Early childhood classroom settings can create an incredible foundation for a child’s future life as a learner. Children who spend their time in beautiful and inspiring early childhood settings may fall in love with learning, and that affection will likely stay with them throughout their lives.
The World Forum Foundation has extensively explored the issue of design in early childhood settings. Through their Global Collaborative OnDesign for Children, they have worked with architects, landscape architects, educators and the public to determine which factors are important in designing an early childhood classroom. This collaboration has emphasized several points.
Based on their research, every early childhood classroom should be inspired by the fact that each child is unique and classrooms should be designed to adapt to the rhythm of each child’s life and his or her daily routine.
Play is one of the most important parts of early childhood, but unfortunately, the importance of play is often overlooked in many early childhood settings. Studies show that children learn while playing, and several longitudinal studies have even shown that children who play until age 6 perform better in school at age 12 than their counterparts who were in more academic settings before age 6.
To promote play, classrooms should be equipped with a variety of toys that encourage imaginative playing using toys that have multiple functions. For example, wooden blocks can be used in a variety of ways while most electronic toys have one prescribed use. Ideally, classrooms should have a wide range of toys, costumes, play kitchens and other objects that promote play. Through play, children will learn how to interpret external settings and personal experiences. By playing with other children, they will learn problem-solving and communication skills.
While young children are growing up, they grow their vocabularies and their rhetorical skills, but at the same time, they also should learn how to express themselves through the arts. Classrooms should have places where children can explore art through clay, paint and drawing.
Art should also be used to inspire and encourage creativity in children. Early childhood settings should integrate stunning architectural elements, and classrooms should also have representations of famous paintings or sculptures and even works by local artists.
Integrating nature into early childhood settings is essential as it helps children bond with their natural environment in ways that will inspire them as learners. Some preschool centers are able to have full outdoor gardens while others are only able to have a small pet in the classroom. Waldorf schools are well known for their commitment to nurturing a love of nature in children, and one of their tools for achieving this goal is a nature table that integrates elements of the outdoors.
Children at this table can play with objects like leaves, flowers, sticks or sand. They can arrange these objects in pleasing designs, or they can simply sift them through their fingers. They can have small dolls walk through the objects on these tables. When these objects are provided to children, they will find imaginative ways to use them.
When you integrate these elements into early childhood settings, you create a beautiful environment. More importantly, however, you will create a student who will have a lasting connection to art and nature, and through these elements, you can inspire a child to become a lifelong learner.