The “Yes Space” – Freedom For All!
What is a “Yes Space?”
The ‘yes space’ seems to be an American phrase. Think of it like the safe space in therapy, but in your house and for kids. I actually think it’s Janet Lansbury, of “No Bad Kids” book fame, who coined the phrase. However, I digress …
... It’s ultimately an area that is dedicated entirely to kids and when they are in it, they are wholly safe, the things in it are indestructible. There is no need for a parent to say “no.”
The fabulous early childhood educator, Magda Gerber, writing in the 1950’s described this kind of space as one where if you were locked out of the house, when you got back in 4 hours later your baby would be wet and hungry but alive and well.
It seems one thing for a 6-month-old in a pen and quite another for a 6-year-old!
However, Lansbury’s point remains the same. Can you create a space for your kids where you don’t have to helicopter-parent? Where kids can be independent and safe without your constant vigilance.
A “Yes Space” Journey: Granny’s House
I have three sisters and between us we have too many noisy children who beeline for Granny’s china and the bleach. Granny hates noise, likes pretend tea parties and reading aloud. We arrive in a herd to visit, upend the house and leave it looking like there’s been a smash and grab.
On rainy days, when we are inside for longer periods of time, all anyone could hear was ‘No! Don’t you Dare!’ or to borrow from our American friends, ‘I won’t let you… throw/ pull / eat / shatter.’ No one was having a good time.
We needed a Yes Space. A room the buffalo could trample, with tiny objects removed, antiques relegated to a top shelf, coffee table books spirited away. Anything left in reach is a “yes”.
It was a safe space by day and the sitting room by night. Granny was safely in the kitchen and could drop in and out.
This is of course a temporary solution for long weekends. However, it inspired us all to create a “yes space” in our own homes.
It transitioned from necessity into a pleasure, both for us and children.
Benefits of a Yes Space
It’s a relief to know your kids are safe and happy, as you pee, boil yet another pan of pasta or answer the door.
It offers an area for independent play. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you write your bestselling novel while your child plays for hours alone but it does help create focus.
Crucially, it gives you a break from saying “no”. That for me was the clincher. I don’t want to endlessly police my children, it’s exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I have now had to split the “yes space” in half to stop them from fighting but currently peace rules, if only temporarily!
How to Create a Yes Space
The ultimate luxury is a playroom but that ain’t necessarily happening any time soon. A cosy corner can be created and with younger children, this can include a pen or a baby gate.
As children get older the gate is simply symbolic, as they can of course, open it or climb over it but equally it delineates their space; whether a corner, a bedroom, a hallway or an entire playroom.
It doesn’t need to be fancy, just safe.
- Keep things in reach, with low shelves and open baskets
- Secure wobbly furniture to the walls, should a small person n climb
- Organise it with favourite objects and books which can be rotated
- Consider open-ended toys
- Have smaller furniture, table and chairs for older kids
- Remove anything you don’t want them playing with. I don’t just mean electrical cords but the 3.5 year old can’t handle crayons solo currently without a wall mural, so craft supplies are out.
- Create a space that is near you, so they can hear you, they know where you are.
It will take practice, as does any form of independent play.
If truth be told, at Quiet Time I cheat (Montessori Mums look away now) as my son often chooses to have his audio books on his fabulous Yoto in his bedroom. (Can I do a shout out for a Yoto on a plastic-free website? I’m not sure I can but it’s AMAZING! Screen-free, audio cards are slotted into the machine, entirely child controlled. From Beverly Clearly to Roald Dahl to Shirley Hughes, my son is having a 1970’s literary blast!)
Outdoor Yes Space
I saw some outdoor yes spaces the other day – ah, those are DREAMY! In our old flat, we could open the door to the balcony and that was safe. So, if you are lucky enough to have some form of outside space, which is enclosed by a fence, then that is a fabulous bonus!
Sand, water, mud, toys, the sky’s the limit!
How did you get on?
Grandparents and Parents – we want to hear from you. Send us pictures of your Yes Spaces and let us know how you get on this half term!
Best Wooden Toys for a Yes Space
Keep them open-ended, with the view that they don't "do" just one thing.