Working in the early childhood field for over 20 years, my classroom environments have varied from a struggling inner-city non profit center to a brand new early childhood wing at a private school and everything in between. I believe in blooming where you have been planted and making the most of your budget and space. Here, I share a few tips to help you design an environment that encourages discovery and promotes positive behavior.
- View the room from the child’s level. Sit in a child sized chair and then on the floor. What do you see? A child will not see or care about decorations, Alphabet strips, etc that are placed at the top of the wall near the ceiling. Think low when placing items on the wall. Are there places for your eye to take a break? Cluttered, over decorated walls can cause children to become hyperactive. Mother Goose Time provides many professional development opportunities that begins with room arrangement and organizing your curriculum materials.
- Are there items in the room that represent your community and natural environment? Are there photos of children and their families displayed where all can enjoy them? We live and attend school in a tourist area surrounded by lakes, rivers, lighthouses and orchards so you will see those items in our classroom. It would not be as meaningful to my children to have cacti or tropical decor.
- Consider traffic flow and avoid having a “run way” or you will spend most of your time redirecting behavior. Do your investigation stations allow children to use them without having their work interrupted? At one point, we had our dramatic play area too close to our building area. The children were frustrated by having to share the space, projects were ruined and tears followed. When we moved the areas, the children were told that we wanted everyone to have enough space to work in. This sent a message that they are important and many problems were avoided.
- Enticing investigation stations (and long periods of uninterrupted play) will encourage children to explore the materials and stay engaged. Deeper, more meaningful learning can occur when the space is carefully planned.
- Bring natural items indoors, add photographs of nature. Change out the materials with the seasons. Our curriculum provides us with beautiful, full color photographs that relate to the current them. The Invitation to Create activity features either a reproduction of famous artwork or a photograph. We then display it in the area of the room that makes sense.
- Provide soft spaces that the children can use. This is especially important if you operate a full day program. Children need things that remind them of home, and soft items that they can relax with. The decor should reflect the community as well.
- Provide a sense of community and a daily schedule that is predictable. A classroom job chart and daily schedule signs are included in our Welcome Kit, which is included in our first curriculum shipment of the year.
- Display artwork created by the children. Our curriculum kit comes with Teacher Guides and the majority of materials needed to complete the projects. In each activity there are prompts for the teacher to encourage discussion and to help them children which items and materials to use. Open-ended, child-created work is encouraged. Children experience a sense of pride when they see their work displayed at their level.
You can see the development of our environment from the beginning of last year and other changes along the way here.
Please see our full disclosure statement above.