I’ve always had an interest in doing up our home in a way that’s inviting, open, airy, well-lit and most importantly – feels warm and cozy and creative and sparks the imagination of the young ones (and older ones too!). This interest, since childhood, has become a passion ever since I became a mother. Yes, ever since I had my children – first Pari, and then Sufiana – rather than relegating the home decor (‘home environment’ is a more apt word for me) to the bottom of the daily bucket-list (due to lack of time) I’ve maintained it as one of the top priorities. Some might feel that it’s not prudent to ‘waste’ time on doing up the house when you have young children to attend to, specially a 1.5 years old. But, I can argue otherwise. And, this is why:
A home environment, I feel, can play a very positive role in the development of young minds and bodies. A child who’s actively seeking out the world and exploring new things will feel motivated and charged up to be in a clutter-free space that sparks imagination, allows freedom to move and play in safety, and puts the child at ease – to run, dance, sing, create, paint, mould, tinker – without being interrupted.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the ideas from my own home (at different times) that inspired my children and encouraged fun, learning, discovery and creation. Not to forget – beautiful bonding times for us all as a family.
Especially since my children don’t go to school, the home environment is all the more relevant. I want to create a space where they feel safe, comfortable, respected, creative, playful and loved.
Whether it is the Waldorf approach, the Reggio Emilia or the RIE philosophy of parenting – most alternative/progressive learning philosophies that espouse child-centered, open-ended learning methods lay great emphasis on the role that an environment/space can play in early childhood learning and development.
Infact, in the Reggio Emilia approach, the environment or the space is considered the third teacher. The space is recognized to hold great potential to inspire the child who’s exploring the world by making use of his/her five senses; is learning by playing, collaborating, communicating.
So, here are some examples, from my home, of spaces for children that encourage free play, tinkering, creativity, imagination and wonder!
An art corner that’s artful too!
No matter how small the space, it helps to have a corner dedicated for making art. Even if it means just a table and a chair with a cupboard near-by where some of the stuff (that’s safe) is accessible to the child. When Pari was merely two, I dedicated a part of a room for our creative exploration. I placed a mattress on the floor – against the wall – for our cozy reading time. Next to it was a low desk with a chair where she could paint and scribble and play ‘ office’. In the winters, when the sun was out for those specific hours, I had another low desk – light and moveable – that I would place out into the balcony. She would enjoy juicy oranges while painting away in deep focus, without distraction.
We’ve moved many houses in the past nine years of Pari’s life but in every house that we lived in, creating that art-friendly corner was always my priority.
And right now, this house in Goa has allowed us to create the best art corner so far. A small room, adjacent to the living room, with floor to ceiling shelves – well, the moment we looked at it, we knew what to do with it. All her (and mine) art material was duly placed, organized and marked. We repurposed some cardboard boxes to organize paint bottles, pens, scissors and cutters and what have you. I lined the boxes with colourful wrapping paper to make them appealing. This art studio (that’s what we call this space) is where Pari spends most of her time, and now is joined by Sufiana too.
A space for free play (even in an apartment):
Free play – today’s scheduled, over-instructed kids have almost forgotten what it is like to play without gadgets, toys, board games and instructions. The loss of free play is loss of creativity, childhood and health and happiness.
In my home, I love to create special corners here and there that will encourage free play of all sorts.
For years, we had an indoor fountain (read the post – ‘unhindered summer play’) that Pari loved to play with. What child doesn’t love water! So, her friends from near-by apartments would knock at our door to join in. And, she had play-mates right at our door step without organizing any play dates.
This source of water served as a pond to bathe her animals; to sail boats; to fill and refill bottles for hours together. I often liked to join in. We loved to decorate the water surface with petals, floating candles. We even made water rangolis!
Pretend play – I think that’s the hallmark of every happy childhood…
….no matter what culture or geography or era. I cannot think back to Pari’s younger years without being reminded of the variety of pretend play that she regaled in. Sadly, young children are losing that way to play due to too many scheduled activities in their days. Technology also has played a huge role in taking children away from their natural ways of playing.
Pari was so inclined towards pretend play that I was constantly creating spaces for her that would facilitate that kind of play – mud pie kitchen, pizza delivery corner, office play, cafe!
Our mud-pie kitchen was on an 8th floor balcony! It used to get muddy there but I didn’t mind cleaning, for it was the most sought-after play for Pari and her friends. The fact that we had a tap on that balcony, helped!
Freedom to express, articulate, doodle, draw…
The huge black board that we had (still have) was adored by Pari and all her friends. With a bunch of colorful chalks at their disposal, they would spend hours doodling, scribbling, making giant art. This wall-sized canvas served as a place for pretend play – school and teacher and students!
When I blogged about it years back, this is what I wrote and it still rings true to my philosophy:
I knew that a wall-sized canvas/writing area would inspire at so many levels. It’s basically about the “space”. When an entire wall transforms itself into a space for self-expression, no one can remain untouched.
Special spaces to connect with nature:
Of-course a garden or a yard of your own can be a boon. But, even if you don’t have one, you can still connect with nature by bringing it indoors. For years, we had a low table reserved for those memorable finds in nature – from the treks and trips and even walks around our neighbourhood looking for dry leaves for our art. On this nature table we placed our pine cones, river stones, feathers, dry leaves…
This space also served as a space for meditation and prayers. A singing bowl, a candle, an incense created that environment for all of us to spend some meditative time. Not just us, even friends and family members always got attracted to this space and could not help but sit down on the floor to admire the beautiful knick knacks from nature.
A home for the littles:
And then, along came Sufiana. And, I was keen on creating special spaces for her to enjoy and be. Well, my arms and bosom were the best places for her to be. But, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy her own company; that she wouldn’t need some break from the over-stimulated world of ours. They are wiser than we think, they are more capable than we think. Sufiana has proven this again and again. For that quiet, wonder-filled time when my baby could just gaze and marvel, reflect and be, I wanted to create a space.
Keeping her in mind, we now have a house with a small yard. I can tell you she’d have been miserable without this open space with a source of water to play in. While she plays there, I tend to the vegetable beds and the grow bags. She likes to water the plants, throw compost into the potting mix and dig around with a small spade.
When the neighbourhood cat comes demanding for food, Sufi shouts, “num num, doodoo, doodoo, riiiice, riiice”, telling me that the cat is here; we’ve gottu give milk and rice!
An indoor space – of her own:
A dedicated space indoors is as essential for babies and toddlers as it is for older kids or adults. Sufiana runs all around the house in high energy. When she gets tired or bored or needs alone-time she comes into her beautiful corner.
Here, the stuff that she likes to play with are kept on a low table. There’s a mattress in front of it where she can sit and explore – there are balls of all colours and sizes and textures, bottles with screw-on caps, chalk board with colourful chalks, picture books that she adores.
No battery-operated toys that direct children to play in one specific way rather than giving them the power and freedom to play whichever way they want to.
A space to tune in to the inner space:
We adults talk about some ‘quiet time’ or meditation or yoga – those calm moments when we can connect with ourselves without the constant chatter that the mind engages in. Well, the same goes for babies and little ones too – a natural state of mind, a calm and relaxing space when they can day-dream, get lost watching the rain, get engrossed looking far into the sunrays. Why do we think them as helpless, un-thinking beings who need to be in our arms and laps and carriers all day long? Why do we think we need to entertain them every minute with playful voices and loud gestures? I think doing this demeans their intelligence and dignity. They ought to get that down-time that we all need – to connect with our hearts and souls.
And, precisely for such moments, a space like this makes Sufiana’s heart warm and gay. This beautiful little space with a cotton canvas swing hanging from the ceiling – just as we step into our home. Sitting in this swing, as she gets lost in her inner world, I can’t help but feel peaceful myself. Her hair blowing in the wind, the rain pelting down, that continuous white noise nothing less than music for the soul! I sit on the red cement bench across the swing and get drawn into the mango tree right in front of us. Trees anyday have a deeply calming effect on me. And, I’ve noticed Sufiana has a deep connection with nature herself.
This swing is such a marvelous way to create that quiet, un-obtrusive, meditative time and space.
And, I’m grateful to Cuddly Coo for sending it our way. When Sangeetha wrote to me to try this swing for Sufiana and then review it if I like, I knew my Sufi would love this. And, she does! First thing in the morning as she wakes up, she wants to sit in this swing and have one of us sing to her. That’s where she eats her banana and looks out for her cat, who she’s named “Angia”.
Talking about the material and the make, I can tell you you won’t find anything better than this. I love everything about it – the cotton canvas that it’s made of – it’s breathable, strong and sturdy. The canvas is lined with soft quilt making it even more cozy. The ropes that hold it together – along with the wooden frames – are smooth for tender palms.
The colourful wooden beads are just enough accessories to deck the swing and draw the child into playing!
And, it’s easy to assemble, super easy to hang. All you need is a hook in the ceiling. Yes, that’s it. It’s the safest swing one can have for a child this young (and older).
So, Sangeetha has gifted this not just for Sufi but she’d like to gift an exact same swing to you my dear readers! This is a giveaway (worth INR 2,490) and one of you can win it. YAY! YAY!
To Enter the Giveaway….
All you have to do is tell us about that special space in your home that your baby/child loves and why. That would help me think about more ways to make my home a place that encourages play, creativity, imagination and bonding.
Please provide a postal address in India to enter the giveaway. You may live in India or not. You can participate even if you live outside India but have friends or family living here with kids who can enjoy this swing. This swing is best for children between 8 months and 3 years.
Giveaway ends on August 3, Monday.
So, here’s to nurturing your child’s home environment with your warmth, love, your signature home-made food, your cuddles and songs and bed-time stories. Here’s to making the festive days more festive and making the every-day fun and joyful. Here’s to creating memories every moment.
I hope this beautiful, cozy swing will add more warmth to your nest.