YMCA Childcare

Learning in the Physical Environment

The learning environment plays an important role in the development of children. All children develop at their own pace regardless of age, abilities and strengths.

The environment provides children a safe and warm space to develop their learning through experiences of visual stimulation, learning to communicate by listening and participation of conversations, observing their surroundings, and their sense of touch.

Children must be able to explore and experience the materials around them, as well as build collaborative relationships with other children. Having a vast array of materials provide opportunities for them to express themselves.

With the inclusion of educator’s pedagogical practices and the use of intentionality, the learning space is set up encouraging children’s curiosity and inquisitive natures to flow. All materials must be available at all times of a program whether it is planned or unplanned. This provides children with choices and skills to make decisions.

Various theorists explored the learning environments to create an educational space. These philosophers include Maria Montessori, whom has an educational approach, empathising on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for the children psychological, physical and social development. Lev Vygotsky developed the Social Development Theory, Vivian Paley whom is an advocate for the importance of play for young people, and Loris Malaguzzi whom developed the Reggio Emilio educational Philosophy.

With all of these educational theories, we are able to provide an educational program planned and unplanned for children to develop on their various skills and development. Identifying programs can come in two forms- a planned program where educators observe, document and plan for an individual child’s development, and implementing activities and/or experiences to upskill the child, and an unplanned program which is spontaneous learning. This is more about the emotional environment. It is supporting the children as individuals and nurturing their needs, and supporting their growth. This also connects with children’s interests, and needs and their development of play.

Having a learning environment supports children’s abilities to nurture each individual child. Educators have been identified as a co-learner and collaborator with the child and not just an instructor. Sometimes we need to trust in our children and allow them the room to grow.

Over the years there have been many restrictions and rules placed onto our children’s play, in the hopes of keeping them safe. My question is, are we preventing them from learning by doing this and what are our children achieving by this?

There is much more to an environment than one can visually see. Sometimes we need to take the time to get down on the children’s level and try to look through their eyes and experience what they can see.

By Triscina James – Coordinator and Educational Leader YMCA Musgrave Hill


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