The child’s environment strongly influences and enhances his overall developmental growth. A safe, respectful, nurturing, and loving environment carefully prepared for the young child is the most valuable tool we have as adults to assure healthy development for the child.
Even though adults are a big part of the child’s environment, an adult environment is not suitable for a young child. It is the adult’s job to be a good role model and to serve as a link between the child and his environment. The adult should prepare a developmentally appropriate setting in which the child can grow and develop. Adults should always be aware of the child’s needs and make adaptations to the environment when needed. It is critical that the environment be prepared with the child’s social, emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs in mind.
A child needs an environment that will allow him to develop concentration, move about freely and be independent. Concentration is an essential factor in the child’s development and is the basis for his character and social behavior. The child must learn to concentrate and he will if his environment includes items of interest and importance to him. Qualities in a child’s environment that will promote concentration are beauty, order, reality, respect, limits, independence, and silence.
Some important elements to always consider when constructing an environment for the young child are safety, the basic design of the environment and supporting the child’s need for movement, order and language. The environment should allow the child the time needed to finish what he starts, a space to work in that encourages self exploration and the freedom to move, work, make choices, and be one’s self.
Using beautiful, quality materials in the child’s environment will attract and help keep the attention of the child. Materials for children should be natural; preferably made of wood to protect the child from unsafe chemicals that can be found in many synthetic materials.
The child’s furniture and tools for learning should be child size to encourage good posture, interest and concentration. A child needs to be able to reach materials when he needs them, in order to become responsible for his own learning. It is best to have low, open shelves in the child’s environment to encourage independence from the adult.
The placement of furniture and work in the child’s surroundings will let him know without too much verbal instruction what different areas of the room are for. The child should be able to choose from developmentally appropriate work that encourages the process of thinking, problem solving and discovery. The ultimate goal is to promote self esteem in the child enabling him to experience the elation of “I did it myself!”
A child will change as he grows and develops so his environment will need to evolve and change as well. It will be through careful and constant observation, and knowledge that the adult will find clues of what a child may need changed in his environment. Remember, if the child’s environmental needs are met, he will be focused, peaceful, and happy. If the child is frustrated or unhappy, his environment may not be supporting all his needs.
Planning and executing a prepared environment in advance will allow the adult to devote his time to being with, observing and enjoying the child. A safe, beautiful, organized environment with the proper preparation and guidance from the adult can certainly help a child be self-disciplined, independent, focused, respectful, creative, peaceful, happy and secure in his environment.