How To Create A ‘Yes Space’ For Your Kids

If you’re tired of saying “no” all day to your kids, this small change could make all the difference!

Little girl playing in a yes space

Do you ever have days where you feel like you’re constantly saying “no” to your child? 

It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes it can feel more like we’re referees or police officers constantly enforcing the rules than parents.

This is especially true for toddlers who are wired to test the boundaries of both safety and acceptable behavior. It’s their way of figuring out the world that’s both totally understandable and totally exhausting.

Enter, the ‘yes space’.

A ‘yes space’ is an area of your home that you set up to be completely child proof and child friendly. 

The goal is to intervene as little as possible when your child is in this space. It needs to be designed with their safety and developmental needs in mind so that you feel totally comfortable letting them play there unattended while you make dinner.

 

The Benefits of a Yes Space

Establishing a ‘yes space’ provides you and your child with a sense of freedom and independence. Watch as they as they play uninterrupted and get lost in their own imaginary worlds, without constantly needing to test boundaries or worry that they’ll be interrupted by another “no”.

The added bonus of a ‘yes space’ is that you will have time to yourself while knowing that they are safe, engaged and entertained.

 

How To Create A Yes Space Inside

The layout of a ‘yes space’ will be different depending on your home and family structure. A natural spot for such a space would be a playroom or child’s bedroom. 

If you have a smaller home, you can still make it work.

Just look around the house for an area that your child can call their own. This could be a living room corner or even a large hallway you could gate off for your child to play in. It doesn’t need to be fancy. The most important thing is that it needs to be child-driven in design.

Once you’ve chosen a space, look around and assess its current state. Can your child access anything that’s unsafe if they’re on their own? Are there any items you’d normally have to redirect your child away from — a bookcase they can climb, electrical cords, a toy they like to throw at the wall instead of using properly? If so, take these items away if possible or in the case of a bookshelf, make sure it’s fastened to the wall. 

Next, assess the room for your child’s interests and developmental needs. You’ll likely want to include some open ended toys like blocks, some sort of creative outlet like musical instruments or craft supplies, if they’re old enough. Some sort of physical movement opportunity is also ideal.

If your child has a lot of energy and no outlet for it, they will find a way to release it which will probably involve running around the house and jumping off furniture. You might include a climber, indoor slide, balance beam or a balance board. Just make sure you have some sort of gross motor outlet to set your child up for success! A play table and chair or stool is also handy if you have the space available but prioritize what you need depending on your child’s interests. 

 

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How To Create A Yes Space Outside

A ‘yes space’ can also be created outside. 

To establish a safe ‘yes space’ you need a fenced in yard or enclosed patio. If you don’t want your entire yard or patio to be taken over by your child, you can certainly gate off a certain area. This allows you to still have a garden or little oasis of your own.

To establish a ‘yes space’ outside, start by putting all the adult tools away in a safe location that can’t be accessed by your child. You’ll also need to do a quick sweep of the yard each day to ensure that nothing unsafe is lying around, like a nail. 

Once you’re ready, establish a couple of basic safety and behavior guidelines, the fewer the better. ‘Be kind’ and ‘be safe’ should be enough, although you may need remind your child not to hurt any plants, bugs, etc.

Just like inside, you’ll want to include opportunities for open ended play, creativity and physical exertion. You might include a swing, a scooter,  and some large blocks.

You may also want to include a water source (when it’s not too cold) and some dirt or sand for your child to dig in, as this is a wonderful sensory opportunity that isn’t generally possible indoors. A mud kitchen or sensory bin is perfect for outdoor play. 

 

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Assess and Tweak

 

Once you’ve set up your child’s space, try to reassess and tweak every so often. If you notice there’s an area where you’re still needing to redirect your child, try to change the environment to eliminate the conflict. 

For instance, if your child is always unplugging and plugging in a lamp, try to rearrange the room so that spot is blocked. 

If they’re climbing a bookshelf, try removing it and using a book basket for a while. Your child’s needs and impulses will change over time so the space will change too.

While it takes a bit of work at beginning, a ‘yes space’ is a true gift for you and your child as it will be the one place you can simply be together without constant boundary testing and redirection.

 

Continue exploring

 

  • Montessori Educator Christina Clemer shares five simple tips for creating a Montessori-friendly set up at home for your toddler
  • When children engage in open ended play, they’re encouraged to use their imaginations, creativity and problem solving skills, which is crucial for their cognitive and physical development. But what exactly is open-ended play and how can you facilitate it? See our guide to open ended play.