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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

A Space for Children to Call Their Own

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

I visited an Art room at school yesterday, and I didn’t want to leave; it was joyfully cluttered, over-flowing with activity, and it smelled of warm crayons. The Art teacher looked so comfortable in her paint-splattered smock, and she welcomed me with such a big smile, that it made me feel like a child again.  Our children’s lives are far more controlled now; school days start at 7:58am (not 7:59am, or you’ll get a tardy slip), they are allowed exactly 1 1/2 minutes to go to the bathroom, and they are driven to sports activities that mandate entire days to practice for a game that is, well, just a game…So, when I walked into this colorful room, it really made me smile. Don’t get me wrong, I know that we all do our best, and we need rules, but we also need permission to be ourselves, at our own pace. The Art room is that place in school; a perfect oasis of mess, in a ridiculously formal environment.  It’s not just about creativity, it’s about having the freedom to discover what makes you tick, and not to be controlled all of the time. Children need to figure out who they are in-between the activities. Some crave organization, with straight, printed labels, and a place for everything, while others like to grow a mountain of stuff that crawls towards you when you open the door. Many want their favorite color from top to bottom, and others just want a place to play with toys or listen to music. (Strangely enough, they all seem to know where everything is).  I am a firm believer in giving children some place to be themselves, and letting them own who they are. And, I think their bedroom is often the easiest place for us to give up control. If I am decorating a child’s (or teen) room, my biggest goal is for them to know that it is about them, and I want to create a space that they will love. Here are some ways to do the same thing with your child: – Pretend to interview them. – Take notes as they talk, really listen, and try not to judge their answers.  – Ask them what they love about their room the most. – What would they get rid of if they could?  – What is missing? And, why do they want that in their room? – Ask them to draw, or write, about their most perfect room. Afterwards, take some time to read over your notes. Decide what you are willing to do, and why/why not? Be as open-minded as you can be. Consider alternatives to what they want. Wait a few days (this shows them that you really do care) and then write your own list. – Offer solutions eg. more, or less, storage and organization, removing an old piece of furniture, storing childhood toys, creating a wall for posting notes and thoughts, painting everything a different color, getting new curtains, having a more grown-up theme etc). – Consider giving them a small budget, and taking them shopping for some new things. Let them  spend it any way they want. – Don’t promise them things you have no intention of doing. – Plan how, and when, you will both work on the solutions. Schedule a start date. – Explain what you cannot/won’t allow (and why).  I know this might seem like a lot of work, but if we give them the time, and show them that we really care, they will learn how to embrace who they are, and create a place that they will always love… Photograph of a Girl on a Swing, by the talented designer, Kate Jackson

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