Ensuring each child’s needs are securely met is at the forefront of our decision making process. Each child is unique and brings with them their specific requirements and interests. We do however often have to set out rooms with very specific age ranges and developmental needs in mind. There are going to be significant differences in terms of safety requirements for under threes, sizes and styles of equipment and furniture. Other practical requirements such as sleeping and feeding arrangements are just a few of our considerations. There is of course going to be much overlapping of what is in each area. Having familiar things in the room you move into can often be comforting and, as well as being there for practical reasons, can help with smooth transitions.
Safety and assessing risk is a major consideration. Ensuring that everything is tested and developmentally aligned for all the children plays a huge role in our planning. Children playing with a toy at home is not the same as twenty five children continuously using it. Resources need to be well made, versatile and as open-ended as possible. The way a toddler will play with a resource may be significantly different to a three and four year old but may still hold great appeal to them.
How do you ensure there is continuity and progression within environments, yet you are providing new and exciting learning opportunities? There are so many questions practitioners reflect upon. For many, having a home corner is really important. The children see this as a familiar, welcoming space and are often able to relate to it and model behaviour they have encountered.
Is there a provision for varied construction activities, creativity in all its guises, small world play, messy play etc? How do you cater for the whole child’s needs and ensure they are immersed in rich and rewarding, quality experience? Of course the adults are the facilitators of this provision but having an environment that supports and enhances this is paramount.
Many practitioners zone their rooms. They ensure that there are quiet, calm spaces to think, reflect and read as well as areas to be boisterous and lively. Furniture that is practical, yet aesthetically appealing can help to achieve this aim. Having a set up that can be easily adapted and the layout allowing for flexibility is really beneficial. Furniture that can be utilised in different spaces and in different ways is really useful.
Practitioners try hard to see the physical environment from a child’s eye view and from their perspective. Young children need to be able to self-access resources and make their own choices as well as older children. They may also spend a lot of time on the floor. Considering the surfaces they sit, kneel, crawl or walk upon is key. They need to be varied, welcoming, comfortable and durable.
We are all aware that an environment is about so much more than the components within it. Having a beautiful, engaging, appealing area that invites curiosity, investigation and nurtures individuals’ needs is a goal we aspire to reach. Children, parents and practitioners all want to be immersed in an area that enriches their day where they will feel nurtured, valued and supported. We may all spend a lot of time in these environments and so trying to make it the best we can is our aspiration.
With thanks to our Early Years expert Catherine Clark for writing this post