Benefits of Minimalism in the Classroom and Playroom

Walking into a typical early childhood education classroom, you are drawn to the colourful posters, toys, projects, and decor that tend to line the walls. We know that colours can be uplifting, energizing and powerful and any company in charge of marketing to children would tell you that brightly coloured toys and games sell.

As I glance over to my own “supply closet” I see pops of colour, overly animated cartoon faces and bubble letters on just about every material that has been tucked away. I stopped using these ages ago (but haven’t gotten rid of them yet… more on my decluttering challenge here), choosing instead to follow my heart when it comes to child directed learning.

Minimalism in the Classroom

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Early childhood classroom are making a dramatic shift in how they look and for good reason. Recent research suggests that the classroom decor can heavily impact a child’s learning #design #ideas #organization #modern #learningtheories #earlychildhood #life #toddlers #preschooler #kindergartener #elementary #transition #athome

Applying Minimalism in the Classroom and Play Spaces

In many of the theories that have been around for a very long time, (Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf for example) but are newly emerging in main stream early childhood classrooms, there is a focus on natural decor: bringing the outdoors in, allowing children to use their imaginations and proving fewer “things” in exchange for multi-use items.

When I think of the invitations for play I create for my daughter and her friends in my care, I gravitate toward toys like wooden blocks – open ended and multi-use. Blocks and toys like this have the ability to become everything from stacking items, to cars, to food for cooking, to musical instruments, obstacles to be jumped over, and everything in between.

In a world where we are so often tempted by “the best and newest stuff” it’s hard to imagine going down to a minimum for toys and decor in a playroom or classroom — but there is research supporting the benefits of a “less is more” attitude in creating spaces for our youngest learners.

The Research Behind Minimalism in the Classroom

In a recent study, researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin and Howard Seltman of Carnegie Mellon University dove into the topic of a highly decorated classroom and the impact this had on children’s ability to concentrate.

Their study (which you can read about more here), found that it was about creating a display of more meaningful decorations, which I think can be supported by those who run Montessori, Reggio Emilia and, Waldorf classrooms.

Maximizing Your Classroom with Minimalism  – Creating Spaces that Invite Learning

For me, this challenge began as a need to make intentional use of the space shared by my little learners, and my family (more here). I wanted my learning environment to have a homey feel, while still engaging and inspiring self directed learning.

Teacher Tip!

Using a classroom garden as an interactive decor is also: science lessons, life lessons, air purifier, sensory work, caring for the world around us and so much more!

Hello intential learning!

Getting More from Classroom Decor

I took down those things that weren’t multi-use, and put away toys that tended to be for a specific type of play (labeled with something or branded).

I found that by doing this, the children were more engaged with each other, used the room in a more meaningful way and took better care of the items they used in their play.

Less is More in the Classroom

Children are natural investigators and will take the opportunity to learn just about anywhere (as supported by the research as well), but it is in those thoughtfully created spaces where learning can flourish, where children can concentrate and play in a more meaningful way.

Tips for Doing MORE with LESS in Learning

Check this post:

Early childhood classroom are making a dramatic shift in how they look and for good reason. Recent research suggests that the classroom decor can heavily impact a child’s learning #design #ideas #organization #modern #learningtheories #earlychildhood #life #toddlers #preschooler #kindergartener #elementary #transition #athome


I would love to hear from you about how you set up your learning and play spaces – do you feel less is more?

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Creating meaningful learning in early childhood education doesn’t have to be overwhelming and complicated. You don’t need the newest toys, you don’t need to spend a small fortune changing your playroom into dramatic play environments that are worthy of Pinterest or Instagram. You just have to trust in the learning that comes from play, with the child in the lead.

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    • jessicacmckenna

      LOVE This!! It takes the pressure off of everyone and let’s your children thrive!! 😍

  1. Kesi's Korner

    I can def see how having a minimalist style classroom can benefit the kids! I have gone into man classrooms where there is so much going on that I myself get distracted! Just like some other areas in life- less is more! Great read.

    • jessicacmckenna

      Thanks so much!!

  2. upnorthmomma

    Love this! would like to see this happen in our kids classrooms 🤪

    • jessicacmckenna

      Thanks!! I couldn’t agree more. Until then we can do it at home!

  3. Alyssa Peri

    I don’t homeschool, but I feel like this is hard to achieve with toys, and “stuff” in general, but something I would love to strive for. I believe we overstimulate our children! Simple toys and books are all they need, after all don’t they usually opt for playing with the box the toy comes in? lol

    • jessicacmckenna

      Exactly, Alyssa! There is so much that comes from playing with the box, unleashing our creativity, rather than simply watching and listening to toys that make noise or show images. Even for myself, it’s so much less stressful when there is “less stuff” to maintain, keep track of and tidy up.

  4. Julia A Randall

    I love the idea of less is more, but it’s hard in today’s society!

    • jessicacmckenna

      Isn’t that true, Julia! I know I fall into this all the time as well that I know my daughter would “just love to have this!” when I am out shopping and it takes everything in me not to buy “all the things”, but oh do we get to much out of creativity and the time we spend together when we aren’t overwhelmed with “stuff”.

  5. Mad Mommy

    I am reminded of then every time we go camping and they have little to no toys to play with. They are left with their own imaginations.

    • jessicacmckenna

      Yes! And they love the experience! Thanks so much for sharing, Mad Mommy!


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