Children are always learning and adapting to the world around them. It is no surprise that research suggests that children’s physical environment can greatly impact their health and wellbeing. QSLA helps early childhood education programs structure their daily schedules and classroom environments. Optimizing the environment improves how children interact with the space, furnishings, learning materials, and even their educators.
QSLA coaches work with participating programs to help providers assess and enhance their program environment using the environment rating scale (ERS).
Check out some of our favorite tips and tricks to create a safe and welcoming environment for your little learners!
SPACE AND FURNISHINGS
Get Cozy: Optimize natural lighting, ventilation, temperature control, and sound absorbing materials to create a calm and welcoming environment.
Get on Their Level: Use child-size furniture, including easily accessible storage for toys and supplies, and display engaging visuals at children’s eye-level. Encourage staff to talk to children on their level, too.
Zen Zones: Set up a cozy area where quiet, independent play is separated from active play areas.
Kids Cubbies: Create individual cubbies with children’s names on them to help build name recognition while allowing for storage of children’s individual belongings.
The Great Outdoors: Set aside sufficient, safe, outdoor space with age-appropriate equipment that is accessible for children of all abilities. Adding in portable equipment like balls, hula hoops, volleyball, and trikes will add variety to stationary equipment, like a jungle gym.
PERSONAL CARE ROUTINES
Good Morning Rituals: Greet parents and children warmly each morning and invite children to engage with the activities of the day. Share a written record of children’s daily routines with their parents, too.
Fish Gotta Swim, Kids Gotta Eat: Provide well-balanced, hygienically-prepared, age-appropriate meals, ensuring that all allergies are clearly posted in meal preparation and classroom areas. Sit down to share relaxing meal or snack times with children, or encourage children to eat independently when necessary.
Nap Time! Set an age-appropriate nap time schedule and create comfortable sleep spaces by setting low lighting, playing relaxing music, and placing all cots or mats at least 3 feet apart or separated by a solid barrier.
Keep It Clean: Keep sanitary conditions while meeting each child’s individual diaper changing or toileting needs by regularly cleaning diapering/bathroom equipment and incorporating teacher and child hand washing practices throughout the day.
Healthy Kids: Keep detailed health information on each child and monitor them for signs of illness, child abuse, and neglect, and report when necessary. Any medications should only be given when a guardian provides exact instructions and written permission.
Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst: Frequently inspect the facilities and equipment to identify and remedy potential hazards. Train all staff in safety and emergency procedures, keep first aid supplies easily accessible, and review emergency procedures, including evacuation drills, every month.
Have a plan in place for how parents, or other persons authorized to pick up children, can reach or leave messages for staff concerning their children.
LANGUAGE AND REASONING
Reading Is FUNdamental: Make reading a highlight of children’s daily schedules by sharing stories on a wide variety of topics from a library of age-appropriate books.
Talk It Out: Use encouraging, positive language to engage children about their interests, relationships, and activities throughout the day and support children to communicate using words and concrete experiences.
The Fun Stuff: Provide developmentally appropriate toys including blocks, fine motor materials (such as pegs and pegboards, building toys, and sewing cards), art supplies, and music materials throughout the day. Use play, art, and music to introduce characteristics of different cultures and languages.