Category: The Learning Environment (page 2 of 2)

My child doesn’t like to read…

My thoughts on that situation:
Sometimes it can be useful to remember how your child started reading. Was he/she self-motivated, starting to read because of deep curiosity and interest? Could your child suddenly read, learning it almost overnight? Or, did somebody sit down with the child, and teach him/her how to read step by step?

If children start reading fueled by their own interest, it is relatively easy to reawaken the joy of reading now. If, however, a child has learned to read in laborious work mode, perhaps even reading to the child now is arduous and exhausting. It is more difficult to raise self-initiative, and bring joy to reading, where there is a  history of difficulty. In these cases, it is sometimes better not to pressure the child, who might need time for healing.

In fact, the natural and joyful way to learn reading is not connected to pressure but develops from self- initiative, often at age of three, four and five years. If the child’s natural rhythm is respected, one can expect another “reading boost,”  at the age of ten and eleven years, when abstract thinking at a higher level is being developed.

Kindling, inspiring and evoking a genuine need and love for reading is the most effective and sustainable way to get children to read. Although it is controversial, or even problematic, however it is true that many children learn to read because they want to understand television programs.

A joint trip to the library can be very helpful; let your child pick out a book to check out at the desk.Take time to listen to the child reading. One could also record or film the child while reading.

Just think about everyday situations with your children, where can you write something, instead of saying or showing it. Perhaps write a shopping list together. Or a birthday card to a relative. One could label the objects of daily life, offer written instructions for crafting, or cooking recipes.

Along with reading, writing also leads to better language skills. Sometimes children like to write letters to mother, friends or vacation acquaintances. Together, parents and children could write a letter to a magazine, start a diary, or a photo album with descriptions. As a mother or father, how about writing stories, or a letter to the child … “I’ve written this especially for you.”

On the following picture, tiny objects all starting with ‘r’ were gathered (rabbit, rug, rose, etc.):

As in almost everything, I vote for inspiring a child, but not pushing too much. The “magic” power of self-motivation is, in fact, what creates the joy of reading. If reading is connected with too much resistance and negative emotions, then even forcing a child will not help much to improve reading skills. Sometimes children find the joy of reading again in adulthood, after the school years, when they can choose how much and how long they would like to read.

It might be a good idea to ask the child why they don’t like to read. Maybe they have eye problems. Maybe they think they should be an instant expert, and need to hear that it is a process.  Maybe they need someone to sit with them and read with them, helping to sound out words, etc. Or they would just rather be doing something else right now. Try to find out what is going on in their mind. Try to make reading be a whole lot of fun. Anyone for Dr. Suess?

I am writing this with the hope that children receive a stronger voice in their learning processes, and that we as adults put more emphasis on the joy of learning.
Carmen Gamper

YES-Environments are Learning Environments

Intentions of a YES environment:

– enable children to learn and play independently

– inspire children towards meaningful activities

– stimulate the natural learning instinct to reach the child’s full potential

– nurture self-motivation, self-regulation, self-discipline

– in classrooms: to allow individual learning and to inspire group and team activities

The environment shapes the child’s activities considerably: for example, kids might be drawn to arts and crafts when a variety of raw materials are visible and accessible, or kids might enjoy silence when a space is inviting to rest and contemplate.

One of the tasks of a teacher/parent is to help children find appropriate environments for their spontaneous activities.

Over time kids can learn how to take more and more responsibility for order and beauty in their environments.

• Long-term learning environments can be prepared at home or at school.

• Temporary learning environments can be set up for car rides, restaurant visits and the like. i.e., bring interesting CD’s, booklets or small toys on a long car ride, take paper and crayons to a restaurant…

• In nature you can define a space within which kids can move freely. i.e. bring a rope to define a space, or let your child go as far as you can see him/her…

• Safe Self-Directed Learning Environments are very valuable for schools.

Basic guidelines for YES environments:

– Safety: reduce potential danger by anticipating children’s activities, i.e. take out toxic substances, eliminate unstable furniture.

– Purpose: design spaces for specific activities, i.e. a space for louder activities like board games, a space for quiet activities like reading.

– Structure: define spaces through clear limits, i.e. space for building blocks is defined through a carpet, space for water play is limited to outdoor area.

– Order: arrange purposeful order based on practicality and common sense, put things where they are needed, i.e. paper and pencils are next to each other.

– Consistency: give toys and tools a place where they belong, i.e. the scissors can always be found on the same shelf.

– Easy Access: provide furniture and tools in appropriate sizes, i.e. child-sized chairs, smaller spoons.

– Visibility: tools and toys that are visible are more likely to be used, put things at a practical height for children, i.e. children’s clothes in the lower drawers, WATER ALWAYS IN REACH

– Beauty: transform spaces into wonderlands, temples and playgrounds for the soul, i.e. use clean, attractive toys and tools whenever you can

– Coziness: provide spaces where the body and the whole being feels comfortable. i.e. kids like hammocks, tents, couches…

– Inspiration: provide hands-on learning materials. i.e. Montessori learning materials, gardening and cooking tools in kid’s sizes, puzzles, arts and crafts supplies, nature raw materials, like pebbles, seashells…

– Opportunity for movement and various body postures: create spaces to work on the floor or on a table, i.e. you can provide comfortable chairs, carpets, higher and lower tables and shelve…

Additional Inspiration for OUTDOOR YES-environments:
– Spaces for Gross-Motor Development:
Usually outdoors: provide space and devices for running, climbing, balancing, hiding, i.e. swing, slide, tree…

– Spaces for Exploration in Nature: you can create a safe place in nature where kids can explore freely; examine space for potential danger, i.e. broken glass, thorns…

Please write Carmen @ to schedule personal consulting or work/play-shops.

With joy,
Carmen Gamper

Tips for creating ‘YES-environments’ for children:

A YES-environment is a space where children are allowed to explore, play and touch everything that is in reach, fueled by their own curiosity. Most Yes- environments are at the same time learning environments because every activity has the potential to become a learning process. Hands-on learning materials can be placed visibly and in reach to foster practical and academic learning. In a YES-environment educators/parents can respond to a child’s request with ‘YES! Go for it! Touch, explore, and follow your curiosity!” Within the boundaries of the space, independent activities are fostered. Children can learn practical and academic skills while they are playing and interacting with the environment. A YES- environment is a great relieve for adults and children alike.

Some YES- environments are prepared especially for children’s use , i.e. a playground or a children’s room. Some are integrated into grown-up environments as ‘partial Yes-environments’ for children. When specific basic guidelines are observed, children can joyfully take part in the grown-up world.

Some tips for creating YES environments:


Kneel down and let your eyes wander around the room, touch and feel things around you… try to look around from the perspective of your child with the wisdom and knowledge of an adult. Imagine what your child and the other people using the environment are inspired to do here.
What activities are inspired by this environment ? What might a child do in this place?


Make the space safe for children to explore. Check the space for electric cables, precious vases on lower shelves, sharp objects, toxic detergents, etc. Check for objects who could potentially fall from shelves or tables.


Within healthy boundaries free movement is safe. Every place where children are invited to be active needs safe boundaries, emotionally and in the environment. Try to anticipate when you would need to say “NO” even in this specific YES-environment.

• Have water and healthy snacks accessible
• Set the environment up to inspire your child towards meaningful age-appropriate activities:
– What developmental stage is your child/teenager experiencing?
– What are your child’s favorite activities?
– What would you like your child to do/learn/know?

Be aware: Everything is a potential learning material or toy. Intentionally place tools and toys for learning.

Enjoy the process of creating more child-friendly environments. If you would like more information or personal consulting please email

With joy,
Carmen Gamper

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