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
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.
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
- to see what I love using for reusable writing for children, rather than having lots of paper around!
- to read about great ways to organize paper
- how to create re-usable “whiteboards”
I would love to hear from you about how you set up your learning and play spaces – do you feel less is more?
What is the educator’s role in supporting play in the early childhood classroom?read more
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.read more
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