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5.2: 5.2 Analyzing the Environment

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    In a educators’ guide, the Australian Government Department of Education states:

    Children are important sources of inspiration and creativity when planning the environment, so it is an opportunity to learn by being open-minded and to collaborate with the children. It is important to include materials which are inviting and which can be used in a variety of ways.

    • How does your environment convey a sense of belonging for children, families and educators?
    • Do children have a sense of autonomy?
    • What involvement do children have in the planning of the environment?
    • Have you tried to make the environment more home-like?
    • How might you make it more aesthetically pleasing?[1]
    Teacher Tip

    During an annual ECE conference, a presenter challenged the participants to change their thinking on student readiness. As a teacher, I spent a lot of time considering how to best prepare the children in my care for the transition to older classrooms. Attending this workshop inspired me to think differently. Readiness is not about getting children ready, but rather getting our environments ready for the children as they come to us. To put this into practice, our preschool teachers visited children in the toddler classrooms and observed the interest in specific areas, materials and took notes on skills observed. As the children began to transition into our preschool classroom the room was set with a mixture of materials they were familiar with as well as new materials appropriate for their new stage of development. The pressure was off of the toddler teachers to prep for what they thought the children needed to be ready with and the new preschool teachers had realistic expectations of the children as they matriculated into their new environments. We took this idea one step further with our older preschoolers and had them help us to create the spaces they wanted to use. The children walked from area to area and estimated how many children could safely exist in each area. Next, we placed the number of students allowed in each area at a time (from the children’s perspective) and we let them experiment. We reflected with the children our observations and their experiences and decided together if the amount of children allotted per area was reasonable or needed adjusting. We found that by incorporating the children’s ideas and participation in environmental design, they were more respectful of the environment and the environment reflected their ideas and values. Remember: Not every area of the classroom has to be created equal. The environment should reflect the interests and skills of the people who use it.[2]

    Early childhood teachers see and support children as scientists and thus design the play environment to serve the children’s inquisitive minds. Teachers also provide the materials children need to construct concepts and ideas and master skills in the natural context of play. Children learn from opportunities to discover materials that they may be seeing for the first time and need time to explore and get to know the properties of these materials. It means offering children materials that they can organize into relationships of size, shape, number, or function and time. Children can investigate what happens when they put these materials together or arrange them in new ways, experiencing the delight of discovering possibilities for building with them, transforming them, or using them to represent an experience.

    Loose Parts

    An article by Reading Play discusses Loose Parts Theory:

    ‘Loose parts’ theory is about remembering that the best play comes from things that allow children to play in many different ways and on many different levels. Environments that include ‘loose parts’ are infinitely more open-ended, stimulating, and engaging than static ones. The play environment needs to promote and support imaginative play through the provision of ‘loose parts’ in a way that doesn’t direct play and play opportunities, but allows children to develop their own ideas and explore their world.

    • Must be included in both indoor and outdoor environments
    • Have no defined use and play workers must support the children when they decide to change the shape or use of them.
    • Must be accessible physically and stored where they can be reached by children without having to ask the play workers. The children should know that they can use them whenever and however they wish.

    Must be regularly replenished, changed, and added to.[3]

    Early childhood teachers also design the daily routines as rich opportunities for children to participate actively and to use their emerging skills and ideas in meaningful situations. Equally important are the ways in which teachers use interactions and conversations with children to support learning.[4]


    [1] Australian Government Department of Education (n.d.) Educator My Time, Our Place. Retrieved from (p. 48)

    [2] The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

    [3] Reading Room (n.d.). The Theory of Loose Parts by the Reading Room. Retrieved from

    [4] The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 19-21)

    This page titled 5.2: 5.2 Analyzing the Environment is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jennifer Paris, Kristin Beeve, & Clint Springer.