Quality Environments for Young Children
The first step in creating an appropriate environment for infants, toddlers, and preschool children is to examine how young children learn and develop. Each stage of development has unique characteristics that influence how a child will experience his or her environment.
For example, infants and toddlers learn about their world by acting on objects and materials in their environment. As the toddler feels the texture of a beach ball, pushes the air filled object, and rolls it across the carpeted floor, he constructs an understanding of the ball. Because infants and toddlers learn by interacting with the environment, their space must be designed with many opportunities for physically exploring real materials. Preschoolers are active learners who continue to examine materials while beginning to use objects in more complex combinations. They are developing symbolic representation as they take on roles and participate in socio-dramatic play. Their language explodes during this period as they try to find “labels” for the objects and people in their world. Language gives young children the power to question and find answers.
Learning centers are effective ways to organize and support these developing abilities. The center areas clearly communicate to preschoolers what activity occurs in this area and the available materials that will stimulate their play. Learning centers encourage language interactions, socio-dramatic play, and the construction of experiences based on their level of understanding. By adding literacy materials including books, paper and writing tools, this construction will include “reading and writing” opportunities.
Young children respond differently, based on the design of the environment in which they live. An effectively designed classroom has the potential for positively influencing all areas of children’s development: physical, social /emotional, and cognitive. Language and learning are nurtured in an environment that values and plans appropriate opportunities. The environment can support the development of behaviors that are valued in our society, such as cooperation and persistence. An aesthetically pleasing space can develop a child’s appreciation for the beautiful world around them. Most importantly, quality environment can provide a home like setting that “feels” like a good place to be.
© 2008 Excelligence Learning Corporation, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission. Adapted from “An Environment That Positively Impacts Young Children” by Rebecca Isbell, Ed.D. Read the entire article.