Limitations Within A Learning Space
There’s a balance in the amount of materials needed in a child’s learning environment. Too many options can be overstimulating and stressful (for everyone), while not enough options can cause a level of disengagement. How can you tell which is best?
Often children who have difficulty engaging in an activity for a long period of time need less in their environment. Many struggle with this because they feel children will get bored or that they need more toys in order to have more to do. When young children move from task to task so frequently, it can seem like more options are better. However, more objects in the environment will increase stimulation, which will heighten tendencies for distraction.
As children begin to exhibit signs of elongated engagement, adding more options can help further their learning and increase creativity.
One way to practically approach this would be to store toys for rotation and limitation. Select a few that you are certain the child will enjoy and a few that may be just beyond their ability. You can limit the quantity of items, especially building materials. For example, if you have a whole box of Legos, put out a only few handfuls. If they are able to engage for twenty or thirty minutes and run out of Legos, either add more Legos or add other building materials to mix with Legos.
The dump test
If you have a toddler, try testing what would happen if they dumped all their learning materials on the floor. Settle on supplying an amount of materials that feels acceptable for both of you. If it feels overwhelming for you, then it likely will be overstimulating for the child.
A great way to stir engagement is to rotate materials. Instead of including all the learning materials (toys) in your home, store some of them and rotate them seasonally. It can be enjoyable to think about aesthetics like the color, graphics and size of the materials. You can also enhance the space by including seasonal materials like petals in spring, sticks of different sizes in summer, acorns or squash in fall, and pinecones in winter.
Recommendations and Classic Tools
In my opinion, Magna-tiles are the most consistently used material in the classroom. They are versatile, easy to clean up, and fun to experiment with lighting.
Depending on the child’s fine motor skills, Legos or Duplos (their larger counterpart) are a timeless addition to any learning space. I tend to prefer open ended collections compared to the sets that have instructions. Sets with instructions can often limit creativity. However, you know your child and if that’s what works, then great.
You can never go wrong with a set of simple, natural, standard blocks. These are easy to supplement with- natural materials, knit squares, lego people, string, and balls for ramps/rolling are just some of the many possibilities. Blocks are also an item that can be used for most age groups.
Puzzles and supplemental materials:
PuZzles with academic content
Puzzles with letters, numbers, or words can help to enhance learning more direct academic content.
Puzzles with real images are my personal preference (as with many sets of learning materials, I prefer reality-based over the cartoon). They allow children to interact with more authentic representation of various subject matter.
Natural materials can be used all year and are easily added to enhance many projects around the learning environment.
Simple tools : magnifying glass
Simple tools like magnifying glasses, tweezers, binoculars, tongs, and clipboards are great year-round additions to a learning space. They enhance wonder, curiosity and discovery. Clipboards and paper can also be useful for observational drawing or note taking.
Displaying materials in an aesthetic way draws children into natural curiosity. It enhances the beauty of the learning environment. Display set-up can be as easy as household items you may already own. Cutting boards, ramekins, and cheese trays are a few great options. I tend to visit IKEA or Target for their serveware products.
A learning environment can be easier to tackle than you would think and limitations often make it even easier.
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or a need for more specifics.