it and doubled the size;

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This new loft was also higher off the ground and under the loft was an ‘underwater’ tunnel;

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Admittedly this under/over nature areas was one of my personal favorite designs but it was a nightmare to clean.  The children hauling armloads of toys up and down the loft stairs was another concern.

In 2010 I abandoned the nature ‘loft’ idea and created a nature ‘area’ in one half of the small nap room off the main play room.  This new nature area had both ‘land’ and ‘water’ areas with many pillows to create comfortable places to relax;

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I found that having the trees up against the walls meant the nature area lost the secluded/sheltered feel that the loft had provided.  So, in the next renovation I moved the trees from the border to the centre  of the nature area.  Moving trees is somewhat easier to do in an artificial environment 🙂

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This new arrangement allowed the trees to create a canopy over the whole area and the open corners provided quiet areas to sit.  It also created another problem – running in circles around the tree.

It wasn’t the circling the tree that bothered me, it was the running.  The circling always started slowly – often marching and singing – but gradually became fast and reckless.  Left unchecked the situation could become totally out of control.

As is often the case with direct guidance, repeated reminders to ‘walk’ were usually ignored.  I much prefer to use indirect guidance so I’ve been looking for a way to add something to the environment to slow down or eliminate the running problem.

I had this chunk of tree against the wall for texture and a ‘home’ for small toy animals.  I moved it over to create a sort of speed bump;

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However, I was concerned that the triangular shape – that had been perfect when placed against the wall – would be dangerous in this location;

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So, I placed pillows over the log and covered it with the ‘grass’ blanket.  Now it is a little hill in our indoor nature area;

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The babies love climbing over the little hill and curling up in the comfy relaxation corner;

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Yes, I’ve now managed to replace indoor ‘running’ with indoor ‘climbing’ but it is a climbing activity that I consider acceptable for an indoor environment.

We do spend a lot of time outdoors where all running, jumping, and climbing is encouraged.  Interestingly, the children are aften a lot less active outdoors.  I know why.  No matter how much ‘nature’ I bring to our indoor environment there is one thing I can never recreate.

The calming effect of nature cannot be replicated in an artificial indoor nature environment.  To truly relax in nature you must go outside.