There are so many reasons to say no to our children every day - "don't climb up there", "not in your mouth", "no hitting the dog", etc.
A child's natural urge to explore and experiment often leads them to try unsafe things.
And despite your best efforts to offer as much freedom as safely possible, you probably still feel like a broken record of "no's" some days. I know I do!
One thing that can make this dynamic less frustrating (for both you and your child) is creating a YES space.
What is a 'YES Space'?
A YES space is not originally a Montessori concept (it comes from RIE - a parenting approach developed by Magda Gerber) but it does align perfectly with the Montessori philosophy.
It’s an enclosed area where everything within the space is 100% safe for the child to explore. This includes furniture, surfaces, toys, etc.
It could be an enclosure made of baby gates or an entire room, which is often the case when parents choose to use a Montessori floor bed. Montessori Classrooms are also considered ‘yes’ spaces. In early infancy, a YES space could even just be a crib or playpen.
The name is based on the idea that parents won’t need to say no to anything when children are in it. Everything in the space is safe for the child to touch, move, and explore.
While the set up of the YES space changes as children get older, here are the basic guidelines, as outlined by Janet Lansbury, who coined the term:
It’s an enclosed space with no chance for the child to move to other areas of the home.
The adult should always be close by so the area should be set up somewhere where the adult can do other things. Next to the kitchen often works well so you can prep food while your child is in this safe space.
The toys within the area should be safe for independent use and exploration. For young children, they should be soft and light enough for them to manipulate/pick up.
Time spent in the YES space is part of the daily routine at home. The adult may or may not be in this space with the infant. Initially, they should be but there should also be time when the infant is left alone.
The Benefits of a YES Space for Infants and Toddlers
The biggest benefit of the YES space is that children are given the opportunity for uninterrupted play and exploration.
Since the adult no longer has to move the child away from hazards or discourage them from doing something unsafe, children can move about freely without interruption.
The other benefits include:
An opportunity for the parents to observe their child experiencing uninterrupted freedom - what are they doing? what are they interested in? how are they moving? You can learn so much about your child by observing them.
Reduced separation anxiety - the time the adult spends away from the infant will increase as their comfort level with being alone. It can also help with separation anxiety because you're introducing separation in small doses in a space the child is familiar with.
The development of independence, which is incredibly empowering, even for an infant. When given the time and space to do things on their own and to pursue their interests, infants begin to learn about themselves - what can they do, what can’t they do, and what they like and don't like.
If you decide to create a YES space in your home, a helpful activity is to spend time in the area at your child’s eye-level. By doing this, you might find things that should be removed from the space, like hidden cords or small objects that have rolled under furniture. Click here for more information on this eye-opening activity.
Because of my small Toronto home, I've never created a 100% YES space. I'm curious to know if any other Montessori parents have. I'd love to see pics or hear about your experience. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do!
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