Tuesday, 29 March 2016

More Toys, Less Toys

Having spent 25 years in childcare, 17 of those years as a childminding and a Mum,  I have amassed a lot of resources over the years and a few years ago reached the stage of questioning how I work, what resources I have out etc. So I started on a journey of change and discovery, as I started to home educate, I came across many beautiful blogs and articles on based on different educational philosophies, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason to name a couple. The one thing I took from all these homes/classrooms was the beauty and the simplicity of the learning environment. This simplicity and uncluttered feel really appealed to me and I started to reduce the amount of toys we had out but those that know me well will know I am not a naturally tidy person and tend to squirrel stuff away just in case, so it has not been an easy journey to make and one I am still on but I can see the benefits of it everyday and the changes have had a positive effect on everyone here. During this time I have enjoyed reading many books on simplifying life, childcare etc, these include Simplicity ParentingUnder PressureImagine Childhood, enjoyed doing a Montessori course for childminders as well as lots of online articles. This wasn't about recreating an exact replica of X school etc it was about working out what worked well for my setting and the way I work. So we had a major rearrange when I went back to work after having L, knowing I would be childminding from when she was 6 weeks old, home educating M and started to create the environment I dreamed of but like all dreams they evolve and change to meet everyone's needs. For me less is definitely more, the children engage better and deeper with less resources, they become more imaginative and creative in their play, again this might not work for everyone but feels right for us.

So here are some photos of my setting, it is still a work in progress but we are getting there. These are taken when everything has been tidied away not during a normal work day as sometimes there is no floor space left! I am lucky that I have a couple of units that I can fit baskets or trays under, the basket contains musical instruments and the red tray is in theory baby toys but the older ones like to play, explore and fiddle with them too.

Toys in the bookshelf cupboard.

and the cupboard.

The other end, this cupboard still needs sorting, getting there.

I tend to have a basket of books out that are relevant to the theme we are working.

One of the major changes we have had here is reducing our dressing up clothes, actually we completely changed it. I now have a small basket of silk squares/scarves and coloured muslin squares instead of a large basket of dressing up clothes that lives on a shelf and the children can use.

They have sparked so much creative thinking as to what and how they are going to use them for. 
They have been used for 
  • Cloaks
  • Baby doll slings
  • Wrapped to make dresses/skirts
  • Bedding for baby dolls
  • Yellow square to make a sandpit
  • Blue square to make a paddle pool
  • Butterfly wings
  • Fairy wings
  • Hair
  • Scarves
 to name a few and I have used them to create many story scenes. I have found that the children are more creative than they were with a box of dressing up clothes and the children love trying to make new things with them. Don't get me wrong I do love dressing up clothes but if you haven't a lots of space you have to make a decision on what works best for you and your home/setting. We still have a couple of dressing up outfits - 2 princess dresses, Chinese traditional costume and a couple of high viz vests that come out from time to time.

I have started to look through my many books and really need to go through all the craft stuff, that is mine and the children's and then it will probably time to go through the toys again.

Questions I asked about my environment was :-
  1. Does it work for me
  2. Do I feel relaxed and happy in the room
  3. Do the children play well, is there enough space for what they want to do
  4. Are the children happy and relaxed
  5. How well do the children engage with their environment and resources.
  6. Where and how do they play
  7. What do they like doing
  8. How can I easily adapt the environment to meet their needs and interests
  9. Do you really need 10 baby doll etc ok the answer might be yes but it has to be right for you.
  10. Can the children reach everything they need easily
  11. Can we all tidy up easily
Another lovely blog is Playful Learning they also run some online course, I have decided to try their course Playful Learning Spaces, as I feel it is very relevant to what I am trying recreate here.

I have bought my playsilks from Myriad and I have just discovered Arwen Makes and was chatting to the owner about some of her lovely silks, she will custom make them as well, so think I might me adding a couple too my collection.

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