Restructure your environment and intervene less
Have you ever wondered if your daycare setup may be causing conflicts? This may seem like a strange question, but believe me, it may help you resolve many problems.
Just think about activity corners that may be too small, areas where children may not have enough room to play freely, toys that are piled one on top of the other, noisy games enjoyed right next to your reading corner… These details can all lead to conflicts among children, “territorial” problems that you surely wish you didn’t have to manage.
Restructuring your environment is an indirect intervention method. Modifications within your environment may help you reduce the occurrence of conflicts and unpleasant behaviours without having to intervene directly with the children. Moving furniture around, changing your daycare setup, and restructuring the layout can indeed represent excellent solutions if you would like to intervene less often. How?
To begin, observe your group. Watch the children and take notes. When do most conflicts arise? When there are conflicts, where are the children? Do children have enough room to set up the material they wish to play with? Are there areas within your daycare where children’s personal space is not respected? The answers to these questions will guide your restructuring efforts.
Next, clean your daycare. Purge your environment of unnecessary items. Get rid of toys children no longer use, toys that take up too much space. Put them in storage. You can offer them again later, when you are ready to rotate other toys out. Throw things away, declutter, sort your toys using bins. Make good use of your storage areas and tools. A tidy daycare will make toys more attractive for children and you’ll breathe a little better, knowing each item has its own place.
Once your initial cleanup is done, re-evaluate how your different corners are organized: noisy areas, calm corners, active areas, etc. Plan your setup so that each corner is located next to appropriate and/or complimentary activities. Use area rugs, mats, or colourful adhesive tape to delimit each area. This will make it easier for children to organize their play time and take advantage of each area while respecting others.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to create space. Ask yourself if the way your furniture is positioned can spark conflicts, if placing your table in the centre of the room really is the best idea, and what could be moved around to give children more room.
Trial and error may be necessary before you find the ideal solution. You may have to review your daycare setup per children’s comments or following your own observations. One thing is certain, when conflicts are common during periods of free play, taking a step back and modifying your daycare organization can help resolve many problems without you having to intervene directly.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator