Life

5 Tips for Creating Safe and Engaging Spaces for Children

Children need space to play, imagine, interact, and learn. Yet, today, many people rely on digital devices to keep kids entertained. Some kid-friendly television shows, movies, and even games can be educational. However, many experts agree that kids need more physical exertion and less time sitting in front of screens.

Elementary school teachers play a particularly important role in how their young students develop. They can arrange their classrooms in such a way that encourages engagement and creativity. Their influence and advice can also impact how school playgrounds are structured and updated. Here are five tips teachers can use to create safe and engaging spaces where children can thrive.

1. Request Safe, Updated Playground Equipment

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Playgrounds give young people an opportunity to engage in unstructured play that strengthens their bodies, minds, and social skills. To help kids get the most out of playground time, it’s essential to make sure their play spaces are safe and engaging. Commercial playground equipment has come a long way in the past decade in terms of safety and inclusive design. But if your school’s playground hasn’t been updated in years, your kids may not be getting those benefits.

As a teacher, you have the power to enact change. If you don’t think your school’s outdoor play areas meet the needs of the kids, make your opinion known. You may want to have a few more swing sets installed or a dangerous old piece of playground equipment removed. Whatever the case may be, bring your request and reasoning to your school administration. If possible, include signatures from other teachers and get parents involved to strengthen your stance and convince the administration it’s time for a change.

2. Use Color to Stimulate the Senses

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Science shows that color can impact children’s behavior and learning. For example, incorporating blue into your classroom can affect memory and recall. Red can enhance focus and help children perform better in tasks that require attention to detail. You don’t need to paint your classroom walls these colors, but you can incorporate positive colors into your classroom in other ways.

For example, you could add a blue rug to the reading area or place red blocks and other toys in the playing corner. In addition to improving educational recall and performance, specific colors can also affect behavior and mood in positive ways. Green can foster calmness while orange and yellow can enhance wakefulness and interest. Avoid blacks and grays, which are associated with sadness and inattention.

3. Fill Your Classroom With Interactive Toys

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Kids aren’t usually very picky when it comes to toys. They’ll often play with whatever’s available without complaints. However, some toys are better for fostering exploration and creativity than others. Before purchasing toys for your classroom, consider whether they can be used in creative ways. Specifically, look for open-ended rather than closed-ended toys.

Closed-ended toys typically have buttons kids can push. They can be fun for short-term entertainment, but they do little to encourage interaction and imagination. Open-ended toys, on the other hand, are ideal for helping kids develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Blocks, puzzles, and STEM toys are great open-ended options. They encourage brain development and help kids create an endless variety of structures and shapes.

4. Place Quality Children’s Literature Around the Room

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Illiteracy is a huge problem for today’s kids. Many young people prefer highly stimulating video games and movies over books. Sadly, the number of kids between 9 and 13 who read daily for fun has dropped to the lowest level since the mid-1980s. Teachers can have a huge impact on how students view books.

To enhance excitement and desire for reading, place quality children’s literature in your classroom. Make it easy to access and help students find books that are appropriate for their reading level. You may also wish to read picture books with exciting storylines to your students to help them discover how enjoyable books can be. Holding reading challenges and contests with prizes is another great way to encourage daily reading.

5. Incorporate Live Plants in Children’s Spaces

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Plants aren’t typically the first thing people think of when brainstorming how to enrich children’s spaces. But plants can play a surprising role in students’ behavior, emotions, and learning performance. A study of Taiwanese junior high school students illustrates the power nature can have when placed in a learning environment.

During the study, six plants were placed in one classroom while the other classroom didn’t receive any plants. At the end of the study period, the students in the class with the greenery reported stronger feelings of comfort and friendliness. They also had significantly fewer sick leave hours and misbehaved less frequently than the students with no classroom plants. If you want to create a safe and engaging space for your kids, consider adding a few live plants to your classroom.

Children tend to thrive in environments that feel comfortable and familiar while fostering creativity. For some kids, your classroom may be the only place that fits these descriptions. Use these tips to create safe and engaging child-friendly spaces where kids have the freedom to learn and grow.

Jeffery D. Silvers
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