The Explore Room | Learning through exploration

Joanna Ballentine, of Irrelephant Blog, invited us into her home for a special tour of their "Explore Room" - a space full of imaginative learning for her preschool aged children.


Joanna -

"For the preschool age, I believe their main objective everyday should be to learn how to explore our world. As parents we should lead our littles to desire to learn and also have fun, because those two words can be in the same sentence. Not every parent will homeschool, but whether we want to or not, we are teachers. A toddler is nothing but a messy sponge that absorbs information every second of every day. How do we take advantage of this? How do we support our children’s creativity that can foster through the beyond years?

Most homes with children are loaded with toys. Bright, plastic and noisy. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a love and hate relationship with them. We love them because kids can be kept entertained for a short while but hate them because they’re ruining our home esthetic. Am I right?! But lets go back to what I said about toys keeping your kids entertained for a short while. Toys, for the most part, only entertain and for a short while.

For most children their imagination will peak by age 6 then decline with the start of formal school settings. When I learned this, I was instantly saddened at the possibility of my children losing their greatest ability. I started to wonder how I could nurture their imagination by teaching them how to love learning but by also protecting their joy of play.

About a year ago, we created our “explore room” mainly to keep all of our stuff in one place but also to give the kids a place to specifically come discover.  Our explore room is full of findings we bring home from our adventures like pinecones, leaves, nests and rocks. We learned counting through shells and learned the cycle of life through a birds nest. There are puzzles, magnets, kinetic sand, paints and construction paper. Everything there ready for them to come and create. We build castles and habitats for their little toy animals. My 3 year old boy loves to play “battle” with his giant squid and sperm whale. Books fill the shelves and the world's flags line our walls. They have complete freedom to come and go and for the most part, they choose this room over their few toys. I’ve learned that they actually now get bored with their toys quicker because most of the time they are linear, one job and done.

We’re not against plastic toys by any means, I mean, we have them! But what I learned about giving your child things that make them work for a story line in their play is that that one object can literally be anything dozen of times. This also helps keep the room simple and decluttered. This essentially teaches them to play through creative problem solving, because now they have to find a new way to play with their magnet blocks or play-doh.

I hope this explore room teaches a love to find new ways of learning and a desire to explore."


Gotta run! Off to declutter and change all the things in our playroom. - Sunny

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