I have spent a lot of time over the years talking with both parents and staff about child care environments. For parents, we talk about how to recognize an appropriate environment for their child. For staff, it’s about how to set up and maintain an appropriate environment. But, for both groups, we talk about why the environment is set up the way it is and what children will learn through that environment and the activities that we provide.
Parents often want to see concrete examples of what their children are learning in our program. They want to see them reading, doing worksheets, bringing home cute artwork, etc. Our job, along with teaching the children in a developmentally-appropriate manner, is to educate the parents on appropriate education. We do that by designing our environment correctly and by working directly with the parents, helping them understand our design and our learning activities.
Typically, an early learning program will have a gathering area where children and teachers can meet throughout the day to work on large group activities. It can be a rug, a circle, or just a specific area that is set aside. In this area, you may meet in the morning to talk about the upcoming day, including the day of the week and date, the weather, anything special about that day, and plans for the day. Perhaps you can meet together before lunch and read a big-book together. This is also a good place to wrap up your day together.
Along with a gathering area, most programs will have specific areas set aside for:
- Dramatic Play
- Sensory Play
- Gross Motor
Some programs may also include a specific computer area, but care must be taken to ensure that the software is educational and appropriate and that screen-time recommendations are followed.
Over the next several weeks, we will discuss each of these learning areas in-depth; what it looks like and what the children will learn from it. Make sure your staff and parents all understand these ‘whats’ and ‘whys’.