Tree Climbing

Climbing trees are a great way to form a connection to nature. Yes, it can be dangerous. The children may get stuck or fall, but taking considerate risk in early childhood is really important.

To make it safer, designate certain trees for climbing. Check their branches for stability and make sure the area below is clear in case they do fall. You may need to designate height restrictions, depending on the age of the children or the rules of your centre. Children should also be supervised.

If a child gets stuck, don’t immediately get them down. Consider how they got up there in the first place and try using verbal suggestions for them to get down on their own. If you need to, you can help direct their feet or hands in to specific locations. Having the opportunity to solve their own problems will help them with confidence and capabilities in the future.

Do you have trees for climbing at your centre? Please share your examples or opinions below.

Resting/Reading Area

Having an area where children can rest or read is important. It gives them some down time and they have the opportunity to calm their bodies and regulate their emotions.

I would recommend that the area is only used for reading and resting. Other toys can be used elsewhere. It helps to make it a safe zone for those who need a quiet space.

Here is an area I created at my home for a 4 and 2 year old. Soft rugs, pillows and toys, and the net helps to separate it from the rest of the playroom. There is a bookshelf to the right and the net opening can be bigger or smaller, depending on your needs.

I love these nets, and you can add fairy lights or other decorations to them. However, they are fragile. They can tear if a child sits on them. We used a rubber band to connect the net to the hook on the roof. It gave it a bit more flexibility.

I have seen a lot of other great ideas for reading areas. Small couches, caves, using real plants.

What do your reading and relaxing areas look like? Please share your ideas!

Playspace Variety

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:

  • Construction/building
  • Reading
  • Relaxing/rest
  • Art/craft
  • Nature play
  • Imaginative/Roleplay
  • Small world
  • Gross motor
  • Fine motor
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Sensory
  • Culture

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!

Inspiring Environments

Have a look around your room. How does it make you feel? Is in neat and tidy? Are the resources stored correctly? Is it presentable for the families that will be coming through? These are some of the questions we often ask ourselves as educators.

Now have another look, this time in the eyes of a child. Does it invite play and inspire creativity? Are there a range of activities to explore? Most importantly, does it look fun?

If you answered yes to those questions then fantastic! Just be sure to check back in during the day to ensure your still feel this way. Your room may need resting or you may need to rotate resources to continue promoting engagement. Also make sure you are focusing on your outdoor area. It is just as important as inside, if not more.

However, if you are struggling with the above questions then you are not alone. Let’s be honest, it is hard to create the perfect playspace, and then maintain it too. Time management comes in to this a lot but that is another musing. As difficult as it is though, it will also make your work easier once you get used to it. Inspiring environments are fundamental for child development but they also support behaviours. You should find that the more time you spend on your environment, the less time you will need to spend on settling children and stopping them from just running around the room making a mess.

This is all well and good to say, but how does one actually create these environments?

First of all, here is my number one rule for creating inspiring environments:

Be purposeful with your resource placement. Toys that are just dumped on tables or scattered randomly in the sandpit do not invite play. Take some time to set them up and make it look like someone has already started playing with them. This is also an opportunity to model appropriate play.

Let’s explore some ideas separated into certain play types, though you can merge many of them together and mix it up. These lists are not complete and they are just designed to inspire your own creativity and to get you thinking about what you can do.