Home Learning Environments: A Blueprint for More Exciting Places and Spaces
By Susan Miller, Ed.D.

You serve as an influential role model for your child as she learns about her world. It is fun for her to imitate you and copy your daily activities while she gains new skills and practices some old ones. In this article, Earlychildhood NEWS shares ways to take familiar areas in your home and create similar miniature learning environments for your child. Some things are interesting to do together, or with a sibling, while other activities foster independent learning.

 

At times you need to be very flexible and spontaneous while following your child's lead. However, other times, after observing his keen interest in an activity, you may find that you must plan ahead by assembling pertinent materials or arranging a comfortable, inviting special space for playing. Here are some ideas to build on as you continue to construct an interesting home learning environment to meet your child's physical, intellectual, creative, social, and emotional needs.

 

The Studio
This is a great spot where you can do arts and crafts, create constructions, demonstrate hobbies, and put together collections.

 

  • Sculpture clay or aluminum foil.
  • Glue "stained glass" colored plastic tiles or paper shapes.
  • Lick and stick a stamp or sticker collection.
  • Play with and display a special character collection (dinosaurs, farm animals).
  • Assemble balsa wood or paper airplanes. 

Entertainment Center
Create a wonderful place for your viewing and listening pleasure.

 

  • Provide a prop box with scarves, hats, a bed sheet, etc. to implement impromptu family plays and enactments.
  • Share favorite tape-recorded music for a fun-filled sing-along or dancing.
  • Enjoying a unique screening - videotape and then watch your child doing something special.  

Library
Design a soothing space where you can cuddle and read together or sit quietly in your own separate chairs.

 

  • Furnish a shelf or carton with a variety of literary choices - themed books, old favorites, pop-ups, and magazines.
  • Provide a family photo album so you can look at pictures and talk about them.
  • Add a clipboard, paper, crayons, and brads to design your own books.

Sewing Room
While you sew on your machine or do handwork, provide exciting opportunities for your child to experiment with color, texture, and shapes.

 

  • Punch holes outlining interesting greeting card designs so your child can "sew" around the pictures with shoelaces.
  • Provide fabric scraps to glue together for a quilt or play with during a "feelie" box texture guessing game.
  • Play paper dolls with fabric scraps and figures cut from catalogues.

Workshop
When you repair things with a hammer or create new things in your workshop, your child is sure to show interest in creative hands-on projects.

 

  • Glue wood scraps together to make fascinating constructions. Paint them, too.
  • Sand these unique constructions (use goggles) to make them smooth.
  • Tap golf tees (with a wooden mallet) into Styrofoam blocks to get ready for using a real hammer and nails.

Yard Work
Don't overlook the outdoor environment for natural learning experiences at home. It is a wonderful, big space for making scientific discoveries and flexing large muscles while raking leaves or weeding a garden.

 

  • Furnish child-size gardening tools: shovel, rake, and a wheelbarrow for digging in the dirt and hauling away leaves together.
  • Using a watering can to sprinkle the flowers, as well as your child's toes, is such fun!
  • Observe through an unbreakable magnifying glass to check out spots on ladybugs and investigate tiny raindrops.
  • Turn over rocks to see what might be living underneath. Surprise!

Susan A. Miller, Ed.D., is Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.


Keeping Your Child Safe at Home
As you create learning areas for your child at home, there are a few things to keep in mind. Use the following checklist to make sure your home is safe and engaging for your child.

 

  • Safety. Check the materials in your home from time to time to make certain there are no broken parts or sharp or rusty pieces. You should also check your home for choking hazards. Use a toilet paper roll as a guide. If an item slides through the tube, then it is a choking hazard for your child under three and should be removed from an area where your child plays.

  • Replacements. Some consumable supplies may need to be replenished, such as bubble soap, paints, and paper.

  • Age-appropriate activities. Activities for your child should challenge, but not frustrate.

  • Variety. To keep the learning areas fresh and exciting for your child, try adding and taking away different materials each week.