In the last post, we decided to re-imagine the different spaces in our houses. Not just for our children, but for ourselves as we continue on with school closures. The change in schedule with less freedom than usual can be discouraging and cause us to become restless. The hopeful part, is that as parents, and residents of our homes, we have much more power to define the space than we think.
In Child and Youth Care, we call the therapeutic environment the 'milieu'. In our practice we learn to use the space to be as effective to our purpose as we can. If we are hoping for a relaxing, open atmosphere, we take into consideration how we can use the space to give that feeling to clients. Moving furniture, adding or removing artwork to the walls, how much or how little space we use, even the sounds and temperature of a space. Needless to say, we think about the environment around us a lot. With this post, we want to continue to share some inspiration or ideas for you to re-think some spaces in your home where you've already spent last week, and will continue to be in this week.
Let's start with the upstairs! Or if you live in an apartment or bungalow; the bedrooms. Depending on how you use the other spaces in your home, a bedroom can be used as a space o individuality, or solace, or maybe just a space to relax before sleeping. Either way there is so much opportunity in the bedrooms to change the atmosphere!
Re-Organize it all: Usually, re-organizing the furniture and accessories in a room is such a time-consuming task that isn't very high on the priority list. These days, it seems we're all looking for activities that take MORE time. Which is why it may be a great time to help your children re-organize their rooms! This helps build a lot of skills from home as well. Responsibility over their space, task persistence, communication, and planning.
You could take the time to draw out a plan with your child, and then discuss a plan of how to make it happen. Here's the magical thing about the unlimited time we have right now...it's okay if they don't stay interested all day long, or even to finish the task. It just means you can take more time tomorrow to get some re-organizing done again. Re-organizing the space together means you have the time and energy to make a positive experience out of it! If you want to use the time to unclutter, go for it! You want to keep the organized mess and just move the furniture around, go for it! If you want to find a bin to put all the clutter in to sort later, go for that too! Really how you re-organize is up to you, but the change of pace from high-stimulating, quick paced games and shows may be a game changer for you and your child. Not to mention a new space can leave your child more engaged/interested in their bedrooms despite spending a lot more time in there than usual.
Make your own safe spaces: With so much time together, creating your own safe spaces can be a fun activity that's impact benefits your family in the long term. Essentially, a "safe space" allows the each person to have a space in the house that is theirs to be alone in, and to do whatever they want with. While all the time spent together can be a blessing in the chaos, it doesn't mean that as humans, we don't need time alone. Each family member can choose a space in their room to dedicate as their 'safe space'. This can be a corner, a closet, a circle created out of blankets, anything! In this space that's created, children can choose their favorite toys, books, or drawing, and fill the space with things that make them happy. The most essential element to have 'safe spaces' be successful as a family, is to respect them. Letting each member of the family truly be alone when in this space, without expectation will make this space feel like a solace when they need it. Additionally, not putting our expectations on what this space should be is crucial.
If someone wants their space to be messy or unorganized, respecting that even when it's time to clean the rest of their room is what's going to keep that a safe space. Parents can create 'safe spaces' too, we all know parents need these more than anyone! It can have your favorite books, your laptop to watch your own movies on in moments of quiet, or some photo albums. We wish we could go more into safe spaces here, but please reach out if you're interested to know more about how to add this element to your home and how to make it as engaging as possible for the whole family!
Have a family slumber party: One of the most off-setting routines during this whole crisis is probably bedtimes. As adults, we know our sleep schedule and over-sleeping and under-sleeping and naps have thrown us right off, we can't imagine how this may be effecting some your children or yourselves. Part of this whole re-thinking process is trying to find ways to feel good and get through all these new changes. One way you could try to do this with bedtimes and sleep schedules is to have weekly family sleepovers. This can look different for every family. Maybe the siblings all really want their own time, and they have a sleepover all together in one room once a week.
Maybe they're allowed snacks in their bedroom (if that's a special treat in your household), or allowed to watch 2 movies before bed instead of one. If you as a parent are craving more connection or laid back feelings to this time of day, you might want to try joining the sleepover yourself, and make it a family slumber party! Everyone can make a bed on the floor, maybe you move some video games to try together into the bedroom for this special weekly treat, and then you all watch a movie together, read some stories as a family, eat some extra popcorn and sleep whenever you all get tired. Sometimes the idea of allowing children to stay up late can seem stressful, or not 'right'. But, with having an endless weekend right now, you may find a weekly laid back night helps you find some joy and rest in the lack of bedtimes. Additionally, having a weekly sleepover, may help you to manage the rest of the days of the week then the battles are chosen to 'stay up just a little later'. Knowing a planned special night is coming may help children buy into following some routine the other days of the week during this time.
If you don't have a basement, you can try to apply these ideas to any space in your home that may have extra storage, extra space, or extra stuff. The basement for many homes is used for practical storage or chores such as laundry. When you first move in, there are so many good intentions for the basement, but the more a family and home grows, the more a basement can end up holding. For some, basements include extra rooms, indoor gym equipment, or other homely accessories. When re-thinking the basement, there are a variety of strategies to try:
Take some time to focus on chores: Whether your basement is finished or not, you may find some extra joy in using this space with a purpose over the next few weeks. Fun fact, according to developmental studies, it's healthy and natural for children to want to take part in everyday household routines. It's like when you see toddlers using a play kitchen to 'make dinner', but the best part is you don't need any extra toys or games to tap into this natural instinct. You can fold laundry with them, unclutter a room, or part of the basement, and more with your family in this space. For those who may have some organizing or cleaning they want to do in the basement, you can invite your children to join you while you unclutter.
This can be fun for them and you, as you take the time to remember and talk about all the forgotten objects you find, and decide to keep or throw them away. If you have a more finished or already organized basement, you can purpose this space for chores and responsibility together as a family. Take the time to fold the laundry downstairs, or if you have any Do-It-Yourself, or Fix-It projects, invite your children to try these together with you in the basement. The best part about setting aside this space for purpose, is that if things get stressful, impatient, or simply boring, you don't have to commit or give up. You can take breaks in other areas of your home, come back to the project together or on your own when you're ready. If you find as a parent you're craving some extra space for yourself, purposing the space for chores can also help to allow some solitude for those moments when you or your child don't want to work on projects together.
Have a treasure hunt: If your basement is finished, you can try this by hiding items yourselves, and if your basement is in need of some uncluttering, you can use this inspiration to enjoy a fun activity with your children while you clean and organize. When you think about it, a basement really is a room full of treasures, it's items you believed valuable enough to hold onto a little while longer, or forever. They hold memories, feelings, and use to your household. If you're looking for a way to engage your children on boring days while being productive you may find it helpful to call your uncluttering a treasure hunt.
Think back to important and cool items you remember storing down there: old photo albums, toys from your child's infancy, toolboxes, camping supplies, anything you think would be a cool find for you or your family. You can list these items or write them down, and ask your child if they want to take some time to hunt for treasures in the basement. There are many ways to show these items worth to your child. Perhaps if you can find that old tent, you can all pretend to camp in the backyard the next day, maybe if you find some old toys, your child can choose one to bring up to their current toy box, or even decide as a family, everyone who chooses 5 items to get rid of can cash those 5 items in for 5 smarties. If you wanted to ride the wave out, you can help your children create their best make-shift pirate costumes before they help 'plunder' the basement. Really anything that helps bring joy or magic to this task can be helpful in having it be a fun and positive experience! Once you're down there, you can enjoy exploring and uncluttering the space. You can revel in the memories of what you find, share stories with your children and more. You may even find they find items of interest of their own and end up being sparked to imagine their own play with them, and they enjoy some new play ideas while you get a chance to clean or organize a space.
Do you have any more ideas about how to re-invent these two spaces? What have you already tried and done? What has brought you new perspectives on these spaces? We'd love to hear from you!