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Key Components of High-Quality Early Learning Environments


An early learning environment (ELU) is a place where children can learn. In some cases, it might be more appropriate to think about early childhood education (ECE) or preschool as a place where children can learn. An ELU can be an indoor or outdoor space that is equipped with teaching tools such as books, furniture, sensory equipment, art materials, etc. Depending on the age group of the children and the nature of the task, an ELU can be thought of as either formal or informal.

Formal

Most likely, if you’re reading this, you’re thinking about an indoor space for young children. An ELU that is used for kindergartners or first-graders generally follows a certain format that is designed to engage kids and help them learn. Some of the key components of a formal, early learning space include:

  1. A carpeted floor
  2. Walls made of wooden boards or plaster
  3. A blackboard or whiteboard for children to draw on
  4. School desks with attached chairs
  5. Bookcases with a variety of reading materials
  6. A computer for the children to use
  7. Art supplies like paint, paper, and cardboard
  8. A water closet (washroom)
  9. A shower cabinet
  10. Lockers for the children to store their belongings

These are the elements that you’d typically find in a typical school classroom. However, schools are changing to fit the needs of children these days. So it’s not always easy to fit a school environment into your home. For one thing, you don’t always have room. For another, you might not want to commit to spending most of your life in an indoor space. Still, having a formal, early learning environment in your home is something to consider.

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Informal

An ELU that is used for toddlers or young children is generally a bit less structured, but it’s still important that they learn in an environment where they can explore, create, and problem-solve. Some of the key components of an informal, early learning space include:

a rug or soft flooring in the space a variety of seating options (couches, chairs, or even a floor) for an interactive learning session a table or a space for children to play with their food no walls or boards near the floor space for the children to grow and change as they develop.

You’d find many of these elements at a playground. While there are certainly formal elements like a teacher and a desk, you generally don’t find things like carpeting or cubbies for the children. If you want to keep your child’s play area clean and tidy, you might want to consider installing a rug or laying down vinyl or a plastic sheet. If space is not an issue, a floor is always an option – even better if it’s made of wood or tiles because then it can be used for many different activities (art, cooking, and more).

As much as possible, you want your child’s early learning environment to encourage independence while also nurturing critical thinking abilities and social skills. If you’re looking for a way to save money while providing your children with high-quality early learning opportunities, consider setting up a play area in the backyard. You can get a toy kitchen with a water fountain, for example, that will encourage your toddler to learn to cook and serve food to their baby sisters or brothers. There are also many apps and games where your children can practice social skills like empathy and understanding while also learning to count and follow simple directions. It’s a win-win situation.

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Whatever the case may be, choosing an indoor or outdoor space for children is a common dilemma. If you want an indoor space, you’ll need to think about the elements listed above as well as whether or not you’ll have enough room for all of the teaching materials. If you opt for an outdoor space, you’ll need to consider the weather conditions in your area as well as your budget. If any of these issues are significant in your home, consider an indoor/outdoor space split. In this case, you’ll have the advantage of an indoor space while also being able to take advantage of the outdoor space when the weather is favorable. Keeping a bit of nature inside your home can also be therapeutic for both you and your kids.


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