Rich environments indoors have an immediate effect on the quality of children’s learning and development. What is a rich environment? It’s comfortable, interesting, attractive and appropriate for the child or children who use it. For some children it becomes like a second home where they eat and sometimes sleep. A suitable environment for a young baby will be very different from a suitable environment for a four or five year old although some features will be the same. Environments should be attractive and make children feel safe and secure and happy to be there and they should also be places where children can confidently play and learn.
Indoor space needs careful planning as it needs to be flexible to accommodate children’s changing interests and needs. Resources should be of the highest quality. Books need to be attractive and well maintained and reflect children’s fascinations. Resources such as blocks for building with, felt pens, chalks or pencils for mark-making, clothes for dressing up in and small items such as cars, dolls and jigsaws should be accessible by children themselves.
Children gain enormous benefits from learning outdoors. Ideally they should have access to outdoor space on a daily basis – regardless of all except the worst weather. Being outdoors allows them to move around without many of the restrictions of being inside. They can fill their lungs with clean air and use all of their senses to appreciate the colours, different noises, the sense of space and of scale. Being outdoors supports confidence and allows opportunities for big scale play, problem-solving and creativity in the company of other children. Physical activity is enhanced. So is calculated risk taking. In the outdoors, children’s use of language is five times greater than indoors. Resources don’t need to be expensive. Old tyres, some logs and crates will stimulate imagination and can be used in a number of ways. A sheet can become a den. Flower pots and hanging baskets and a ‘wild area’ give contact with the natural world. The outdoors supports active learning and when balanced with quiet areas for reflection can really enhance children’s learning.