Balancing work and life is not easy. Providing child care service during the day and winding down after working with children in the same space can be quite challenging, especially if the place is a part of your living room.
When Ashley Toole won a free makeover for her home daycare, I was really excited to work with a homecare provider but I had no idea about the space we will be transforming. We started a conversation via email and I learned that Ashley had challenges with children dumping toys out of bins and not cleaning them up.
Ashley takes care of 6 children, ages… ready? one, two, three, four, five, and six. This is quite a range in terms of interests and developmental levels. As you can imagine, the toddler is the busiest one, and you guessed it, he does most of the dumping because, yes, he is a toddler.
Ashley uses her dining room table for art and sensory activities with older children where she can provide more supervision in terms of proper use of the materials and small parts that are not safe for the younger ones. The living room play space is set up for free play and needs to be safe for all children at all times.
Our solution was to define 4 play areas (blocks, dramatic play, loose parts, cozy corner) and make it safe for independent exploration. With this plan in mind, we ventured out to the flee market and the local stores (yes, yes, it was Dollarama). We talked about ideas as we browsed the store and the market. I pointed towards — in my opinion — useful things and Ashley chose the items that she liked. It was very important for me to make sure she feels comfortable with her choices because she brings those items into her own home and will have to literally live with them. Shopping ate a large chunk of our time, so when we got back, we decided to mark the spaces, to visually sketch ideas and not to fuss over details to wrap it up in reasonable time.
The small house was used for storing blankets and large toys.
We moved the large toys to the basement and found a new home for blankets. We added just a few items to support family-based dramatic play scenarios, like clear jars that will later become sensory bottles and conical tubes with large pom-poms that look like ice-cream cones. I bet both 3- and 4-year-old girls would like them. I suggested adding more kitchen related items (plates, cups, spoons, pretend food) as they are an easy sell with the preschool crowd.
We brought in a small table and put some loose parts on it. Later, it would be covered with some fabric and large-ish loose parts invitations on a tray.
There was an empty space next to the window with the large car ramp from the popular cartoon series.
We used one of the shelves for storage and table-top space. The baskets are deep enough to hide the visual clutter of toys yet children can see what’s inside when they come close. We chose to offer Lego Duplo, a farm animal set, cars, and cartoon characters for the start. The large space will be used for over-sized toys that will be rotated. The smaller amount of toys in each basket will make it easier to clean up, and it will be also easy to sort as the baskets can be used interchangeably. Put just one toy in each basket and cleaning turns into a sorting activity!
We added some trays for activities based on the toys on the shelf. Let me tell ya, it was not so easy to create a rescue scenario for a Paw Patrol team or a peaceful farm set up using only what was at hand… We talked about invitations to play that inspire children to tell stories and use their imagination and the importance of adding details like real leaves of felt to represent the grass for the cows.
I am pretty happy with the cozy corner that we created, well, in the corner. Adding a basket will make tidying up books easier. The soft mat will make sitting on the floor more comfortable and it provides a pleasant sensory experience. The soft toys, blankets, and a pillow send a message of comfort and peace, a good place wind down with a book or a favourite stuffy.
Now let me show you what Ashley has to remove out of that space, pack in ziplocks, and store in her basement. All of this!!! And it is a lot of work!
I want to thank Ashley for inviting me in her home daycare and letting me change it a bit. I hope it will be easier for her and her little ones to share this space that is now more structured, more visually organized, and that has way less stuff to pick up.
As I drove home from Ashley’s house, I thought about things that we have and how sometimes it is useful to put them aside to see the things we need. And often we don’t need much stuff to make our homes, our classrooms, and home daycares welcoming, functional, and beautiful.