Simplifying spaces for play


The spaces in our homes are often a reflection of the world around us. Maintaining an environment that is clutter-free can be as challenging as when we try to manage the chaos of our calendars. Life is busy. The world moves fast. Our days are full. These are the realities that we face. As parents, navigating is hard enough. For children, schedules like the ones we face can be overwhelming.


Children today are presented with an incredible amount of stimuli. How often have you heard your child say, “I’m bored” or “I don’t know what to do!” despite having a wide selection of materials, a plethora of toys, and a shelf full of games from which to choose? Though it may seem counterintuitive, we’ve discovered that fewer toys and less play materials have been shown to lead to more play and deeper cognitive development in children. To put it simply, when children spend less time making decisions about what to play with, they have more time and ability to get busy playing!


As we observe our children each day, it’s important to take time to focus on what they are doing. What are their interests? What are they drawn toward? What do they notice? How do they interact with those around them, materials, and the spaces in which they play? What do they communicate through their play and everyday interactions?

As we observe and listen attentively to children, it is critical that we are reflective in our intention to listen. Recognizing that listening includes paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication, we are better able to understand what our children are communicating through play. Knowing that developmentally, the vocabulary of children can be far less developed than the complexity of emotions that they experience, helps us to understand that the non-verbal communication of children is of equal or even more value than their verbal communication.

As children attempt to navigate through play, the social, emotional, intellectual, moral, and spiritual relationships that go along with their encounters, we begin to see the depth of who they are as human beings. We learn what provokes their curiosity. We listen to what they think. We delight in what they create as we begin to realize the profound gifts they bring to the world. Knowing children through play allows us to consider what they are thinking and ponder what they might need to move thinking forward. Reflectively, we see the endless possibilities of children that bloom right before our eyes as we observe them in play.

Observing children at play offers a tremendous opportunity for parents and educators to explore a journey where children share the many unique layers that naturally emerge as they wonder, imagine, and explore the world around them. It is through children that we come to know the unique stories of every child as we become connected to the brilliant gifts that lie within their mind, body, and spirit.


As you observe and listen to your child, you’ll come to know more about who they are, what piques their curiosity, and what they are drawn to in their encounters with the world and those around them. You’ll begin to see the world through a new set of lenses ~ theirs! You’ll start to consider objects, spaces, and opportunities for encounters in new ways as you factor in your new-found understandings of the perspectives of your child. You’ll provide invitations that are aligned with the needs and interests of your child, and you’ll seek new ideas and creative materials to welcome your child to provoking and engaging explorations each and every day.

Knowing your child, you’ll recognize that less is more and that these everyday play encounters need not be over-the-top or extensively planned. Instead, you’ll recognize that embedded deep within the heart, mind, and body of your child is a capability, a competence, and a creative ingenuity that will shine through when they are welcomed to open-ended and free play.


A first step parents can take towards nurturing a child’s connection with play is to create simplified spaces that invite play. There are many ways to create spaces that capture a child’s attention and invite play, some examples of which are:

  • Declutter and define space for play.
  • Curate a smaller collection of objects appropriate to the age, ability, and interests of your child.
  • Ensure both the spaces and materials are accessible to your child.
  • Present the chosen objects and materials to your child in an attractive or unexpected way.

By making space that is accessible, attractive, and welcoming to your child, you will have already extended to them an invitation to play! Simplifying a play space is one way for you to nourish wellness in your child. Creating an environment that lends itself to a more peaceful and serene experience, you nurture a sense of calm in your child. 

Wonderful to have you here! I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Founder ~ Nurtured Inspirations


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