When Enough is Enough

How many materials are required to provide quality care? The amount of materials varies depending on the age of the children, the philosophy of education the school is practicing, and the space available to the program. How can educators acknowledge when enough materials equal enough? When does a program have enough supplies to function effectively and with quality?

In the last five years, the popularity and practice of minimalism has grown. While reading about the aspects of minimalism, I learned the practice encourages people to focus on the materials in your life that are important. One principal is that people keep and curate the material items that add value to their life, and discard other material items that exist as clutter. The clutter is considered excess and a distraction from living life to the fullest. The practice of minimalism can influence our practice and the materials we use in our programs. Learning is not about how many materials you possess it is about having materials that add value to learning.

Many programs place an emphasis on the material things in the classroom, instead of the experiences that are available to the children. Posters clutter the walls, and rooms are painted vivid primary colors. Shelves are full of materials, so many materials, that most of the materials are not utilized or cared for. The materials live in piles of unorganized mess, and offer no purpose. Are broken toys and board games with three pieces supposed to invite the children to play? Are collections of books that are old, torn and outdated supposed to encourage reading? Some programs feature many quality materials and too many materials for one child to make a choice.

The American Montessori Society promotes the Montessori environment stating, “Uncluttered spaces set the stage for activity that is focused and calm”. In Montessori education collections of curated items are presented with intention. In Waldorf education the International Association for Steiner/Waldorf ECE sees, “Opportunities for self-initiated play, with simple play materials, as the essential activity for young children”. Waldorf continues, “In order to meet the needs of the child the environment has to be quiet, simple, warm, and peaceful. The environment has to allow for safe exploring. Toys should be simple and made from natural materials”.

As a practitioner I believe educators can embrace the idea of minimalism in our classrooms. In our practice, educators can curate the materials and present the items to children. Materials for the work children are currently engaged in. My vote is to embrace the practice of more quality and less quantity. The best opportunities for children to grow and live happy do not require things. Instead it is offering opportunities for children to do what they love. Children love to play outside, engage with other people, climb trees and chase butterflies.

How many materials are required to help children live happy and learn?