10 Essential Elements for Toddler Environments - Indoor Edition


Okay, it's been a little while since we started this series of blog posts... but we are back! And this time, it's indoor environments for toddlers. 

1. Loose Parts. I feel like this might end up on every list! Loose parts aren't just pipes and planks - they can be smaller things too, and the indoor environment can be a great place to explore with loose parts. One of my favourite loose parts for toddlers was a whole box of laminate samples from a kitchen supply company - endless fun!

2. Scarves and fabric. In addition to smaller scarves, large pieces of fabric (different colours, textures and weights) are great for supporting schema such as enveloping, and for children to build cubbies, wrap dolls, hide under... the possibilities are wide open. 

3. Dramatic play props. Nothing says toddler like a pretend phone, an old set of keys and a hand bag in the dress up box. Toddlers love to act out various scenarios to help them make sense of the world around them. Have baskets and boxes filled with mixed props readily available. We don't have to make our dramatic play spaces so rigid (one week it's a cafe, the next a doctors surgery), instead look at the concept of deconstructed role play, and simply provide the props. 

4. Books. Books are not only great for developing language and literacy skills, but for connection. Have you ever had a toddler climb into your lap with a book and demand that you read it again and again? When my son was a toddler I swear I read the book "Owl Babies" 47639 times. It got to the point where he knew that story word for word! We want to have a variety of books easily accessible to children. Books with repetition typically resonate with toddlers! 

5. Cushions and Ottomans/Pouffes. Places to be cosy, places to roll, places to safely climb, places to sit, places to use as a playspace! Have a wide variety of these in your space. 

6.Baskets, Boxes and Bags. Toddlers love filling and emptying. Don't fight it - give them things to fill and empty with! Baskets of all shapes and sizes - some with handles for transporting. Boxes provide endless fun - not just for filling and emptying, but for climbing in, for building cubbies, for drawing and painting on. We already touched on bags a little in relation to dramatic play props, but having a coat stand with different types of bags on it can lead to some interesting play and exploration. 

7. Art supplies. All kinds of art supplies! Paint, crayons and chalk are some of the favourites of toddlers as they are easy to manipulate in small hands. Toddlers need large surfaces to work on (easels, boxes, huge sheets of paper) as they are still controlling their motor skills and will often make large movements. 

8. Wagons, prams and things with wheels. Toddlers love pushing themselves, their belongings, and their friends around! Give them things that they can fill up and push around such as a wagon, dolls pram or dump truck. 

9. Opportunities for sensory exploration. We know that young children learn through sensory motor exploration. This doesn't just mean playdough or goop though. Sensory experiences we can bring indoors could include water play, clay, sand, finger painting, light play with a light box or overhead projector. 

10. Timber blocks and additions. Stick with traditional timber blocks, but also consider adding extras like: cars, animals, loose parts, fabric, people. Toddlers are beginning to create worlds and to act out different types of play - they need simple props that are freely chosen. 

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