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In physical terms, the indoor environment must be well lit, ideally with plenty of sources of natural light. The rooms should be maintained at as adequate temperature and properly ventilated. The setting should be clean and well maintained and should offer adequate space for the children attending, and also space for storing equipment.
These basic requirements are essential for providing a comfortable and appropriate space for children and young people. However, to plan an environment that really embraces and supports children and young people as learners, practitioners need to understand the nature of children’s learning.
For children to develop as confident learners, they need to feel secure.
From the outset, it is important for settings to recognise that children’s unique perspective develops through experiences in many different contexts.
The setting is only one part of the child’s world and must, therefore reflect the children and young people’s cultural background.
The setting should offer comfortable places for children and young people and also parents to share experiences, talk and reflect. It should provide play opportunities that take into account children’s diverse experiences. The children’s key worker will plan an important role in building up a relationship of trust and understanding between family and the setting.
Children will develop a sense of belonging as they become familiar with routines and expectations during their time within the setting.
The way in which the environment is set up should also encourage independence and a sense of responsibilities. Within a high-quality setting, the team will present a range of resources and activities and support children in making choices and decisions. Children will be involved in tasks such as tidying up and preparing snacks, and through experiences they can grow in confidence, self-esteem and independence.
Settings must make children’s safety a priority and so should identify and potential hazards and take steps to minimize risks. Practitioners should review safety regularly and carry out some checks daily. But within the security of a well-planned and monitored environment, practitioners should also supply opportunities for challenge so that children learn about the limits of their capabilities and how to make informed assessments of risk.
Children learn through physical activity. They need space to move and to work on a large scale, either alone or with others, and the need opportunities for sensory explorations to make connections in their understanding. Such requirements have implications for the organization of space within a setting and highlight the need for well-planned and accessible outdoor area as well.
A high quality setting will include an interesting outdoor area that practitioners view as an integral part of the whole learning environment.
It will provide opportunities for children to play for long periods outdoors and to choose whether to play indoors or outdoors.
Indoors a setting must also take into account the children moving around.
It will provide space for the children to run and jump and try and balance . Areas such as construction and role play should be large enough for children to work collaboratively and to extend the scope of their play when the wish.
The environment as a whole should accommodate children’s different types of behaviour when at play and should offer space and opportunities for them to be both boisterous and reflective, to explore and to talk.
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