Studying an Early Childhood Environment for Children Birth to Two Years Old
Today’s young children are spending a large number of hours in a child care setting. Given that massive amount of time, it is essential that we strive to make it the “best” place possible for children (Isbell, 2007).
Researches have shown that the quality of preschool education is partly related to the quality of the planned and designed physical environment (Harrison, 1990; Moore, 2002). Hence, the question of providing quality care turns into how to plan and provide quality environment to children (Harrison, 1990). According to Greenman (1988: 53), the important and indispensable role that environment plays in providing quality child care is described as follows: A well-planned environment can offer two essential contributions to quality care. First, it can provide children with appropriate and challenging learning experiences within a consistent and secure setting. Second, it allows staff greater opportunity to become involved in meaningful, intimate interactions with children by reducing the time required for organising and reorganising the furniture, the room and the equipment.
In this article, I look into the question of how to create a comfortable educational environment which is optimal for infants and toddlers’ learning and development by analysing the setting of a Toddler Room in a child care centre where I worked. After thorough study, I am able to provide a plan to redesign the room, which I believe, would better suit young children’s special needs and their unique ways of learning, so as to benefit their future development in the long run.
Description of the Layout of the Toddler Room
The Toddler Room is designed for children under three years old. It is located at the very front of the centre. The physical layout of the room is depicted in Appendix 1. The Toddler Room shares one kitchenette, one storeroom and one change room with the Middle Room (children 3-4 years) next door.
Basically, the room is divided into two regions: dry and wet regions. The dry region, which is covered with carpet, serves as a cozy space for quiet play and sleep. The wet region is floored with tiles and is mainly used for children to have meals and do messy play. There are quite a few positive aspects of this room in regards to providing a safe and sound educational environment for children’s development and learning. For example, the room is organized and has plenty of storage space. All doors outside or inside the room have large pieces of glasses which provide a good visibility of the room. There are plenty of windows to allow maximum natural light. Almost all furniture is made of wood. And there is a large yard right outside the room for children to play and explore.
Upon entering the room, one could see a row of open lockers, in which store all children’s bags and other stuffs. The lockers are made of wood and each of them is labelled with children’s names and pictures for recognition. Usually two children would share one locker. The lockers are low to the floor and within reach of the children so that they can have access to their stuffs all the time. An open environment with all area accessible to children is likely to encourage ownership and respect for resources (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett & Farmer, 2012). This area is also important in the sense that it gives children a clear sense of space, predictability and security. An entrance that is nice and delightful could sooth the separation anxiety of both parents and children, making them feel invited and welcomed to a place designed just for them (Community Playthings, 2008).
Beside the lockers there are two tables, which are equipped with portable child sized chairs. All made of wood. When children are not having tea or lunch, the staff members would clean up the tables and put on toys and stationaries, such as puzzles, Play Doh plasticine, paper, crayon...
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