This took me by surprise at first. It was not what I was expecting - although I am not sure what I was expecting.
Empty space is not something I am unused to... at Filosofiska we have been careful not to just fill the space/rooms up... but to observe and listen to the children to see how we can best meet their needs... which has meant that rooms have slwoly been added to, and dividing walls constructed - one room has been expanded.
There are two rooms that are "empty" in a similar way to what I saw in Iceland - and both these rooms are used for nap/rest time, which is also something I observed in Iceland with the shelves of matresses high up.
Another thing I noticed was the calmness of the children... and I was not alone in this observation... I overheard many others saying the exact same thing.
Is there a connection here?
Could it be that the emptiness of the rooms leave space for the children, their play and their ideas? Does a room filled with things albeit for inspiration, to offer choice etc etc... does all of this fill some of the space - the children's creative space?
Have we got it wrong? Does offering children a myriad of possibilities mean that we are allowing the children to be competent to be creative... or are we spoon feeding them... and therefore not giving them the creative freedom that they are capable of?
When I observe the children at my setting there is never any lack of play in those empty rooms... quite the opposite - those rooms are always filled with play. And also empty rooms also means that children can get to do one of their favourite past times... transporting toys and things from one place to another...
Empty rooms also mean that you can fill them with other things... like light and sound... and movement... which can be hard to do when the room is already full.
I would like to point out that all of these preschools had well stocked storage rooms, where they kept toys and equipment so that it could be rotated... to meet the needs and interests of the children, as well as challenge them.
If everything is always out then maybe they become invisible? Like the information signs put up for parents... every preschool I have every worked at has had that "problem" where parents simply do not see the information notices... and you start using techniques like hanging them from the ceiling so they crash into them, or changing the colour of them all the time... but parents are busy and many don't seem to always take notice of them... maybe in much the same way the children are always busy at play that they don't always notice everything that is out... and therefore it just becomes a kind of "background noise" or "visual filler" - and taking up space that could be used more creatively...
There are some images below...
|this was all the furniture in this room (Aðalþing Playschool)|
|empty rooms can be filled with construction materials and with light and sound (Aðalþing Playschool)|
|empty spaces... you can see in the top right that a table is being reconstructed for the room, after the Christmas party (Stekkjarás Playschool)|
|this was the only shelving in the room...the rest of it was empty. (I need to find the paper, so that I can write the name of the preschool here in the small seaside village we visited... will be back to edit here)|
So what do YOU think?
Would you dare to go bare? To allow the children's play to fill your setting rather than things?
What do we really need to support children's learning through play? And what is superfluous?