Play areas both indoor and outdoor are an environment which attracts children usually straight away as it is an excellent source to encourage them to develop their skills, abilities and senses. A play area is also a good environment for children and young people to experience safe risks. For example, an outdoor play area may have a rickety bridge which can be quite difficult to walk across, particularly for younger children or a child with a disability. This bridge can be a safe risk for the child or young person to walk across, as they are taking a risk to walk across it without support or being aided by an adult or an older child. When safe risks are experienced by children and young people, there should always be an adult present. In this case, a practitioner could be waiting at the side of the bridge or at the end to ensure they are there in case there is an accident.
Even if a setting or service is fortunate to have an outdoor play area, exciting, fun and stimulating activities should also be planned by practitioners to ensure the child is able to develop new skills or to demonstrate their existing skills. The environment in which these activities are set out in should also be appealing and virtually stimulating for children and young people. This is important because a child is more likely to participate and want to get involved in an activity if the room looks bright, positive and stimulating for them to enjoy the activity in. If the room or environment had plain white walls and was poorly lit, it would appear quite dull and boring to the children and young people and therefore may prevent them from wanting to come into the environment. On the other hand, if the walls are brightly coloured and decorated with the children’s art work and drawings or have colourful and educational displays such as an EYFS display or a role play area this would then be appealing to the child or young person and they will want to play in the environment.
It is also important to ensure the activities are planned and organised and the environment the children are in, is organised and tidy. The activities should also be challenging for the child or young person and specific to their ability or age group as this will help to keep them interested and help to develop their own skills and personalities dependent on their own individual needs and abilities. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework requires settings to provide personalised tasks and activities for the children which are also inclusive to enable all children and young people of all abilities and levels to participate.
Ensuring the environment is filled with the appropriate specialised equipment such as having sensory toys to for children with additional needs or a disability can help with their learning and development. Where I work there are three after school clubs at different sites and at the main site there is also a preschool and a nursery. In the nursery there is a specialised sensory room which is designed to help develop individual’s sense, usually through special lighting, music and objects. It can also be used as a therapy for children with limited communication skills. A sensory room is designed and utilised to help promote self-organisation and positive change. There are multiple types of sensory rooms and purposes for use that have been created and implemented in different childcare settings to help children and young people’s development. Sensory rooms can help to create a safe space and a stimulating and calm environment for a child or young person and can help to develop key life skills such as gross motor skills, colour recognition and tracking. It can also promote self-care/self-nurturance, resilience and recovery for children and young people.
In the setting I work in I ensure the environment is colourful and appealing with display boards around the room. I think it is very important to have displays linked to the children’s education. As my club operates from within a school, we are aware of what the children are learning about that week in school, so each term we try and change the display boards to link with the subject or topic they are learning about in school. For example, after Christmas they were learning about Space and the planets, so that week the theme for our clubs activities were all based on Space and we created a display board of Space and all the different planets and information about each of the planets. This is really important as it creates an environment to help a child or young person’s educational development as they are learning about a subject which is relevant to their education and school. Displays are also really useful as they are big, bright and visually interesting and are always there so that children can refer to them whenever they wish.
If they felt they needed to practice their planets and the distance each planet was from the sun for example, they could look at our Space display whenever to practice this which will stimulate their brain and get them thinking. I also think it is crucial for a child’s personal development to have pictures of the children on displays and on the wall for parents and carers to see what their child has achieved that week. We recently created a family tree for the room as an activity which involved painting a huge tree trunk and branches and the children all made their own handprint from putting their hand in paint.
These then acted as the leaves of the family tree. The children all decorated their own handprint however they wished. Each handprint had the child’s name written clearly on it for all to see. I think this is important as it visually looks appealing and makes the room appear bright and colourful but it is also good for the child’s development as they are able to see that they are part of a family and that the children and staff in that setting all care about them. It creates a fun and loving environment for the children to come into and I think this is crucial in a child’s development because if the environment is positive, happy and stimulating this will promote positivity to the children.