Environment Matters: Aesthetics & Children
Each year of teaching I enjoyed the delight of stepping into my empty classroom with fresh eyes. Usually there was a pile of classroom furniture to place and play with- sorting, moving, imagining each space. What is the purpose? What are the boundaries? Do we have materials that can carry from one to another? Do we have materials that would not work well next to others?
I delight in creating beauty anywhere, I especially value this process for children. Children appreciate beauty. It stimulates them, educates them, and teaches them value- both for themselves and for respecting the space around them.
I think society often pegs young children as little tornadoes that will make a mess and destroy. Don't get me wrong, there are often messed involved when it comes to young children. However, I have found that surrounding them with beauty and simplicity declutters their brains and makes them a bit more aware of their space and their mess. Children’s brains and attitudes are affected by their environment, just like adults.
Imagine you are on a vacation. When you enter your hotel room, it is filled with bright primary (and somewhat contrasting) colors, too much furniture, bright rugs and print posters all over the wall. Do you feel completely rested? Does your mind feel at ease or is it over stimulated? I believe this reflects many classrooms. I do not think this is on purpose, as it seems to be an expectation of the education culture itself. However, I do not believe the alphabet on the wall is going to stimulate learning of the alphabet more than a tactile puzzle or individual alphabet for reference on the table.
There are limits in most schools. There are limits in most homes. However, where there are limits, there can still remain slivers of life-giving beauty.
Here are some suggestions for fitting beauty within the limits:
Change out the red and blue shapes rug for soft colored ones —I love IKEA for finding rugs, but also Ruggables offers washer-friendly options
Create beautiful displays for discovering interesting things or for sorting —I often will use Target's home goods section for this, you can find natural wood blocks, or dark platters that display stones and natural materials beautifully
Lighting can also be a risky but worth it change! A few years ago I went rogue after getting numerous head-aches from the fluorescent lights. We went to IKEA and bought lamps, as well as their hanging single bulbs. We were able to use hooks in the ceiling tiles to run the cord to the wall where we then would plug it in. Softer lighting can soothe the eyes and create a more welcoming space.
Aesthetics do not discriminate. A beautiful environment affects our senses, no matter our age. When considering how to set up a classroom or a playroom, inspire yourself and the children around you by creating a space that brings both of you joy and peace (because after all, you have to share it with them).
You can read a bit more about children, environment and other tips/resources here.