What makes a successful learning environment in childcare?

17 Feb 2020

“A rich and varied environment supports children’s learning and development. It gives them the confidence to explore and learn in a secure and safe, yet challenging, indoor and outdoor space.” - Hodman, 2011

Play is a very significant component of a child’s learning experience and is a foundation for their growth and development. Creating and providing children with an environment that supports their health, safety and thinking is extremely important for their overall learning experience and growth.

Why is the physical environment in childcare important for learning and play?

A well-arranged environment should enhance children’s development through learning and play. One of the most common ways children learn is through play - therefore their surrounding environments need to be designed and configured in alignment with the way they feel, act and behave. A positive physical environment allows children to grow and develop through activities, colours and textures. Poorly designed learning environments in childcare can have a negative effect on a child’s learning experience. For instance, positioning the reading and literacy area near the music area will cause major disruptions for children who are trying to concentrate.

The physical learning environment in early childhood is a clear depiction of the teacher’s planning and the student’s learning. An organised and comfortable space is one that will allow children to develop socially, emotionally and physically.

To understand the importance of play, it is first important to understand the importance of the environment. How can we define an environment? It can be described as the “physical environment, it’s surroundings, and a specific setting" (Vickerius & Sandberg, 2006).

The physical environment will also differ, depending on the age of the child and the number of children placed in the room. Below are the differences in how these learning environments and designed in early childhood.

  • Primary areas include: eating, sleeping, diapering and play areas
  • Should at a level for children to grasp and reach materials
  • Should incorporate floor activities so they can push, pull, roll, turn and squeeze things
  • Infant learning environments should also be organised in one room in order to maximise infant supervision
  • A cozy, warm and homelike environment is also important for infants as it helps them feel connected and comfortable
  • Primary areas include: napping, diapering, toileting and playing areas
  • Play is also an important component for this age group where areas should be divided into dramatic, block, art, library, music and science learning centres 
  • Toddlers need spaces that allow -them to experiment, explore and discover things around their environment
  • They are constantly moving and exploring their surroundings, therefore, need enough activities to keep them busy and inquisitive
  • Learning environments in childcare for preschool students are quite similar to toddler classrooms
  • Eating, napping, toileting and play areas are key
  • Learning areas usually include art, library, dress up, music and science areas
Features of a good learning environment in early childhood

Learning environments in childcare should be a positive and welcoming space where children feel comfortable to participate, explore and grow. However, there are particular features that successful learning environments provide. These include:

  • Spaces to enable quality interactions with educators and children
  • Areas for exploration and investigation
  • Group spaces and areas for children to explore creativity 
  • Spaces for relaxation
  • Zones for rough and tumble play
  • Welcoming spaces for families
  • Opportunity for risk-taking and challenge

It is also crucial that these areas have adequate resources and materials that reflect children’s needs, lives and identity.

Materials and equipment than can be used in learning environments for early childhood
Dramatic play
  • Tables and chairs
  • Dollhouse, furniture and clothes
  • Dress-up clothing and costumes
  • Child-sized kitchen equipment
  • Telephones
  • Crayons
  • Clay
  • Glue
  • Coloured chalk
  • Paper
  • Brushes
  • Paint
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Paper 
  • Puzzles 
  • Board games
  • Beads and strings
  • Puppets
Physical education
  • Ropes
  • Hula hoops
  • Gardening tools
  • Balance beam
  • Balls
  • Tumbling mat

At Young Academics, we understand the differing needs of every child and provide resources and facilities that are tailored to suit. The colours, shapes and textures of our resources and play environments allow your child to apply concepts and ideas in a practical, real-life setting. Our programs are intentional and designed to provide an opportunity for your little one to develop, succeed and grow.

Join the Young Academics family. Enquire today on 1300 668 993

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