Developmentally Appropriate Learning Environment for Preschool

Activity centers help organize the space for better learning.
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The teacher plays the primary role in supporting development in preschoolers, but the environment also impacts how the kids learn and develop. A space that creates security and the opportunity to explore is key to young minds who are rapidly making connections. With a knowledge of preschool development, the arrangement of the environment can support learning in young children of all abilities.

1 Space Division

Young kids use the physical arrangement of a space to make sense of what happens there, according to Early Childhood News. The physical division of the space helps preschoolers learn how to use the different areas. The space organization also provides dedicated places to do specific types of activities. For example, leaving a large open space accommodates circle activities or group games. A small area separated by bookshelves or half walls creates a quiet area for individual or small group activities. A raised platform defines the space for dramatic play with a stage. When designing the preschool layout, consider the different uses for the room, making clear separations without cutting off the flow in the room. Furniture arrangement is a simple way to define the areas.

2 Organization

The organization of the materials within each area of the classroom contributes to the predictability that preschoolers seek in the environment. Child-height shelves and storage containers give young learners independence to explore the materials in the classroom. Clear containers with labels and lids keep similar items or sets of materials grouped together. Children also learn about caring for items and picking up after themselves with a clear organizational system. Classroom items are often organized into learning centers, with related materials stored in the area; the dress-up clothes, puppets and props go in bins near the dramatic play center, while magnifying glasses, scales and nature items might go in tubs in the science area.

3 Materials

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a preschool environment with a variety of organized and well-maintained materials supports learning. When the students are allowed to explore the materials, they learn how the items work and create new ways to play with them. You'll often see a child combine two different materials during play. For example, a preschooler uses a set of interlocking blocks to build a pen for a separate set of plastic animals. Changing out the materials that are accessible to the students keeps the items fresh and encourages continued development.

4 Wall Decor

The wall decorations lend more than a colorful view. The materials displayed provide learning opportunities for preschoolers. Print in all areas of the classroom encourages language development. Large signs labeling the learning centers help organize the space and encourage print awareness. Smaller labels for all of the items in the classroom offer more opportunities for interacting with letters. The goal of environmental print in the classroom is to make it meaningful, to give it purpose, instead of simply overloading the room with letters. Displaying students' work supports their emotional development, as they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in the work on display.

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.