Rarely in schools to kids have opportunities of space away from teachers breathing down their necks. Coves, nooks, blankets, tapestries, and crannies away from adult line of vision, improves the autonomy for kids in the classroom. After all, how can we ever-built trusting relationships if we don’t honor or provide adequate space for children to find some genuine time alone?
Before moving to Seattle, I worked a few odd jobs at two separate early- childhood centers. At each place staff and the administration insisted that there be scheduled bathroom time, and “run herd” over them as if they would rip out the plumbing in the walls, out of an adults line of sight. At the independent school I now work at, we trust the children to come and go to the bathroom at their own pace and rhythm, and although we may check to reassure a three year old is not stuck on the can, they generally manage to go on their own – when natural calls.
And in the classroom, again the privacy of kids is an important human need we value as teachers who organize the classroom. A corner can be set aside as a comfy spot with a draped tapestry – then there are blankets for creating a fort or provide warmth for snuggling. A cubby that a child can climb in and out of without any materials jammed inside, also acts as a quite space to left with one’s imagination.
If a classroom has a loft, this area can be a prime spot for creating a nesting area with all the necessary pillows and blankets, for “fort building 101.” Areas under stairs can also suite the purpose of tucking away from the foot traffic of other preschoolers or teachers.
Outside a semi-tractor tire, partially anchored into the ground makes a fine portal for privacy. I watched kids nestle inside a semi-trailer tire to stay dry on a rainy day and to stay cool on a sunny day. And since the inside of a tire has a conical shaped walls, spider man or women can climb their selves to the upper rim, and “hang- out.”
On days where the sky does not fall like a waterfall in Seattle, we often build spaces for tucking away. A big tarp along with tires to stack around the edges provides all the material you need for a fort. And if these material are not available dive into your nearest commercial dumpster and pull out the biggest box you can find. An empty box standing outside can accommodate a pack of squirming preschoolers, with the option to paint and to cut out windows and doors for the preschool “box house.”
When it comes to providing private spaces inside and outside the classroom, just take the time to put our big adult heads into those small spaces that would intrigue the imagination of toddler or preschooler. Start by being inventive with the materials around you and incorporate more as your private spaces expand. Trust builds when kids our allowed the private space to act out their interpretation of the world, free from being observed by nagging adults or their over whelming peers at times. They need this time to their selves as any other breathing adult would. Shape the classroom by designating at least one private spot where an adult cannot access, without blowing out a back or straining their knees. And this is the way it should be, if we our creating an environment with kids in mind.