Monday, June 15, 2015

Small Spaces: Our learning corner

Hello! Today it's our turn on the "Small Spaces" Blog train, where you get to have a glimpse into various real spaces designed for children. Since we homeschool, the boys are home for a large part of the week. This means that our home spaces have to work very hard for us! You've probably read about our reading corner, and have seen part of the boys' bedroom… and today we'll be showing you the learning corner that we've carved out of our entryway. 

The entryway was actually corridor space, which the previous owner bought over. This used to act like our "garage", and there used to be shoes, balls and umbrellas scattered all over (you can see part of the mess in the before photo!). The space was doing nothing much, aside from being a catch-all for all our outdoor stuff (like the boys' bikes and scooters), so I decided to clean it up and use it as a learning corner. Here's how it looked like before, and after the clean-up:

We have a bench in the entry that nobody sat on (because it was usually piled high with stuff!), and I cleaned it up and used it as a nature table for the kids:

The table contains natural materials that the boys' get to play with: tree blocks (which the boys' Ah Kong kindly helped to saw for us), pebbles, as well as various things that the kids pick up on their walks. I use all sorts of wooden bowls, baskets and recycled fruit containers to keep these things organized. Sometimes, we throw in various animal figures (from these Toobs) for the kids to play with. 

Part of the nature table is lined with faux grass, which we purchased from Daiso. It gives an added sensory element to their play.

Their clay salamanders. More details here

To the right of the bench is a larger basket where we store their balls, as well as more nature materials. The baskets are from Daiso, as well as from the market at Sungei Road (which is a gem resource for baskets!)

Above the nature table is a picture ledge from Ikea, which we use to hold all the boys' smaller natural materials, as well as their magnifying glasses. The boys love picking all sorts of fruit and leaves and what not when they go on walks, and we sort and keep the stuff that doesn't decompose easily. These are held in Rajtan spice jars (from Ikea), as well as empty baby food jars (we sometimes use baby food when we travel, and I save the jars). 

Some of their nature-related artwork is displayed above the shelf, such as Junior J's painting of beetles, Lil J's veggie stamping on canvas (the canvas is from Daiso), and the butterflies that they've made. I also put up some vintage educational postcards on plant parts (from here). 

There was space to the right of the nature table, which I used to display the boys' aquariums: cardboard pieces painted to look like the sea, containing various sea creatures which they've made. We add new creatures to their aquariums occasionally. The toddler loves looking at these!

Top aquarium by Junior J, bottom aquarium by Lil J. Junior J's one even has a key!

Below the aquariums is an old Ikea frame that I've repurposed to allow us to display pictures. I'm planning to use this to introduce artists and their paintings to the kids, but for now they will just hold postcards from various parts of the world. Making this was easy: I just cut twine and pasted it to the back of the base of the frame using washi tape. The postcards are held up by wooden pegs from Daiso. 

We managed to squeeze in our sensory bin below that display. This is a Torkis clothes basket from Ikea, and by far the best container I've found for sensory play. It's tall enough to reduce spillage, and large enough to give all 3 enough space to play. I've found most other trays too shallow or small, or much too large. Best of all, it costs less than $8!

Right now the bin is empty, save for some tools that were from the kit from My Messy Box

The wall opposite to the nature table was empty, so I put up an adhesive blackboard strip (from Joli Petite). We have a blackboard wall in the house, but the boys mainly get to doodle on this one instead, as it is "outside" the house. This way, the dust gets more or less contained.

The boys use both regular chalk, as well as sidewalk chalk. I love the colors of the sidewalk chalk, as well as how these are nice and thick (which means they do not break easily!). This mini crate from Daiso is perfect for holding the chalk. 

On the side opposite to the main door is our mini garden, which sits atop of our shoe cabinet. The boys help to water the plants, but this is another area I would like to tidy and do up! Above the garden is our enamel tray display, which greets us when we enter the house (you can read more about this display here). 

All in all, this learning space is working well for us. Since this is "outside", the mess is more or less contained, which means I don't need to fret so much about dust (from the chalkboard) and sand (from the sensory bin). Also, the boys are trained to leave any natural materials at the nature table and not bring them indoors, so we are not so worried about soil and bugs getting into the house. There are just two drawbacks though. While this area gets plenty of sunlight, it also means it can get pretty hot, and we are thinking of installing a fan here. That aside, since this is just inside the main door, the boys sometimes get so distracted playing here that we can't get them to leave the house when we are headed out! 


This post is part of the "Small Spaces" series that is hosted by this blog. Please click the button below to take a look at more children's spaces!

Next on the blog is Danessa Foo from PrayerFull Mum. Danessa is enjoying the new season in her life as a Stay-at-Home Mum, now that they are back in their homeland Singapore after being overseas for 2 years. Head over to her blog tomorrow, to find out how Danessa dealt with smaller spaces in her new "old" house after enjoying spacious living in America.

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  1. I love reading your blog. It's informative and you creatively put things together for the children to learn and play. Brilliant!

    1. Les Pommes: Thanks! It was quite a squeeze to put everything in the entryway, but the kids enjoy playing here!

  2. The repurposed frame to hold up postcards is a great idea. Very nice and neat space.

    1. Susan: Thanks! It's usually not so neat, cos they will be messing about here… I usually have to do a weekly cleanup to clear leaf litter! ;)

  3. I love your nature table! Really brilliant idea. I can see myself playing there as an adult too. My kids love picking up stuff as well but daddy makes them throw it away even before we go into the car/house... (he's a rather ocd person!).

    1. Cherie: I think picking up stuff is natural to kids! I have to admit the car is a mess thanks to that habit!

  4. What a beautiful learning area! You sure don't need a lot of space to be creative! Awesome use of space. I remember laughing when you told me you buy GRASS. I now see what it is for!!

    1. Adora: Hahahaha! Well, look who is now buying fake plants eh? ;)

  5. Beautiful. We only used sticks for crafts by far. And most of the time all they picked away. Did you sort of clean them before u display them? We have many origami insects and some crafts the boy took home from school on our walls though. From living to bedrooms. It's really a good idea to put them at one location and call it the natural corner! Thank you very much.

    1. Anon: We only gave the tree blocks a good wash once. Aside from that, most materials we do not wash, unless they were muddy to begin with. The kids have to wash their hands after playing there!



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