Here’s a little tour of the set up we have at home.
I have always been a believer that the environment is just as much a teacher as the teacher herself, because the set up and offerings of the environment lead the child to much of what he or she chooses to engage it. Therefore, it is really important to set up your environment to invite and encourage the type of behavior you want to see. For me, designated and defined areas are key, with a unique and specific set of purposes for each area. In our home-school room, we have 4 general areas, categorized by the type of play that will occur there. Within each area, a set of tasks are offered or invited there.
1. Pretend Play- this area includes all social role play and props. Ember most enjoys shopping, cooking, and caring for babies. So, I focused on providing these elements below:
- play kitchen area with props that include pots, pans, plates, cups, utensils, as well as a variety of play foods.
- baby & dolly caring area with props such as bottles, pacifiers, play spoons and bowls for feeding, mini crib, stroller, & high chair, as well as cloths and other play diapering materials.
- modest dress up area with mini coat rack and open bins for loose dress up items and accessories. Ember is starting to enjoy dressing up more and more as she grows in fondness for characters and their distinctive styles!
- We arranged these items centered around a “kitchen table” space with a rug and mini chairs, to provide a work space that can be used practically during many role play activities, as a place to eat food, bathe a baby, sit down for a tea party, etc.
2. Manipulatives & Floor Play- this area is designated for using the hands and arms to build and manipulate. The items available in this area are open ended and versatile:
- blocks and other loose building materials for architecture
- cars, trains & road construction
- music instruments and movement/dance play.
- materials for hammering, zipping , knocking, pushing, pulling, stacking, etc.
- stack of large pillows at the edge of our floor space so that Ember can bring them into her play to sit on, lay on, or utilize in her play.
- story book shelf. Because the area is open and soft, we also use the space as a comfortable reading area. Typically, we shift from building, to cleaning up our work, to a time for stories at the end of our play period.
3. Shelf Work- Ember has a total of 6 individual shelves in her home-school room currently (3 shelves on each book case). These shelves display her lesson work options in specific “academic” learning areas. About half of her lessons are concrete and their materials cannot be taken and used for open ended play. They are for the lesson work only. However, Some of the items can be used in other areas, such as items on the art, science, and sensory shelves (See below). Currently, she has only one small table in her role play area. When she works on lessons, she walks her work to this table, or we move her table over to her lesson area. However, her dad is in the process of building her a second small table to go with her shelves so that soon, she will have a separate table space in her work area to be used only for lessons and other sensory projects.
- Practical Life Shelf- Holds concrete lesson work to develop everyday tasks, such as pouring, sponging, washing, scooping, tonging, etc. Food preparation lessons, laundry folding, flower arranging in vases and other practical life lessons are rotated regularly.
- Numbers and shapes Shelf- This pre-math shelf holds lessons for identifying numbers, counting, arranging objects in lines and patterns, grouping, and creating shapes.
- Puzzles Shelf- This shelf contains puzzles of all kind, to encourage size awareness (small to big) matching (colors & objects) letters and shape identification, etc.
- Art Shelf- Holds work for chalk writing, tracing, cutting, drawing, painting, and color mixing. These are set up as individual lessons on trays, but Ember is often encouraged to get her markers, or scissors, for example, for use in a project or somewhere else other than for just the lesson itself.
- Sensory Shelf- Holds seasonal sensory work, such as play dough, sensory bins for exploration, gluing, fresh flowers and other natural materials. For example, this month it has a bit of a Valentine’s Day feel, including her dried flower potpourri, Pink glitter play dough, Valentine card gluing station, and a sensory bin with paper confetti, ribbons, and glass beads.
- Science Shelf- Holds Rocks, shells, Precious stones and jewels, sand, magnets, and other Earth Science elements for exploration. These are also set up on trays, but Ember is able to utilize the materials in building, small world play, and other more open ended options.
4. Small World Play- this area is extremely versatile, used to create and get lost in miniature fantasy worlds! It regularly has a doll house and a rug, with a bin to hold mini animals, furniture, and other natural materials. I am currently working on diversifying this area, and will soon link a small world blog post so that you can stay in the loop on what I’ve incorporated to finish the area. The goal is to have different bins or shelves to categorize and display materials for a variety of small worlds (oceans, jungles, forests, fairy gardens, etc.) and will include materials for all items listed below. Lastly, a long term goal of mine is to incorporate an enclosed small world table so that Ember and I can build worlds enclosed in a tray like table contained by small walls, to reduce sand and other materials from
- Ground cover and other bulk ingredients
- trees and plants
- animals by geographical type
- natural material props
- people and props