All learning and exploring is positive and nurturing. The environment needs to encourage children’s development. It’s how children feel positive and confident about their sense of self and their individual accomplishments. Their space needs to provide a balance of challenge, risk and safety.
A positive environment should have expressive materials like paint, drawing materials, and dough or clay. The space should include open-ended materials that can be used in many different ways, so children can pretend, invent and create. Sensory experiences are also very nurturing and soothing for kids’ emotions. Water play, sand play, play dough, pouring materials – they all allow release of frustration. Construction materials, like building blocks, are also important and help develop a child’s fine and gross motor skills.
The environment needs to be based on the whole child: socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. This approach looks at the environment as a whole through the child’s eye. Ask yourself, “Are there materials so that the child can express his feelings? Are the materials challenging enough? Are there opportunities for fine and gross motor development?” Here are some useful tips:
- Organization – Can the child “read” the environment to make sense of it? Is the space clear or chaotic? Labels or pictures help the child keep the environment orderly, which fosters independence in the child.
Aesthetics – Is there color, texture, soft materials? Not just primary colors. Having a wide range of colors and materials is more likely to appeal to children and will enable them to gain more intelligence about their world.
Adaptability – Can the space or materials move and change to reflect the child’s current development, interests?
Creating a positive environment also means giving a child individual attention and respect by acknowledging the child. Acknowledgement is more than simply complimenting the child. An adult can compliment a child by saying, “I love your art.” Acknowledgement, however, is when an adult takes notice of what a child has done, and says, “Look, you can do that now!”