When you are in a hurry to set up a room and just want to get the job done, it can be easy to pull out a few boxes of resources and arrange them on different tables. Sometimes, the easy way out is the only thing you can manage, and that is okay on occasion (let’s be realistic) but, if you have the opportunity, take a look at what is in those boxes and think about what types of play experiences you are providing.
Centres will often have a variety of building resources. Lego, duplo, wooden blocks, magnetic tiles, the list continues. When setting up your room, please think about how many of these construction resources you actually need out at the same time. They may be the easiest thing to get your hands on, but a child that doesn’t want to build will have nothing to do.
How can you ensure you have a variety of play experiences available?
There are a couple of ways to do this that we are going to explore here today. One way is looking at the curriculum and ensuring you have something to cover each outcome. In Australia, we use the Early Years Learning Framework. It has five main outcomes with subheadings in each. Educators use these outcomes to explain learning opportunities available in activities and experiences. Using this method, I would scan the room and make sure there is at least one activity to cover each outcome.
While this method could definitely support your room, it can be overwhelming for new educators who are not as familiar with the outcomes. Also, I’m not sure about other countries, but the Australian outcomes are quite broad in the way that one activity can have aspects that cover multiple different outcomes at the same time.
Another way is to think about your room and centre values and decide on focus areas that you want to ensure are available every day. There are many different areas, but picking the ones that you feel are the most important at this time will help to make it less overwhelming while still providing quality play experiences.
Examples of focus areas:
- Nature play
- Small world
- Gross motor
- Fine motor
There are plenty more that can be added to that list too. You may also find that some of them are easy to overlap, such as creating a small world play experience with natural materials. When you pick the ones you want to focus on, try to pick ones that are easily separated so you are providing different activities. You may decide to combine some of them, like creating a reading and relaxing area.
Once you have selected your focus areas, make sure they are communicated with other educators, including relief staff, to maintain room consistency. You may decide to designate certain areas of your room to your play focuses and put up signs displaying what each area is for. This will help to make it clear for educators and children.
Why is it important to provide variety?
Providing variety is how we ensure children are given opportunities to grow and develop. Children need a range of experiences in order to establish and enhance their skills. For some children, our centres are the only places they are going to be able to explore these experiences.
Providing this variety is also an important part of our jobs as educators. We are responsible for programming and documenting learning. We need to demonstrate that we have a strong understand of early childhood education.
Finally, ensuing there are a variety of experiences available will support child behaviour. Having a range of activities gives children different options to express themselves and fulfill their needs.
But what about outside?
The areas you have decided are important to focus on should also be included in your outdoor spaces. How they are set up may need some editing but having variety outside is just as important as inside, if not more important. I am a big supporter of outdoor classrooms, but that is another discussion.
Please comment below to express your opinions, ideas or questions!