Environment and Children: Creating a Space for Children to Learn

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the following environments: bustling through a busy mall, a eating at a noisy restaurant, or a sitting on a dock on a lake. How would each environment make you feel? 

A pleasant environment is important to how we feel at work and play. As adults we can choose to change or leave our environment if it is not conducive to our activities. Children don’t have the choice to leave or make changes to their environment if it does not meet their needs or is undesirable.

Teachers must realize that arraigning their classroom will subliminally affect a child’s learning. Teachers must consider two features of every classroom – the built-in features such as walls, floors, plumbing, storage, lighting; and the flexible features such as furniture, equipment, activity areas, toys, and other educational tools.

Developmental Stages and their Respective Environments

What children need from the environment depends on their age and stage of development. Non-mobile infants need floor space for crawling. Teachers need to bring interesting items to infants, or walk children around the classroom. Toys should be brought from selves to the floor when infants are on the floor. Since security is a major issue for infants, a caring caregiver should always be nearby.   

Infants and their Environment

Mobile infants and busy toddlers, who are in the exploration stage of development, need a lot of safe, open space to walk and move around. To foster independence, toddlers need to have the ability to make choices. Storing interesting toys on low open shelves will encourage exploration and help toddlers learn to make choices.  The room should have enough toys and equipment to stimulate gross motor and fine motor development. Teachers need to be aware that social skills are not quite developed at this stage so many toys should be duplicated to avoid fighting.      

Preschoolers and their Environment

For preschoolers, learning occurs when children can play in defined interest areas or learning centers during large uninterrupted blocks of time. Preschoolers are curious learners, they are learning about how their world works through experimenting and asking questions. There should be a wide variety of toys and materials to stimulate experimenting, creativity, and role playing. Preschoolers enjoy caring for living things such as pets and plants.

Many early childhood teachers are frustrated when dealing with children with challenging behaviors. Creating a calm environment will help reduce these behaviors.  Small class size and low adult-child ratio will ensure adequate supervision. Natural lighting, soft artificial lights and colors will have  a calming effect on children. 

When teachers take the time to consider children’s needs before designing or changing their classroom environments, they will promote children’s learning and development.     

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Lauren Drakes, MS, is an Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at Rasmussen College-School of Education. She heads the Early Childhood Education degree program at Rasmussen College in Pasco County, FL. Lauren has been in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years. Her work experience includes teaching at an elementary school level, training early childhood program directors and caregivers, providing accreditation consulting, teaching the national Child Development Associate courses and Florida state administrator credential course. Lauren received her BA in Psychology from City College of the City University of New York and her MS in Early Childhood Education Administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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