Enabling Environments

3 Ideas to Improve Your Learning Environment

  • 3 Ideas to Improve Your Learning Environment

Laura England creates a construction area, focuses on recycling and suggests taking a child-led approach to literacy…

Creative construction

We currently have a boy-heavy cohort with a big interest in creating structures, and although we already had lots of open-ended resources and loose parts, we felt it was important to provide a dedicated space for this type of play.

We now have a large area within our continuous provision that we can continually add to and extend, in line with the children’s interests and explorations.

We added an array of blocks: wooden, metallic, sensory and clear, in addition to lots of scrap materials such as cable reels, log slices, decking planks and thick cardboard tubes.

Once we had our starting point, we were able to observe the children and extend appropriately. For example, we added weighing scales and measuring tubes to develop their mathematical thinking and clipboards and pencils to support mark making and literacy skills.

Literacy-rich environments

An environment filled with open-ended resources naturally covers the early years curriculum, offering opportunities to be creative, build independence, problem solve, communicate and gain a wider understanding of the world.

However, one area of development that many practitioners, including myself, struggle to extend this to is literacy. Most literacy is taught through adult-directed tasks rather than by providing resources that naturally inspire children.

We decided to focus closely on literacy, looking particularly at what we could add to our continuous provision.

So far this has included cookie cutters, to use alongside play dough or in the home corner; letter stamps, to use alongside creative mediums; stationery within the home corner for writing letters, lists or recipes; typewriters, also in the home corner; and log slices and coasters with letters on throughout the environment.

A sustainable ethos

As we’re all becoming aware, our impact on the planet is far greater than we imagined (eg it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! (WWF, 2018)).

As early years practitioners, we’re in a prime position to change how future generations perceive the environment and human impact upon it.

One thing many settings are already doing is reusing materials: by using scrap materials and buying second hand we’re already reducing our carbon footprints, but let’s go one step further and teach our children about this.

Encourage them to bring in materials from home that they would otherwise throw away and provide a recycling bin with images of the types of items that should go inside; encourage everyone to think about the single-use plastic they bring into the setting.

Have you read…

Charlie and Lola: Look After Your Planet by Lauren Child

Children love the Charlie and Lola books, so what better way to introduce them to sustainability than through these familiar characters. In this book, Lola decides to clear out her bedroom but instead of throwing everything away Charlie teaches her about recycling.

Laura England is preschool leader at Blythe Bridge Day Nursery. Follow @littlemiss_ey.