Children need spaces that fulfill their intrinsic need to explore, build, create and use what they have built. As adults in their lives, it is our responsibility to provide them with not just opportunities to build but also support their learning through authentic experiences.
The limitations of available space that one has should in no way be a deterrent to providing children with experiences that are rightfully theirs—experiences that bring with them satisfaction of creation and the joy of learning.
Supportive Spaces full of Joy, Care and Creativity
“The supportive spaces have distinct features both in terms of physical and the Socio Emotional context. The latter being the backbone and foundation of a strong character. In the desire to provide for a well-designed physical learning space parents should not ignore the importance of comfort, trust and voice of the child.”
Growing up in various parts of the country, thanks to my dad’s transferable job, one thing that remained a constant was my desire to make and my brother’s desire to make as well as break, the latter being stronger. I would make dolls, simple houses, pencil holders while he was known to rip apart any new gadget that was bought, toys-specially the battery operated one. We have also spent many a wonderful evening watching mothers, aunts and elder sisters making macramé pot holders, thread work table cloths and knitting. These were the 70 and 80’s. Many a utility items were made at home with whatever resources were available.
As a layman we never realized the impact of these activities till researchers and psychologists came up with theories of the way these making and breaking activities influenced minds and hearts.
The impact ranges from developing executive functioning skills, to building in resilience and creativity.
Providing children with Playful Investigations and Supportive Learning spaces that provide them opportunities to break, build and create do not necessarily mean investing huge amounts of money in purchases of any kind. Start with what is available and trust me when you will look around a whole lot is available. The space can be created in a one room house inhabited by a family as well as in a privileged home. What one will be able to offer in those spaces will vary in design and raw material, and kinds of experiences that are offered. However, it will not be a case of being unable to offer at all. After all something is better than nothing at all.
Few basic suggestions and guidelines for creating Supportive Learning Spaces at home are:
1. Child’s Voice and Choice---This tops the list. Ask them to suggest which space would they like to use. In case of a shared space draw up protocols for all users to follow.
2. Structure—Build in structure for space usage with time slots and clean up procedure.
3. Define—Define and demonstrate clean up procedure and expectations for housekeeping and safety. Ensure all are looking at the same picture.
4. Display—In case of products other than eatables create space for displaying the work in progress and the finished product. This is both in terms of physical space and space in everybody’s daily routine to pause and appreciate the product. Eatables will deserve a space that is apt to their shelf life and usage.
5. Appreciate—Understand it is not about the end product but about the entire process from planning to creating which holds the key to powerful engagement of the mind.
Appreciate meaningfully with citation of what did you like and not just a generic well done!
6. Get involved—These activities impact not just the children, but also parents who benefit in many ways. The biggest challenge that parents might face would be letting go and not creating for the child but being a supporter on the side.
The various areas around which you can build in making, creating and breaking experiences as a parent are:
1. The Kitchen
2. Simple Circuitry
3. Using reusable materials
5. Light and Shadow
7. Needle and Thread
All of these promote STEAM in an unimaginable way , and the impact of the process is much deeper and complex than end product.