As the summer starts edging towards autumn (and it really does feel like that here in London – sunny days are sandwiched between days of pouring rain, the blackberries in our garden are coming to an end, and the apples on our neighbour’s tree are ripening) my thoughts are inevitably turning to planning for the months ahead – definitely a habit entrenched from years in education when September meant new stationary, uniform, and back to classes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our rhythm and what I want it to look like come autumn, as I feel a bit like I’ve lost my way during summer. I’ve also been thinking hard about Frida’s work space (our “homeschool space”, if you will – AKA half of our dining room) and how it’s working for her following a recent developmental leap. I’ve made a few changes recently, mainly focused around making her art materials more accessible and appealing, and allowing her to be more independent whilst caring for herself and our home.

The first change is that I have brought Frida’s table into the middle of her work space, rather than leaving it tucked in next to the chalk-board. Already I’ve observed that she is using it more – and using the chalk-board more, too, as it’s more visible now.

We have also attached a spice rack to the side of the table to store her crayons and coloured pencils, so that these are convenient and accessible for her. Another spice rack has been painted with chalk-board paint and attached to the wall to store Frida’s chalks.

I have also created a little art material storage area, by using a tiny £5 IKEA bathroom shelf unit. These are not all our art materials, but having everything out would be overwhelming for a 28 month old, and her parents! I have included some finger paints (in dispenser jars to make it easier for Frida to help herself, alongside ramekins for the paint), paintbrushes, watercolours (a review on these coming up soon), glitter glue pens, marker pens, and modelling clay. Other materials I will rotate in or bring out when she will use them. Paper sits tucked behind these materials, flush to her shelves.

Finally, I have recently added a little practical-life area to the room, with a child-sized clothes’ horse, a basket of pegs, a hook for a tea-towel, a water dispenser, and a basket of cleaning cloths, cut down for little hands. Next to this area is a stand with her cleaning tools and apron.

Her work shelves remain much the same as I only updated them a few weeks ago, though since then I’ve made a couple of tweaks after observing Frida (you can read about what was on them at the beginning of the month here).

There are no toys in this space, unless you count things like puzzles and jigsaws, as I have decided to consciously separate imaginative play from her work space. This works well for us.

As you’ll have noticed, in this space Frida currently has access to paint pumps, water, and art materials. I want to stress two things, in case you’re reading this post thinking “oh I could never give my child free access to those things, my child would make such a mess and I would find it so stressful”.

1) Frida DOES make a mess. Some of it accidental – she is two, and she’s learning! – and a lot of it intentional – it’s exciting to see what happens when a glass overflows! Frida is also an a developmental stage where she needs to push and test boundaries, which can be a wild combination when mixed with free access to messy things.

2) I find it really hard to let go. I am not one of those amazing people who can just relax, laugh about the chaos, and sit back. I am really working hard to to be more relaxed about mess and spills, and trust in Frida’s learning process, but it’s not easy for me or at all natural. I’m trying my best to not interfere too much but my goodness it’s difficult for me.

However, despite this, I think it’s so important that Frida have independent access to these things. Mess provides an opportunity for modelling and/or practising tidying. Spills provide a wonderful practical life lesson in cleaning and wiping. I want Frida to know that I trust her ability to use these things in the correct manner (eventually, when the novelty wears off and the repeated lessons sink in – she’s got a long time to learn) and I think the positives wholly outweigh any minor stress on my part around mess. In fact, I think it’s a good learning opportunity for me, too.

I am sure this space will see many more iterations as Frida grows and her needs change, but right now I hope that these simple changes will make her space work even better for her.

Does anyone else feel like they are constantly changing their spaces around? How much freedom do you give your children around “messy” stuff – and how do you stay hands-off, trusting the process and allowing your children to make a mess? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Posted by:Eloise R

8 replies on “Our homeschool space update – art, work, and practical life

  1. I can so relate to your post, we definitely don’t have enough space to separate kids work and play area from living area so I also feel that I’m constantly changing something to make it work. Also it feels it was easier to be patient and hands off when my girl was younger, there was mess but somehow smaller. Now her ideas have become biger and bolder and so has the mess…

  2. I really love your section about allowing your child the space to explore autonomously, and how mess or no mess it’s important to attempt to let go. I recently gave in and added real paints to my son’s art corner (previously he just had easy access to those little tiny water based paint palettes). It is a huge mess, but his level of engagement and enthusiasm for learning about colors and figures has skyrocketed. 🙂

    Anyway thanks for sharing! Loved this post!

  3. Hello, loved this post, especially your honesty! I find it so hard when I see all these posts with little kids having free access to paints and such, I totally see the benefits but also see myself just getting totally stressed out! Our house belongs to our church so I don’t want to mess it up and that combined with my own very mild sensory issues surrounding anything wet and I start to get a bit anxious. But your honesty has helped me feel a bit more positive about it, that’s its normal for kids to make a mess and test things (my little would just pump ALL the paint out) and its normal to find it difficult, and possible for it still to be a positive experience for everyone! 😂

    1. It’s hard to balance the stress with the potential benefits isn’t it? I think each family will have a different balance! Owning our home definitely allows me to feel more relaxed though, as the inevitable stains / marks only affect us. So I really feel for you! Do what you’re comfortable with – but yes, I think it is really normal to want to make a mess! Even now Frida mainly uses the paints “correctly” but sometimes will just cover her hands in paint…. xx

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