Preparing the Family Room

Raising Reciprocity’s 8th episode is part of our Preparing the Home series! Join Megan and Kate as they share strategies to preparing your home’s family room so that it meets the needs of everyone in your household!

(0.00) Intro to Series: Room by Room

How does the set up of the spaces within your home support your child’s growth toward functional independence and allow them to express their natural gifts? How can the spaces be a reflection of your family’s values and meet the needs of everyone who shares space there? How can the organization of the space create flow in the day in- day out activities of your family members? 

(2.22) Benefits of “The Prepared Living Room”

A couple highlights of Montessori include the emphasis on understanding what is age appropriate work for the child and how the adult can prepare the environments the child spends time in to support the work of the child. (Which is to become an adult in their time and place in the world.) It’s a win-win because a child who can function with some degree of independence gains self confidence, feels more satisfied, and is therefore more cooperative and engaged in family life. The living room is a reflection of everyone who lives in the home and can be a place that supports activities you engage in together, the stuff you dreamed of before you even had kids: drawing, music making, reading together, dancing and so on.

(5.20) Comfy Chairs and Organized Shelves

A places to sit where one feels cozy and welcomed are part of the living room, encouraging people to hang out and stay awhile. Does your child have a seat that fits their body? A low chair for a toddler, one where their feet can reach the floo, or a bean bag chair or puffy couch for the elementary age child to wiggle on can be a welcomed item. These can be signals to the child that this space welcomes them. The shelves in the living room are a reflection of the activities that are valued in that space by the individuals that live there. They can be organized for the safety of the youngest children so that they have access to the items on the lower shelves whereas items and activities for older children are stored up higher or in bins with lids.

(8.32) Children Grow and the Living Room Gets Revamped

Revisit the space, seasonally or annually depending on the ages and needs of your family members. Ask: what do each of us do in this space? How can they access the things they need for those activities? And lastly, how do they maintain the space, what’s needed to support keeping it functioning and clean?

(10.54) Less is More for a Young Child’s Sense of Order

Keeping the number of items and activities in the living room limited is actually a gift, allowing the child to deeply engage and focus, versus the overwhelming and crazy vibe that can come from having lots and lots of stuff within view and grasp. It also sets the child up for success in being able to manage their stuff. This is not just about having a tidy home, much more importantly it’s about the sense of confidence and self esteem the child develops when they see and feel how their participation in the home matters.

(12.52) Preparation

Put in the work upfront to prepare the space and teach the child the system for returning items they are done using and you will add ease to your daily life. Sharing living space with a child can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. Systems such as: less items out at a time, use of storage bins and storage spaces to rotate materials as needs and interests change, and the daily 5 minute team tidy. (Or maybe it’s weekly or monthly, no matter as long as it works for your household and reflects your values.)

(16.30) Foster the Collaborative Spirit 

Hold the child accountable to participate in the upkeep and care of the space with an eye to what they can manage in the moment. You’ll adjust expectations of their clean up skills based on ability, present needs and mood, and demonstrate how teamwork leads to progress. You can lovingly offer your support and at the same time hold firm to the expectation that they do help to the degree they are able in that moment. 

(18.21) Daily Chores: AKA Practical Life Skills

You see more chores to be done, yet your young child sees cool activities that they want to be involved in-with you! They want to be like you, they really want to do “the chores”. Take advantage of this sweet spot, ages 1-5ish and look for ways to include them in the maintenance tasks of the home. Modify the tools so they can work well in smaller hands…to them it is not work! These activities are just as valuable to them at this age, maybe even more so, than some toy purchased off a store shelf. You are planting the seeds of collaboration and teaching life long skills. A child doesn’t need to be told it can feel good to participate with the team rather let them feel that first hand and you start them on a path towards being a great roommate, partner, friend, citizen.

(22.11) Create a “Yes Space”

While in the living room together listen to yourself. Are you finding you have to say “no” often to your child? Use that as a clue about what changes you could make to allow it to be a safer, more focused, more relaxed area of your home. Could some items be put in storage temporarily? Could other items be put out of reach? And for sure you can teach personal boundaries such as, “These items are for your hands to touch, and these are for mine.” If there are some items that repeatedly attract your child that you don’t want them to mess with, see if you can figure out what it is about the item they are attracted to then ask if it can be replace with something that satisfies the same need.

(25.05) Ways to Learn Boundaries 

If you are raising an only child you are the one to model boundary setting, so even if you are immediately available or have the resources to cater to their desire, pause and ask yourself if this could be a time to model boundary setting. If you are raising siblings then you can expect that they will add to the lessons on boundary setting each receive. Defining one’s work space visually, use of an easy to roll mat or blanket on the floor often works for the young child, can be helpful. It provides a visual clue as little ones practice and learn impulse control and they support undisturbed focus for older children. Additionally, creating a culture within the home that allows for people to ask for privacy, for disturbed time to focus, will benefit children and adults alike. Forts, nesting spaces, bunk beds can offer opportunities for privacy for children, it’s not like they each must have their own rooms!

(28.01) Safety for Little Ones in the Living Room

Here are some items to check on and prepare so that your living room can be a “yes, space” for all. Shelves can be anchored to the walls, electrical cords can be hidden or taped down, electrical sockets can be plugged up, house plants can be checked on to be sure they are non poisonous, and cords on window coverings can be shortened to be out of reach to grasping hands. 

(29.16) Minimal Screen Use in the Living Room is Encouraged

Set your child up for success and minimize screen use. Why? Because the best brain development comes from active experience within one’s environment. This means language being spoken directly to each other and looks like movement, especially of the hands! Are the child’s hand’s engaged? If yes, then you know the brain is engaged!

(30.19) Architect Your Living Room

Sit in your living room at the eye level of your child(ren), look around, does it reflect everyone who lives in the home? Does it reflect the activities you value? If not, what items could be brought in or removed and then how do you make them accessible to the various people you share the home with? Consider what messages the environment is giving the child. Are they welcomed there, are they able to participate in activities and manage the space and materials with an age appropriate degree of independence? What does the space look like from your child’s point of view? Are you and your interests reflected in the space too, because that too is important for your kiddo to observe.

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