Creative Spaces to Inspire
by Ashley (Green) Krombach, Program Manager
We’ve said it before (and we’ll say it a million times more): Kids whose bodies and minds are active learn better and perform better in school. Study after study shows that movement activates the parts of the brain that help with several different cognitive functions. Pair movement with mindfulness and you have the perfect duo to inspire new ideas and empower creativity.
While fitness breaks and active games play a huge role in creating healthier learning environments, it doesn’t always have to be so literal. Activity generated during unstructured play time—or play time during lessons—is equally beneficial to children, especially for creativity, focus, and behavior. So how do you set up a creative classroom or space that inspires…well…inspiration?
Try the “Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes” technique, where caves are spaces for individual thinking and reflection, campfires are spaces to learn and hear stories from an “expert”, and watering holes are an informal gathering spot for peers to share, interact, and discover.
Caves should be separate from the general learning area and serve as a space for children to energize and reset. Ways to set up this space include:
- Caves are similar to calm down corners – a safe space for a child to go to when they feel their emotions are running too high and they need to regain their emotional and physical control
- Putting positive messages on the wall to build self-confidence
- Providing stress balls (which you can DIY with kids) to support impulse control and self-management
- Incorporating “thinking putty” or play-dough to work out those creative ideas from within
- Making a “calm down jar” for reflection amidst chaos (read more here)
- Including supplies for drawing, reading, and other solo activities to support outlets of creative expression
- Setting out a yoga mat and meditation pillow to practice mindful breathing or calming yoga poses
Campfires utilize the general learning space, which should include items that help children focus as they listen. Some ideas are:
- DIY “fidget sticks” (See how to make them here.)
- Cups of pipe cleaners, which can be braided, twisted, shaped, etc.
- “Thinking putty” and play-dough
- Other tactile (but not distracting) toys or devices
Watering holes can be anywhere, as long as the seating is arranged to foster communication and collaboration. Outfit the space with:
- Large poster paper and markers
- A dress-up/costume box with funky clothes and accessories
- Board games
- A fishbowl filled with discussion prompts or teamwork activities on slips of paper
- Crafty items for STEM projects/experiments (e.g. Popsicle sticks, string, cups, cotton balls, food coloring, sugar, etc.)
Creative spaces encourage everything from movement to mindfulness, cooperation to ingenuity. If you’d like to build them in your school but don’t have the resources, ask the community (including families) to donate household items, especially things they are no longer using. You can also find out if your school would host a healthy fundraiser to help get funds needed to purchase supplies. And school grants (including ours) may be helpful for purchasing larger items, like yoga mats and seating.
Incorporate creative spaces at home. You can use the ’Caves, Campfires, and Watering Holes” technique at home, just look at it on a smaller scale. Depending on the size of your home, designate different rooms of the house or corners of a room, to the different concepts outlined above.
- Invite children to create posters with positive messages or collage an inspiration board and hang somewhere it can easily be viewed
- Write down goals and post them near other affirming messaging to motivate
- Make it comfortable by incorporating cozy pillows and blankets for one to relax and recharge. Add in favorites – a journal, a plant, a framed photo, etc. to make the space reflective of what brings them joy
Anyone from educators to parents can lay the foundation for a creative classroom or at-home space, so get started building yours today.