Trying Out The Floorbook Approach with a Toddler
Weekend Montessori Inspiration

Notes to a Montessori Parent - Give Your Child Some Whitespace

Otto watering plant at How we Montessori  22 months

These are really notes-to-self, things that I need to make note of and be more mindful of in my own home. I've been trying to make some changes to our playroom in order to provide more whitespace. 

"White space is often referred to as negative space. It is the portion of a page left unmarked: margins, gutters, and space between columns, lines of type, graphics, figures, or objects drawn or depicted. The term arises from graphic design practice, where printing processes generally use white paper. White space should not be considered merely "blank" space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all; the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition." 

"Considering and improving the balance between negative space and positive space in a composition is considered by many to enhance the design. This basic, but often overlooked, principle of design gives the eye a "place to rest," increasing the appeal of a composition through subtle means." - Wikipedia

In graphic design the correct use of whitespace can increase comprehension by upto 20%. It's not about using less words or reducing content but ensuring they are positioned and framed correctly. Whitespace in our children's environments can:

  • frame the materials
  • increase engagement in the materials
  • increase visual appeal
  • increase interaction in the environment
  • increase light and flow of energy throughout the environment
  • prevent feelings of overwhelm
  • provide balance to our children's spaces
  • increase access and flow of movement
  • give the child's eye a place to rest
  • provide a more restful and calming environment
  • allows the focus to be on what is important
  • provides a space for the child to fill if they wish

Being mindful of whitespace is more than reducing clutter, it is about providing balance and framing. In our Montessori environments it can mean:

  • providing space around and next to individual materials, around shelving, around artwork on the wall.
  • providing space around focal points or points of interest.
  • for young children like toddlers, leave space around books on forward-facing bookshelves.
  • remove obstacles to free movement.
  • ensuring everything in the environment has a purpose, we need to observe our children in order to know and understand their stage in development, we can provide a selection of materials that meet that need, and then to rotate the materials to keep the child's interest.

The use of whitespace needs to be balanced and well considered. I love open shelving which can also increase whitespace. Whitespace can increase air flow, allowing us to breathe deeply, allowing us to pause for a moment before our eye moves onto the next thing. 

Often when we want to 'design' a space, we want to fill it. Society has created a thought process that children need to be surrounded by lots... lots of things, to have more. Chaos is often accepted in children's spaces. I am suggesting that children need whitespace as much as adults need it, in fact, it's good design. We need contrast and balance, just as we need music, we need silence. "Remember that a supportive environment is sometimes distinguished more by what objects are left out, than by which are included." - The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three.

Otto watering plant at How we Montessori  22 months

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