Arranging Your Child's Environments for Optimal Success
Cutting edge strategies for behavior improvement while creating successful spaces for your chiild
In today's world, where there are so many outside influences to distract children from being successful and calm, we need to utilize every possible strategy in order to help our children succeed. We now know that the surroundings of a child, or an adult for that matter, strongly influence how that person feels, thinks and behaves. Our society is just becoming aware of how much influence a child's environment has on mood an general development.
There are numerous studies showing the influence of a child's environments on their mental and physical health. I have combined design principles and research-based behavioral tips that are easy to implement and will make a difference in your child's behavior.
Research and Trends
More and more parents and children seem to be stretched thin, racing from school to one activity after another. In an article by Randy White called "Young Children's Relationship with Nature:Its Importance to Children's Development & Earth's Future," White talks about how little physical interaction with nature and unstructured play children are exposed to today. He says, "Not only does the loss of children's outdoor play and contact with the natural world negatively impact the growth and development of the whole child and the acquisition of knowledge, it also sets the stage for a continuing loss of the natural environment. The alternative to future generations who value nature is the continued exploitation and destruction of nature. Research is clearly substantiating that an affinity to and love of nature, along with positive environmental ethic, grow out of children's regular contact with and play in the natural world." Therefore, it is important to seek ways to bring nature into your child's environment because it created a sense of balance and is very grounding. Experiencing nature will help children learn to value it and hopefully, preserve it for future generations.
There are several things that can be done right away. You can start with your child's bedroom. Add natural elements like wood furniture, clay pots, real plants, a small aquarium with a turtle, and toys made from wood or the colors brown and green. These natural elements and colors will also help to offset toxic synthetic and plastic materials that exist in so many children's toys and equipment.
A trend in the last few years is to schedule children in every extra curricular activity possible: soccer, dance, football, gymnastics, girl scouts, etc. What that means for a family is that three or four nights out of the week are filled with after-school activities. Children today are exhausted and pushed to their limit. Their balance is completely thrown off, and this may cause children to seem irritable and unmanageable, In reality, what they need is some down-time and unscheduled play. In 2006, The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement that says what children really need for healthy development is more good old-fashioned playtime. Spontaneous, free play whether it is chasing butterflies, playing with "true toys" like blocks and dolls, or just romping on the floor with mom and dad is often sacrificed in crazy scheduling. Parents need to understand what children need to grow up healthy, establishing family time, unscheduled time, and creative time is critical today.
This same study urges parents to eliminate all television before the age of two. Television acts like a microwave and wires the brain toward aggression and attention deficit. The American Association of Pediatrics, in fact, urges parents to engage in natural activities like walking and playing outside, hiking, working in the garden, riding bikes and other activities that allow your child unscheduled time to explore in nature will help their behavior develop in a positive way.
Research Trends on Lighting
Natural light is also important for the success of children today in school. The Heschong Mahone Group (1999) conducted a study "Daylight in Schools." In an investigation into the relationship between daylight and human performance in Seattle and Fort Collins, students in classrooms with the most daylight had test scores 7 to 18 percent higher than students in classrooms with the least daylight. The overall conclusion after studying more than 2,000 classrooms was, "there is a valid and predictable effect of daylight on student performance." Here are some important things you can do to make sure your child benefits from natural lighting:
1. Make sure your child's blinds/shutters are open each morning
2. Locate a desk or play table near a window
3. If your home is on the darker side, use a full spectrum light bulb that emulates natural light
4. Weather permitting, sit outside at a table to read, work on school homework, or do other projects.
5. Take a walk and brainstorm on ideas for projects, homework or problem solve when appropriate.
Research Trends on Materials and Textures
Materials and textures are really important as well. There are actual studies showing that students learn better if their room has carpeting. Test scores were higher for children with carpeted classrooms in a study by Kenneth C. Tanner and Ann Langford on "The Importance of Interior Design Elements as They Relate to Student Outcomes" (2003) The study reports that there are links between floor coverings and student achievement. In all of t he classrooms studies, children in carpeted classrooms scored higher in reading, math, and on "total test batteries" than students that had classrooms with hardwood or tiled floors. One of the reasons they found was that carpeted classrooms absorbed sound better, which might allow greater concentration. Even a large carpet sample or heavy throw rug will help better learning take place.
In addition, carpet is important for children's bedrooms. When a child wakes up and steps onto a carpeted surface, it can create a sense of security because of the soft, nurturing surface. Children can also sit, read, and play on their carpets.
Furniture can be reassuring and nurturing as well. When you are choosing types of furniture, remember that despite the latest and greatest trends, wood is always the best choice. It is natural, solid and sturdy. Having a bed made of solid wood is excellent for strong support. According to Feng Shui principles, materials like metal or iron are not the best materials to use because the metals give off uneven, cold energy. Rounded edges are the best for furniture corners because it created a softer energy flow in the room. Pointed corners create sharp angles and are not as safe. Be aware of this when you are choosing furniture especially dressers, side tables and play tables.
Research and Trends on Electronics
Eliminate electronics in your children's bedroom, especially television sets and computers. The New York Times published an article on March 4, 2008 that estimated half of the children today have television sets in their rooms. As a result, children were suffering at school and having health issues, "Children with bedroom TVs score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems.
Another reason not to have a computer located in your child's room is that it is just not safe. Here is a huge eye opener: 71% of teens have established on-line profiles and 62% of teens agree that they do things online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about, according to the "Cox Communications Survey" (March 2007), and the "American Life Project" (2007).
The best thing to do at bedtime is to keep bedtime routines calm, slow and consistent. Give children a protein snack before bed to help stabilize their blood sugar. Good ideas are crackers and cheese, peanut butter or a slice of turkey. Feed children their regular mean in the evening and avoid sugary drinks, spicy foods and caffeine, especially at night. Remember, often young children enjoy reading the same book over and over again. Be patient and enjoy this stage with your child.
Optimal Furniture Arrangement
The way the room is arranged is vital to the balance of your child. You need to analyze the child's room and think carefully about where things are placed. Then you need to combine your decisions about furniture placement, decisions about color and texture and decisions about organizational systems. They all go together to make a well-balanced room.
Organization is a big part of how the rooms of successful children are set up. If children are exposed to and then taught organization skills, it is extremely beneficial for their future. Like adults, when children are over-stimulated they have a hard time focusing on the task at hand. Two and three year olds can start to develop simple organizing techniques like picking up toys (some parents use a "clean up" song) and placing them in the proper place close to bed time--around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. Consistency, coupled with easy to use systems will encourage your child to learn how to organize successfully.
Be aware of any examples you are setting with lack of organizing systems in other areas of your home. Kids are sensitive to what is going on in their environment and can become easily overwhelmed and fatigued.
The key is to implement systems that are simple and will work for your whole family. Following the tips in this article will reduce overall stress and create and will create a successful environment for the whole family to thrive and grow. Enjoy!