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Creating the play space

This is how my house looked like five months ago. I had a play yard but no kid wanted to go inside. Just so you know, this picture was taken AFTER the decision to revamp the play area, so it was much messier before these pictures were taken.

In the Reggio education system, the environment is referred as the third teacher. Hence, the environment plays an important role in supporting exploration and learning. I wanted to improve the play space – in terms of aesthetic and functionality.

The play yard was there for only a month and I noticed it was not utilised.. then I told my husband “The play yard is taking up too much space. Our kids should have a larger play area! Let’s remove it!” He didn’t like the idea at all. But I have already made up my mind to make the whole living room as child-safe as possible, with toys and materials accessible for the children.

We removed that little safety barricaded zone… Next we needed to organise the books and toys.

I used a Khallex shelf to put their storybooks and toys. I hid more toys behind the books, and my place looked quite neat at first. Then, the clutter grew and grew on this shelf.

While one side of the living room was cluttered, the play area was more spacious. I only displayed a few toys at a time.

See the large Ikea box on the coffee table? It was Matty’s tinker zone where he goes in it to play all the little loose parts without his crawling sister disturbing him or mouthing those tiny objects. We removed the tinker zone two months later because Noey could reach it and climb onto tables. She practically can climb anywhere before learning to walk.

I was pretty happy with the above layout for awhile. Then, I started noticing “dead spaces” in the living room (no pun intended), especially the clutter at the Khallex shelf. It became like a storage area for books and toys. The table is only used when Matty wanted to do painting. I realised my children did not go over to that area to help themselves with the toys or books. Our mini library corner was just a book rack along the hallway with a small Parklon mat. Nobody sits there to read any book as well.

Singapore’s living space is just too expensive. I really don’t like the idea of kids not using those areas (hahahaha…). So we bought another shelf to put our books in the corner of the house. Then, we filled the Khallex shelf with some toys, storing the rest in the store room. I rotate the toys but not too often and not all at one shot because the kids still need familiarity to play comfortably.

I organised one container to contain one toy so the children are actually sorting when they keep the toys (I am still working on getting Matty to clean-up after playing).

I love the idea of loose-parts play with scrap materials so I have a box of cardboard tubes and containers for imaginative play. The shuttlecock tubes are a great hit with the kids! They have been playing with those every day.

Over here are more cardboards, hallow blocks and Grimm’s blocks. This table is where I display their sensory bottles because I like how the colours show when the sunlight passes through them. We create our small world play here too so the kids don’t need to clear and they can continue to play later.

Now that I’ve replaced the Ikea table and chair with the set with Liliewood, I have no idea where to put the IKEA set. So I temporary placed the set in a corner, and I leave an activity on the table which I will change periodically.

Remember the cluttered Khallex shelf area……?

I have now stacked the $12.90 Ikea shelves to create a mini art and craft area with paints and playdough and tools since Matty is crazy over dough play. I also put some jars of loose parts items in this area to use for math or pretend play. The shelf beside it is where I put puzzles and literacy activities (the green microphone is for him to repeat words after me, in case you are wondering what is that at the bottom shelf). I am still working on this area as I feel the materials are quite unorganised and I have no place to put his pencils and crayons safely where the sister cannot reach.

So here is book rack now, no longer forgotten and lonely at the hallway. I put a round mat there and the kids started “visiting” the library more often, picking the books on their own. I rotate the books according to their interests and what they are currently learning about.

I display artworks and interactive activities on the wall. The displayed artworks help Matty to recall what he has done and create a topic to talk about. Sometimes I see him sharing with his playdate friends what he did.

The mat is not only for reading, I used it when I am doing activities that require a contained space on the floor. So he has to work within the boundary, like a Montessori large mat. Maybe I will get proper Montessori mats soon.

To get here took me almost six months as I had to juggle the kids, projects and houseworks. It is still a work in progress and lots of areas to improves. Changes are inevitable as the kids grow.

Just like today, I removed the rainbow play mat as the kids have difficulty balancing blocks on it and the loud colours are giving me a headache…

I hope my journey to transform the play space will inspire you to start looking out for “dead spaces” in the house and remove clutters so children will play in an organised environment – easy to select toys, easy to clean-up!

Have fun playing in your new space:)

#playspace #thethirdteacher

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