My Sofa - Enabling Environments

by Dan Rees Jones

A sofa can mainly be distinguished by a relatively high back, armrests, and a seating space that accommodates at least two people and traces its origins back to the 17th century.

When I bought my first sofa I was unaware of how attached I would grow of this piece of  furniture… A very personal relationship had begun… It was a relatively simple L shaped design, comprising two pieces; one short and the other long like a chaise lounge and instantly became a feature in our lounge. Initially we used it in the way you would expect most folk to… Then we started a family and things changed.  The scope and expectations of what this furniture could do for our family became much broader than I could ever imagine...and continues to be a source of fascination for me as we all grow.  Here are some of the things our sofa does for our family now:

  • The high back provides height to jump off, balance on, generate a different perspective from.

  • A platform to do shows on, parade around and build off.

  • The back and two piece design provide opportunities to post things through and down – Toys sent into the abyss.

  • A safe and special place to retreat too, be ill in, to watch TV on, hide in, read on, to laugh on and cry on.

  • A structure to learn to walk around, lean across, race cars and balls under.

  • A structure to fall off, slip off have accidents on where resilience is built.

  • A communal structure to all be together on.

  • The cushions provide walls that can be used to build shops or dens; draping over material to further this construction.

  • Cushions make obstacles to climb over, stack together creating height,risk and challenge – to explore on.

  • Cushions to throw at each other, good things to crash land onto...

  • And finally… When we get round to it... Pulling out the sofa - treasures remembered

My sofa is no longer a sofa…

It has morphed with the introduction of young children… It has become an exciting play space or fantasy world that generates a myriad of play possibilities and opportunities for my children and beyond.  

The theory: Dr Fraser Brown talks about compound flexibility which I think explains this in  an academic sense:  Browns theory of compound flexibility offers a view of child development linked to the play environment.  It concerns the way in which development takes place via ‘The interrelationship between a flexible/adaptable environment and the gradual development of flexibility/adaptability in the child In this theory it is suggested that the degree of flexibility in a child’s play environment has a direct effect on the extent to which exploration and experimentation are possible. 

Children who experience such things, together with the associated sense of control, will be likely to develop self-confidence, self-acceptance etc. This in turn leads to an ability to cope with daily problems in a more creative, imaginative and flexible way; Brown ,F (2003) 

There are many things within our homes that will engage children within their play which in turn helps them to develop an understanding of their environment. The Scrapstore PlayPod is a great example of how children are creatively engaged in play, problem solving and scientific exploration in many different ways using everyday 'loose parts' to extend their play. This short film shows this in action:

On reflection it’s true to say that I have developed a close working relationship with this sofa and love it dearly – and today even though it’s now a bit dirty and completely the wrong colour for our newly decorated house, it’s become personal! 

Further Reading

Teachers TV -Enabling Environments: A great video that shows enabling environments in Early Years - lots to replicate here

Scrapstore Play Services offers a range of playwork training courses if you would like to find out more about playwork training about playwork theory. phone us on 0117 9143002

Useful Tips For Parents

  • What furniture can your children move around or take apart?

  • Are they allowed to explore and experiment with some cupboards or drawers?

The real challenge is how this play makes us feel inside and what rules and boundaries we set which either extends or limits this.