Cozy Spaces

In any group care situation, especially a full day program, a quiet space should be determined. Just like adults, children often need a place to get away from all the activity. Some children need somewhere to go when feeling sad or overwhelmed, others need a space to sit and quietly reflect. A cozy space- one that fits just one to two children is a must in any program. When planning my own cozy spaces, I am inspired by my own childhood memories. It’s fun to think back to what I used to create a space like this as a child and using those memories to hopefully create something the children I am caring for in the present will appreciate and enjoy. 

In my younger years, being the oldest of four, I was always needing a  space to get away from my younger siblings and busy household. My favorite place to escape to was a small closet in my shared bedroom. Behind the clothes hanging above me I had created a cozy space all my own, with pictures on the back walls at eye level, pillows and blankets to make it soft and easy to relax and even a light I had rigged up against a built in for those times I needed to read in the dark. It was a space I will relish to this day because it gave me a chance to read and write away from the world. I was able to be angry or upset and get out those feelings I wasn’t sure I wanted to express aloud to anyone. It was also a place to occasionally share with a good friend, a special place all my own. 

As a teacher I have had a lot of experience creating cozy spaces for children in my care as well as many diverse environments in which to make cozy spaces. In one center I worked, one of the babies was having a difficult time sleeping and in general being around the other babies. She was a little older than the rest of the children and she just wanted to get away from all the crying and stimulation a group of babies can certainly produce on any given day. She would constantly be crawling under my desk and feeling this was not the safest place for her to be hiding, I would constantly be redirecting her back out to the main area of play. After awhile, I realized she needed more than redirection. She needed a cozy place, somewhere she could get away but also see what was going on in case she wanted to join the group. She certainly had a fondness for the space under my desk, so I eventually decided this was the perfect place for a cozy space. I started with the back walls, making sure no electrical outlets were visible or accessible to little hands. Then I lined the walls with stuffy, soft pillows. For the floor I created a multi-textured floor mat with scraps of fleece, velvet, chenille, cotton and other soft fabrics. Then getting into the space myself to make sure I knew how it felt to be there too, I realized the ceiling needed something comforting. I remembered my own childhood space and once again took those memories and put them to work. I added pictures and paintings of the moon and stars to create a quiet, restful space. When the little girl came to school that next day she finally had a space all her own. She fell asleep in her space that day (this was a child who never slept at school) and she continued to flourish in my class. After watching the other babies play from her space, she eventually joined us in many days of play. She even began to sleep on a cot like the rest of the older babies, only going to her space when she needed quiet time. That experience really helped me to understand the importance of a quiet space for children. And the fact that you can create a cozy space just about anywhere in your environment. 

If you don’t have a designated spot for your cozy space, you may want to try building one. Closing off a small space can be done by moving shelves around to create a triangular space or if you want to try your hand in woodworking, even building a box out of wood. If woodworking is not your cup of tea, and you still would like a set space, many companies offer relatively expensive but sturdy cozy space furniture. 

Your space doesn’t have be completely closed off either. You can use sheer fabric that can be draped from a corner of the room, creating a small space you can dress up with pillows and soft items or even a large cardboard box lined in carpet squares can do the trick. Anywhere a child can be alone and be able to get the time they need away from the busyness of group care. I will often add a small basket of books or small soft animals to encourage quiet exploration as well. 

Cozy spaces have also been used successfully for children with special needs. Often children with special needs like autism or ADHD need a solitary place to cool down after having a rough time in the classroom. Some teachers have used the cozy space as a tool for when these children need time to breath or be away from the tough social situations of every day life. Using the cozy space as a “positive time out”, a teacher will ask the child if they need time away during a certain situation. The child usually is eager to have time to cool down and a few minutes away from all the sensory overload and these children are able to try it again with the rest of their peers. There has been much success when the cozy space is implemented as a positive tool such as this. 

Anyway the cozy space is built, bought, created or used, it will be a very beneficial part of your child care environment. Every child has the right to a place away from the masses, just as every adult has the right to step out and take a breath. The cozy space will provide just one more carefully designed area for your children to effectively learn and live. 


Resources to help you create cozy spaces: 
Books 
Places and Spaces For Preschool and Primary (INDOORS) by Jeanne Vergeront
Designs For Living and Learning by Deb Curtis and Maggie Carter

Furniture Links

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Summer Langille, M.A, Early Childhood Education Specializing 0-8 Years

Summer has been working with children for almost 15 years. The oldest of four she’s always seen herself as a caregiver. She started off caring for children as a nanny for many years. She received her undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education specializing in birth to age eight from Long Beach State. She’s worked with infants all the way up to elementary aged children in center-based care, private school care, home-based care, back-up care and afterschool care. She was a lead teacher for an infant program and more recently a two year old/preschool program. She even had a brief stint as a brownie girl scout troop leader. She’s passionate about quality care for children and thinks the environment plays a large role in how a child learns effectively. She loves art, blocks, music, fairy gardens and picture books and wants all caregivers of children to know how important their job is to the children they care for. Summer is currently home with her baby, navigating this new role as Mama. She blogs about her family at www.summerplayshouse.com.