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A place to belong, be and become

With the new year upon us, now is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate both the indoor and outdoor environment. As children transition into the early childhood education and care setting for the first time, into a new room or return to their existing space for another year, they should be welcomed into a space that represents beauty. The start of the new year is full of hope, anticipation and excitement and creating or restoring a fresh, inviting space which is functional, dynamic and aesthetic can be an enjoyable and rewarding process.

Resources, equipment and furniture may need to be repaired, restored or renewed and gathering the time, budget and regulations together to carefully plan for your environment can be a challenge. As educators, our role is to create “physical and social learning environments that have a positive impact on children’s learning” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 14). In order to achieve this, the environment needs to reflect the philosophy and values of the centre as well as the individuals who belong within it.

Developing an aesthetic, purposeful environment that acts to support children and educators as well as families is a continuing and evolving process. Flexible resourcing in both the indoor and outdoor settings where furniture, equipment and materials have potential to be repositioned and reorganised is a defining principle to creating a dynamic learning environment. A thoughtfully planned learning environment has potential to support all Quality Areas in the National Quality Standard as well as the outcomes, principles and practices in the EYLF.

When educators design, plan and create play spaces for children, messages are communicated about the value they place on children and their learning. Offering children spaces to be creative, dramatic, constructive, active, imaginative and secluded both indoors and out is essential for learning and well-being.

“The environment should act as an aquarium which reflects the ideas, ethics, attitudes and culture of the people who live in it. This is what we are working towards.” ~ Loris Malaguzzi

Considering the following questions for both indoor and outdoor environments can prompt a review of the existing environment and ways in which you can change or adapt for greater flow and learning potential.

 
 Are there designated and defined play spaces that cater for both social opportunities as well as times of solitude?
  • Does the service demonstrate respect for children through the aesthetic of their play spaces? How are their ideas, creations, artwork, experiences reflected within the service?
  • Do the children have access to quality resources that provoke curiosity, inquiry, experimentation, investigation and risk-taking?
  • What resources, equipment, furnishings and displays signify diversity across people and cultures?
  • How does the indoor and outdoor environment reflect sustainable living and learning? How can educators, children and families practice sustainability within and beyond the service?
  • What furniture is incorporated into the space and how is it presented to serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose?
  • How does the space transform to respond to the changing needs, interests and abilities of all children

Providing children with quality resources and equipment to have rich, engaging, sustained experiences provides them with opportunities to explore, discover and extend their learning and develop their lifelong love of learning.

outdoor environment
Mud Kitchen
Sandy Bay Sand and Water Table
Plum Wooden Sand and Picnic Table

References

Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. (2011). Guide to the National Quality Standard. Sydney: Author.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra: Australian Government.

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman.G. (Eds), (1998). The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach- Advanced Reflections. USA: Ablex Books.

Hodgeman, L. (2011). Enabling Environments in the Early Years – Early Childhood Essentials Series. Practical Preschool Books.

Radich, J. (2011). Everyday learning about making the most of your environment. Research in Practice Series, Early Childhood Australia.

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