Early childhood educator Magda Gerber urged parents to create a 100% safe space for their young children to encourage them to develop the skills for independent play. Having a safe space, or a “yes space” as coined by Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) expert Janet Lansbury, can support children’s healthy independence, while also supporting parents in taking a break from the exhausting tasks of being a parent.
What is a Yes Space? A yes space is a safe area or room for your infant, toddler, or young child to explore and play without intervention by an adult. Often parents feel a responsibility to constantly engage with and entertain their young children. Plus, parents have the constant responsibility of keeping their children safe by setting limits and saying no to unsafe activities or behavior. A yes space gives parents a break from correcting their child’s behavior by providing the child with a space that the child can move and play in safely on their own. Research shows that children experience emotional and developmental benefits from engaging in independent and unstructured play. A yes space gives parents an opportunity to step back and let their child learn, discover, and express themselves.
How can I create a Yes Space? Choose an area of your home that is preferably enclosed, such as a room, playpen, or backyard space. Have the area be within earshot for when you need to step away for short periods of time. Assess the area’s current safety level and make adjustments such as moving or removing adult furniture or covering up outlets. Consider incorporating child-sized furniture such as small chairs and a table, or simply focus the play space on the floor with a rug and cushions. Organize the space with easily accessible safe toys and simple art/craft supplies. Make the yes space a media-free zone. Watch for areas or scenarios that require you to redirect your child, and adjust accordingly to facilitate their independent, unstructured play.
I made a Yes Space. Now what? Bring your infant, toddler, or young child to the yes space, sit down, and relax. The space is for the parent and child to just be, with no expectations. This should be positive, empowering, “me time” for the child. The parent is present, and the child gets to play however they want within this safe space. Ideally, the space is safe enough for you to step out for a few moments if needed. Or if your child is older, you can step out for longer periods of time while your child plays by themselves. Enjoy this respite while you watch your child learn, grow, and play.