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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Private Playtime A Retreat To Call Their Own Gives Children Room To Grow

By Ro Logrippo Universal Press Syndicate

Providing a child of any age with a quiet haven from noisy surroundings assures more than tranquility. It fosters his or her imagination and independence.

Researchers at universities have spent years examining home conditions that affect a child. Their studies suggest that a retreat in the home, away from noise and stimulus, relieves stress and helps construct a sense of self.

“Privacy promotes reflection and a flow of ideas much less likely to occur when others are present,” writes Yale University child psychiatry professor James Comer, M.D., in his Parents magazine column.

“It is important for young people to think independently and not be overwhelmed by the ideas of others,” Comer says. In order to develop this ability, he explains, they need to distance themselves occasionally from authority figures. Parents need to understand that their kids aren’t rejecting them just because they want privacy from time to time. Only if a child seems troubled, he says, should you interrupt their private time.

The fact that parents are nearby, Comer adds, gives a child a sense of security.

A home sanctuary for a child any age needn’t be spacious or elaborate since it’s meant for exercising ideas - not arms and legs.

Certainly, a bedroom can be arranged so an area serves as a calm retreat. But it wouldn’t hurt to have a refuge elsewhere, particularly if two kids share the same space.

An alcove under stairs or a fort shaped from a closet recess may satisfy a young child’s need for privacy. A window seat or a balcony may be better suited for an older child.

Early in a child’s development, introduce private time as part of the routine, says Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D., whose Case Western University pediatrics and psychiatry classes draw families nationwide for counseling. Her book “How to Parent So Children Will Learn” (Apple Publisher, $15), suggests parents set the stage for solo pastimes in a place without a TV or other passive entertainment. Instead, the area should include creative play materials such as crayons and coloring books.

“Children in the habit of playing alone even for a brief time daily become comfortable with themselves and don’t depend on being entertained. That’s important,” Rimm says. For preschoolers, that routine could mean just 15 minutes a day. By school age, when it’s normal for kids to crave more private time, a half-hour may be more appropriate. Let your child and circumstances dictate what’s best.

The key to finding a good location for a quiet haven lies not only on space availability but also on its suitability for your child. Watch where a child goes at home to be alone. Then assess possibilities for turning the area into a calm refuge.

Let’s say your child usually retreats to a window in a far corner. Try to position a child-size chair there.

Cushion the comfort zone with pillows and a couple of cuddly toys or, if a child is older, some inspirational reading and soothing music. A similar setup works in an enclosed porch or on a balcony.

If small alcoves seem to attract your child, consider what New York artist Rodney Greenblatt created for his 9-year-old twins when they were preschoolers.

In the family’s flat, he framed in the area below a small staircase, leaving openings for a doorway and windows. A piece of carpet provides warmth and texture.

“It’s their little refuge,” Greenblatt explains of his daughters’ favorite spot.

Through the years, the staircase nook has changed from the girls’ playhouse to their clubhouse to their current little library for videos and games. But what remains constant, Greenblatt says, is the area’s alternate function as a place to seek privacy.

In some homes, closet cubbyholes and odd-shaped eaves can provide a getaway.

Take a closet with a large niche from structural peculiarities such as vents. The recess may be a good hideout once air circulation is improved by replacing the closet door with a curtain and adding a bean bag chair or sleeping bag for comfort. But mount a batteryoperated light there so that being private doesn’t mean being in the dark.

Interior eaves, which have a sloped wall formed by the roofline, are ideal recesses in which to tuck a bench. With professional advice, you might also be able to expand the area a little to take advantage of space behind the wall.

As appealing an idea as a private oasis beyond the bedroom may be, it may not fit your family lifestyle. In that case, focus on making a private corner in your child’s room.

A few ideas to consider include the following:

Loft bed fort: Unlike a bunk with two beds stacked, a loft unit has a single freestanding high bed. It usually comes with a desk, a dresser or a separate bed to place underneath.

Keep the area under a loft bed empty, and you can turn it into a fort. Just tuck blankets under the mattress so they hang down. In some cases, a high-quality bunk converts to this setup. Don’t attempt it, however, unless the manufacturer suggests it.

Over-the-bed tent: This lightweight portable nylon tent fits over the mattress and has encased rods that keep it taut. Sold in variety stores, it often has mesh windows that make it suitable for permanent setup, if that meets with your approval.

Pop tent: Designed for floor setup, this portable structure is a cozy place to be whether indoors or out. The small Play Away Pop Tent in the Hand-in-Hand catalog folds down to a round disk that stores in the accompanying nylon bag.

Tepee: A collapsible tepee supplies a place for powwows with real or imaginary friends. Do-it-yourselfers can check fabric or craft stores for patterns. Craft and school fairs often sell ready-made versions.

Shooting Star Designs in Montana is one source for canvas tepees stenciled with acrylic paintings of authentic Native American symbols.

Carving out private space in a room that two share is challenging, but not impossible, if individual territory can be defined.

Furniture makes a good partial barrier. A tall bookcase or stacked cubes, for instance, can be moved into the room to block off areas.

When space limits rearrangement, just put desks on opposite walls. This way kids are back-to-back while studying or trying to be alone with their thoughts.

To give the illusion of two distinct areas, you can also hang a large fabric panel from the ceiling so it separates sleep or study areas. Be sure to get material that light can shine through if you want to keep the daytime look airy.

Or hang a ready-made shade that has a pully system that allows it to be raised or lowered. Options include bamboo and “matchstick” styles available at many hardware, import and discount home stores.

Washington architect Merrily Ludlow took a custom approach to provide her teen sons with individual solitude in the room they share. She built short wall partitions with pocket panels that slide back and forth. Resembling shoji screens, the panels open and close easily, so obtaining privacy is simple.

An accordion door made to fit across the room provides similar results without as much structural work.

If remodeling is not an option, there’s another way to provide roommates with a sense of privacy: Let them take turns being in their room by themselves.

Whether writing innermost thoughts in a diary or daydreaming about make-believe events, kids need an environment where they can occasionally be alone.

Making space for private times in your home shows respect and understanding of the need to go there.

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. DEPENDING ON AGE, PRIVACY MAY BE AN OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE Although less than subtle, those “Keep Out!” signs that appear on a child’s door usually signal a need for some personal privacy. But should parental approval of private time include an open-door policy? Or is it OK to let kids shut themselves off from the rest of the family by closing the door? “By teen years, closing the door is fine if a child is alone,” says Cleveland psychologist Sylvia Rimm. It’s a different matter, she says, when company of the opposite gender calls. Although Rimm advocates boy/girl teen visits in the family room or living room, she knows kids tend to want their friends to visit their personal space and listen to music, play on a computer or just spend time together. If this is allowed in your home, Rimm suggests staying firm on leaving the door open at all times as a deterrent to unacceptable behavior. The parenting expert also draws the line on letting kids lock the door. “I don’t think kids should be able to lock their door at any age,” she says. When an older child is alone behind closed doors, don’t go barging in unannounced, Rimm adds. Both parents and children should respect each other’s privacy by following a simple rule. Knock first to see if it’s OK to go past the “Keep Out” sign.

2. WHEN PRIVACY MATTERS Parents looking for ways to create childhood retreats for privacy may find the answer in stores or catalogs selling portable enclosures. A few to consider: Collapsible hide about: A lightweight nylon play tent measuring 4 feet, 5 inches in length and width and 48 inches high. Features a nylon door opening and one mesh window. (Item No. 63901, $46.95). Call Perfectly Safe catalog, (800) 837-5437. Tepee: A 6-foot-high canvas design decorated with authentic Native American symbols in acrylic paints. Shooting Star Designs, 2320 Valley Drive, Missoula, MT 59802. The $90 cost includes poles but not shipping charges. Call (406) 721-4719. Play tent: Designed for ages 3 and up, this tent comes in primary colors with a white mesh top for ventilation. (Item No. 510541, $36.98). Also available for the very young is a pink vinyl country cottage structure that measures 43 by 40 by 29 inches. (Item No. 479CEQ, $24.98). Call Lilly’s Kids at Lillian Vernon, (800) 285-5555. Among books dealing with privacy issues and children are the following: “Caring Spaces, Learning Places” by Jim Greenman (Exchange Press, $29). Features creative ideas for children’s space designs. Call (800) 221-2864. “How to Parent So Children Will Learn” by Sylvia B. Rimm, Ph.D. (Apple Publishing Co., $15). Call (800) 795-7466. “Habitats for Children” by Joachim F. Wohwill (Erlbaum Associates, $49.95 ). Call (800) 926-6579.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. DEPENDING ON AGE, PRIVACY MAY BE AN OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE Although less than subtle, those “Keep Out!” signs that appear on a child’s door usually signal a need for some personal privacy. But should parental approval of private time include an open-door policy? Or is it OK to let kids shut themselves off from the rest of the family by closing the door? “By teen years, closing the door is fine if a child is alone,” says Cleveland psychologist Sylvia Rimm. It’s a different matter, she says, when company of the opposite gender calls. Although Rimm advocates boy/girl teen visits in the family room or living room, she knows kids tend to want their friends to visit their personal space and listen to music, play on a computer or just spend time together. If this is allowed in your home, Rimm suggests staying firm on leaving the door open at all times as a deterrent to unacceptable behavior. The parenting expert also draws the line on letting kids lock the door. “I don’t think kids should be able to lock their door at any age,” she says. When an older child is alone behind closed doors, don’t go barging in unannounced, Rimm adds. Both parents and children should respect each other’s privacy by following a simple rule. Knock first to see if it’s OK to go past the “Keep Out” sign.

2. WHEN PRIVACY MATTERS Parents looking for ways to create childhood retreats for privacy may find the answer in stores or catalogs selling portable enclosures. A few to consider: Collapsible hide about: A lightweight nylon play tent measuring 4 feet, 5 inches in length and width and 48 inches high. Features a nylon door opening and one mesh window. (Item No. 63901, $46.95). Call Perfectly Safe catalog, (800) 837-5437. Tepee: A 6-foot-high canvas design decorated with authentic Native American symbols in acrylic paints. Shooting Star Designs, 2320 Valley Drive, Missoula, MT 59802. The $90 cost includes poles but not shipping charges. Call (406) 721-4719. Play tent: Designed for ages 3 and up, this tent comes in primary colors with a white mesh top for ventilation. (Item No. 510541, $36.98). Also available for the very young is a pink vinyl country cottage structure that measures 43 by 40 by 29 inches. (Item No. 479CEQ, $24.98). Call Lilly’s Kids at Lillian Vernon, (800) 285-5555. Among books dealing with privacy issues and children are the following: “Caring Spaces, Learning Places” by Jim Greenman (Exchange Press, $29). Features creative ideas for children’s space designs. Call (800) 221-2864. “How to Parent So Children Will Learn” by Sylvia B. Rimm, Ph.D. (Apple Publishing Co., $15). Call (800) 795-7466. “Habitats for Children” by Joachim F. Wohwill (Erlbaum Associates, $49.95 ). Call (800) 926-6579.

Wordcount: 1727
Tags: parenting

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