Enabling Environments

Blog Written by Jill Dring – Headteacher

What is there here for me?

To create nurturing, engaging and inspiring learning environments for children we must plan from the perspective of each unique child. Environments can only enable learning if children feel secure, comfortable and able to be themselves. The environment has to be theirs. Getting to know your children, even before they begin at the setting, is key. There cannot be a one size fits all approach, and what worked for the last cohort inevitably won’t engage the interests of the next. During home visits and transition meetings we can find out the things that motivate and interest each child. What makes them feel at home and comfortable? What objects are familiar to them from their home environment? We can represent this in their space and make it their own. We can seek the views of their families and reflect their culture. 

EYFS Statutory Framework, Learning and Development Considerations 1.11 Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and development of each child in their care, and must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child in all areas of learning and development. 

What skills do we want to promote?

As the year progresses, children’s interests will develop and grow. A collaborative planning approach is key. Adults must advocate for the voice of each child. What schematic play do we want to encourage and develop? Is there something here to capture the interest of each individual? What new experiences do we want to introduce? Sometimes it is all too easy to fall into the trap of planning one or two thematic enhancements whilst leaving continuous provision static and lacking challenge. It is important to continually review our offer with children’s needs, abilities and interests in mind. Making changes and revamping areas without careful consideration can cause distress, as we know children need to revisit favoured areas and feel secure in familiar surroundings. However, continuous provision must be skills based and enable progress at all levels of play. 

               If a child has a preference for outdoor play, is this freely available to them?

Children learn best when their emotional and physical needs are met and prioritised. The enabling environment forms an essential part of this. Relationships and the role of the adult are fundamental. Adults must value and respect children’s spaces and plan for accessibility for all. Are there quieter spaces where children can relax and regulate? Are there areas of low distraction and places where sensory needs can be met? What can children see, hear, touch and taste in the environment, and how do adults support them to have equal access? Think about your environment and how it makes sense for all children. This should include how children can navigate the space, communicate their needs, select their own resources and explore using their own style of play. Children must be given a voice and have some control over their environment to enable them a sense of belonging and safety. 

The learning environment is far more than just a physical space, it represents the care, nature, acceptance and safety that each child is entitled to in order to thrive.

EYFS Statutory Framework, Learning and Development Considerations 1.14 Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, relate to others, set their own goals and solve problems. Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults. Practitioners need to decide what they want children in their setting to learn, and the most effective ways to teach it. Practitioners must stimulate children’s interests, responding to each child’s emerging needs and guiding their development through warm, positive interactions coupled with secure routines for play and learning.

Reference and further reading

For background information on Enabling Environments you can see the EYFS section on ‘Overarching Principles’ and the Development Matters section on ‘Pedagogy’.

About the author

Jill Dring is the Headteacher at Charnwood Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Stockport. Jill has worked within the early years sector for 20 years and is a specialist in SEND. She is passionate about inclusive early years practice and leads a multi-disciplinary team of high skilled early years professionals. Charnwood has long been a recognised centre of excellence for inclusive early years education and family work. 

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