Well Thought Out Learning Spaces Make a Difference
Well laid out learning spaces help to ensure children can participate in and make choices about their environment and their learning. So let’s get busy!
Early childhood zones are filled with bright tones and light. The best learning environments have physical spaces which contribute to the children’s sense of well-being.
Here are some great ways to keep your early childhood learning spaces tidy, and if not tidy, and arranged to promote learning.
1. Recycling Area
Use some bright bins in an open storage unit in the foyer for families to drop off items that can be recycled/up-cycled in creative activities at your preschool.
Children love choosing what to use for projects/crafts and it gets families involved.
2. Use Natural Materials for Storage
Use natural materials in open shelving where possible – woven baskets, wooden boxes, bamboo cups and trays.
“Line the shelves and tables with different sized and shaped baskets filled with your resources” Miss Reggio blog
TIP: Baskets with handles mean lifting and carrying – a gross motor activity.
3. Multipurpose Learning Areas
As well as keeping items children might choose to use in containers they can access (and in the same area to make clean up more efficient) So in a hard floor area have a Playdough Zone.
TIP: Get children to make their own textured stamps that can easily become a Foam Tray Table .
TIP: use cardboard tubes for rolling
4. Invention Boxes
Fill plastic tubs with a range of items like this one from Pink and Green Mama to encourage invention. Make sure there is plenty of space for sorting and examining items from the box. Reusing and re-purposing these materials isn’t just fun it’s also encouraging sustainable practices.
Use several stackable tubs to make easy to pack away and rotate them
TIP: refill them from your recycling area in the foyer!
5. Windows are creative spaces too
Pour a small amount of paint/glitter/sand into Ziplock bags and tape to a window with blue painters tape for easy removal
TIP: A layer of clear contact over the bag means that fingers won’t open it (and if the bag breaks it stays contained)
6. Throw Things Away
It might seem counter-intuitive for sustainable centres but sometimes less is more. Check this 200 things to throw away list – it’s a list for home (so you can do it there too) but numbers 8/13/37/49 definitely apply. Dog eared books, plastic containers (unless recyclable for paint/craft), dried up pens.
TIP: Anything you “might use one day” needs to go.
7. “Working On” Projects
Sometimes NOT packing away can be an option. Allocate a space to leave constructions for children to revisit and add to. You may have to set limits for some children.
TIP: Collect artworks and return them with other materials so they become mixed media artworks (make sure artworks have names!)
8. Quiet Spaces
No secrets here, everyone needs time out – the key is making them feel like secret spaces but still being visible – cushions, gauze curtains, soft furnishings, ottomans, stuffed toys – a range of reading materials.
TIP: Stand, kneel, squat and check that you can see children in these spaces – if there’s a blind spot, change it.
9. Outdoors can be quiet too
Consider a Gauze curtained teepee/ area with books and small toys for children looking for some quiet time outside.
TIP: Always have areas for 1-2 children as well as group activity areas
10. Digging Patch
Well arranged outdoor spaces can be messy. That’s great!
TIP: Use heavy-duty wheeled tubs that are easily movable (but don’t tip) with a range of digging tools and containers.
Here’s an example from play based learning’s blog
Lastly, make sure to involve the children in some of the arranging and re-arranging.
It’s their space too. Always ensure they can pack up easily, move between spaces safely and make their own choices.