While changing the look of a room according to a theme may feel like a lot of work, this is something you can replicate at home relatively easily. Today, we'll discuss some ideas to regularly change your child's environment in order to create new opportunities for learning.
Pick a theme and length of time
First, of course, you need a theme. This can really be anything- you can go with a holiday or season, a story or just something you and your child like. For example, this month I am creating a zoo theme at work. To get me started, I brainstormed everything that came to mind when thinking about the zoo. An obvious start was different animals. I also added some additional elements, like a train - since our local zoo features one - and treats like ice cream and pizza. I also thought about how long I wanted my theme to last. For me, this helps ensure my theme won't just become permanent decor. I typically choose around a month, but you can go shorter or longer.
Choose a space
At school, themes may be embedded across rooms. However, this is a lot of effort, not to mention that you may not want to turn your dining room into a zoo snack stand. You do have options on where to set up your theme. One idea is to pick where your child spends the most time, as he likely enjoys playing here. If you are concerned about time and space, you could choose somewhere small - like the bathroom - making every bath turn into zoo time.
Look back at your brainstormed list to figure out how to plan your theme. Then, go shopping - starting with your own home. Pick out toys and books that fit your theme. Some of these may be unexpected. For my zoo theme, I was about to put away a lift-the-flap book that takes place in a house, until I realized that under each flap was a wild animal.
Once you've "shopped" your home, think about additional decor or items you'd like to add. Pinterest is always a great resource for kid-friendly activity ideas. A dollar store will likely get you far without spending too much money. Here are a few things I picked out when shopping for my zoo theme:
Green crepe paper to twist into vines
Poster board to cut out into leaves
Moss and shredded paper to create a sensory bin
Monkey removable wall decals
Wild animal stickers
I also purchased some wild animal posters on the internet to add to the walls, but you could just as easily print photos at home.
Put it together
Set aside a length of time to transform your space. This can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours- just set a deadline so that you don't end up exhausted with the process. In the space you chose, take out unnecessary toys and items that don't fit your theme. You may choose to temporarily put them away in a closet (a bonus is that when they come out, they'll feel new again!). Then, put up your decor and place any new toys or items around the room.
Explore the new space with your child
Now, the real fun can start! Explore the space with your child, labeling items she is interested in and using simple language to talk about what she sees. If she picks up a zebra, you might say "It's a zebra! The zebra has stripes, see? Look, your shirt has stripes, too!" Read a story or two fitting your theme over the next month to help your child continue to think about the new vocabulary and concepts he is learning about. Continue to spend some time interacting with your child and telling her about the theme. As she becomes more comfortable, step back and let her play on her own a bit- this is often how children put new language into practice.
Your challenge is to try this at home in the next couple of months. If it feels like too much work, think about something you might be decorating for already- for instance, Halloween is just around the corner. How can you deliberately turn your home (or part of it) into a fun new area for your child to interact with?
Then, let us know how it went!