One of the ways I'm doing that is by reading blogs by home-schoolers and Montessori sites as well. In one of these blogs, I came across the term "prepared environment." Which essentially is creating a purposeful place for learning and creativity to flourish.
So I created this space for the boys! I love it! It's not perfect but it is so much better than what I had been doing before. I wish I had a better "before" photo but this gives you an idea, if you can look beyond the cute boys to the line up of dressers and shelves behind them.
Two dressers and a shelf unit with an open storage "bag" on top. That's where all their toys were kept and they could never find a thing! Mind you, they were happy! They love playing with bits and bobs, these boys are not picky and don't know about Lego sets that build cars or sets of ninja turtles or whatever the latest is. You should see what they make with bottle caps and sticks and old bicycle rims!
But I wanted to create a more prepared environment for learning and developmental play. A visiting team is bringing me educational toys and games I have read about and will allow me to rotate what is on their bookshelf.
But now when the boys want to play cars, they select the basket of cars and have lots of options to play with instead of rooting through five different drawers and three shelves for the cars they want. I am enjoying watching them interact with the things much more than in the past when they just picked up one thing, played a bit and put it down and pulled out the next.
They have magnetic letters, legos, Mr. Potato Head (a favorite), Magnetix, figurines, animals, cars and then a miscellaneous box that has the previously favorite toys (toy cell phone, view finder, etc.) but those are rarely selected now. I also have a container with drawing materials that they can select and draw or color. Previously, during time for kids in to just play, I wouldn't normally have offered that option too often as I would have to collect all the things for it. This way, it's all together and they can choose it - and they do!
I think this is also going to help them learn to take care of things better. There's a place for everything, all the parts to Mr. Potato Head need to be put back in the box, etc. When they come in for free play, they get to select one toy at a time, when they want to play with something different, they have to put away what they were playing with first. This has been so helpful in them learning to take proper care of things.
Paulito chooses the magnetic letters and Vicente loves Potato Head!
The guitar is a fan favorite and I suspect always will be!