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Creating a Learning Environment at Home for Your Young Learner in Kindergarten to Grade Two

Interior Designer Marta Lilly explores how to establish an effective at-home learning space for young learners, addressing environmental aspects such as furniture, as well as ergonomics and the physical needs of younger school-aged children.

By Marta Lilly


September 7, 2020

As a K-12 designer and former Kindergarten teacher, I hope I can demystify this process and give some guidance on how to work with what you already have in your home.

Rather than setting up one space that will act as a classroom, consider what areas of your home are best suited for specific activities:

  • Emerging literacy is about exploring words wherever they may be found, from books to mail to cereal boxes. When settling in with a book, children seek cozy corners and enclosed areas; a few cushions under a table could provide this.
  • When writing or creating art, an open floor area or paper taped to a wall may serve better than a traditional table and chair. These settings allow for more movement and balance as young children are learning to grip pencils and work on their hand-eye coordination.
  • Math concepts are often introduced through manipulatives, or small objects that can be sorted by shape or color. Buttons, matchbox cars and colorful snacks such as gummies or cereal all work well. A coffee table or tray would allow children to interact with manipulatives in such a way that their bodies are not confined to one posture.

A large aspect of the early education classroom is fostering independence in each student.

At home, you can make their materials and manipulatives easily accessible and intuitive to put away. Sit down at your child’s level and take in the space as they see it. Is it easy to spot paper, pencils and crayons, and the wastepaper basket? Taking out the appropriate materials and setting them up is just as important as the activity itself and, of course, tidying up afterward will help everyone at home! Keep in mind that transitioning from activity to activity is just like any transition, like getting dressed or getting ready to leave the house.

In a traditional classroom, students have jobs which help them contribute in a meaningful way. At home, your learner could water plants or make a snack for the rest of the family, sort recycling and break down cardboard boxes, or write thank you notes to the mail carrier or their teacher.

Make sure to give your child a tour of their learning spaces, just as a teacher would during orientation day, and empower them to make modifications as they embark on this new learning experience.

Marta Lilly is an Interior Designer at IBI Group in Portland. She became interested in educational design during the years she spent teaching pre-K and Kindergarten, and always draws from those experiences, which centered on a Reggio Emilia philosophy and provide her with a valuable perspective most architects do not have.

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