by Evie Minton, Educator, Hilltop Children’s Center

How often do you feel like you need to take some space? If you’re anything like me, taking space regularly is required in order to have a clear head, to be socially present, and even just to be productive. Without moments away from the constant motion of the daily grind, things begin to seem out of sorts, irritability sets in, it becomes difficult to find (and share) the best in myself and, in turn, everyone around me suffers. As each day comes, filling with new demands, I have to take the opportunity to go up for some air, or things get backed up, stacked up, neglected and cluttered, and then I’m stuck with a whole new level of stress.  

For the past month I’ve met once a week with six three-to-five year-olds from my class who have shown me, in one way or another, that taking space is important to them, like it is for me. During one meeting, I asked them, “When are some times that you might need to take some space?” They gave a few different answers. One participant said that she only needs breaks when she’s tired. Another said he might need to take a break when he’s mad so he won’t hurt anyone. And another said that he needs space if he has a lot of energy and might “accidentally knock somebody over.” I’ve noticed that one kid in this group will play social games with his friends, but when he builds with the Magna-Tiles (his favorite building material), he tends to tuck himself away from the rest of the class. He might not be aware of his need for time alone, but he is seeking it out nonetheless.

Working with this core group of space-takers, I’ve begun to notice that most kids naturally separate themselves from others from time to time. Some need space to focus, others need it to cool down, and some need it to recharge. Whatever the reason may be, I believe that it’s very important to make sure that we are providing our kids with opportunities and resources to step away and chill, when the need arises. I’m reminded of one child in my group, and a conversation that I had with his Mom. He told her that, “When I get really mad, I don’t know where to go.” At home he has a room to go to, where he can think about what’s happening and calm himself down, or just experience quiet. Reflecting on this, his mom remarked that, at home, most of these kids have a place to where they can retreat, but in the confines of the classroom, it’s impossible to have that, and what’s more, there is much more going on.

Since that conversation, and through working with my small group, I’ve been envisioning what it might be like if our classroom had a designated quiet area. We do have a reading area where there are pillows, a couch and some books, but what would it be like if we had a place that offers more: spots to tuck into, elements of nature, soothing colors and lighting, calming music, a box with sensory toys, or clipboards for drawing. This space would have an intentional culture created around it. I envision a place that is sacred, enclosed, a safe haven that encourages its visitors to connect with themselves in a positive and focused way, to embrace a feeling of calm among all of the sounds, emotions, energies and movement of a classroom. 

  • Have you experimented with creating a dedicated “calm space” in your classroom?
  • What do you notice about how the children use that space?
Evie Minton is an Educator with 3- to 5-year-olds at Hilltop Children’s Center, where she has worked since 2013.