Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to compulsory primary school age. It is a time of remarkable growth and important milestones in brain development. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them. (Unesco 2020)
In early childhood, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.
That being said, it is good to assess how the whole learning environment is set up to support children's playful learning such as:
- Educator's pedagogical skills and competencies when working with the children
- Curriculum and learning objectives for playful learning
- Action plans, syllabus, weekly and daily plans
- Lesson plans and activities
- Learning materials such as toys, building blocks, painting and writing materials, etc.
- Observations, documentation, and formative assessment of learning
- The activity areas
These should encourage and support the children to play, interact, and practice cognitive processes such as problem-solving and controlling feelings. Play motivates children, brings joy, and supports the children's well-being. It allows them to learn new skills whilst enjoying the learning.
In this blog post, we focus on the physical activity areas.
Physical activity areas
The learning environment should take the whole child into consideration - social, emotional, cultural, linguistic, physical, and cognitive side - and provide activities in all those aspects.
To do this, you can for example include activity areas that offer opportunities for both hands-on, play-based learning and developmentally appropriate instruction of academic skills. Activity areas should invite children to inquire, explore, test, discover, and engage in play and learning.
Even if the learning areas are full of inspiring, changing, and varied materials, the basic daily schedule should remain the same from day to day. The daily schedule can be supported by routines and carefully planned transitions so that the day is a smooth and well-managed ensemble.
Examples of Activity areas in the learning environment
Presented originally in Community Playthings - Supporting high-quality early learning:
A block area that houses a full set of wooden unit blocks arranged by size and shape in low open shelving that clearly demarcates where each block should be stored;
A math/manipulative area that offers a variety of materials including puzzles, small blocks, Legos, games, tiles, geoboards, attribute blocks, and other hands-on materials that foster children’s thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of math (counting, operations, numbers, measurement, geometry)
A library area that contains a variety of books that are arranged by the areas of interest and difficulty level. The types of books should reflect the little readers who learn in the classroom.
A writing/drawing area that provides different types of paper, crayons/markers/pencils, and maybe stamps, stencils, alphabet charts... These materials can be combined with art materials (for younger children) or separated into their own area when children become more advanced in the literacy development
An art area that offers different types of paper and drawing materials (crayons, markers, etc.), as well as paste or glue, scissors, stamps, watercolors, pastels, and tempera paints and brushes, an easel or table available for a large painting, collage and construction materials, and other assorted materials such as playdough and clay.
A science area that includes magnifying glass(es), sand/water table, possibly animals (guinea pigs, snails, mealworms), and other natural items (eg. plants, rocks, shells, leaves...) depending on the time of the year, current topic, or interests of the children in the classroom. Within this area, children should be given time to experiment with measuring, counting, pouring, and making predictions.
Dramatic play area
A dramatic play area for younger children that can be used as a “house” or any other setup that is interesting for the children or the essence of the current topic (eg. post office, train station, grocery store...).
A media center that provides access to computers, printers, audio equipment, smartboards, and other technology that children can learn to use.
A large meeting area for the whole group of children gathering together for circle time, group discussions, storytime, and music/movement activities. It can be in one of the areas of the classroom, such as the block area or the library, that has enough floor space.
An outdoor play area is ideal as children love to run around, jump, climb, and play freely in the natural environment - why not grow your own vegetables even? Everyone surely feels refreshed after spending some time outdoors. If possible, it is easiest if the outdoor space is connected directly to the classroom.
How to assess the quality of the learning environments?
Evaluation helps to make the strengths and developmental needs of ECCE visible. The more the families and children are able to take part in the planning and evaluation of the center's learning environments and overall action, the more pleased they will be. This is also true with children. Every child should feel that their ideas and comments are heard and that they matter. Therefore, do not forget to ask for direct feedback from children: “If you want the truth, ask a child.”
If you would like to explore how Kindiedays can help to meet your specific needs, why not book a consultative call with our expert?
We look forward to assisting you in creating an exceptional learning environment for young minds.