Enabling and Active Learning Environment

This module looks at how to create an environment that will encourage and enable young children to develop and learn to the best of their ability.

Please watch the video and then take the test by clicking the Proceed to Test button below. Once you have achieved a minimum of 75% you can then proceed to the next module.

Enabling and Active Learning Environment

The Physical Environment

Babies and young children require an environment (inside and outside) that allows them space to move in, offers many opportunities to learn and explore, lets them relax in a quiet area when needed and allows easy access to different natural and purchased resources and toys that will stimulate their interest and development.

Enabling environments should be age specific, appealing to children’s interests, making them feel happy, safe and secure and be a place where they can confidently play and learn.

Remember: if adults are moving and enjoying themselves then babies and young children will be encouraged to join them.

Be aware of the different stages of development that children are at, their learning styles and whether particular children require additional help to develop specific skills.

Some questions to ask yourself when thinking about the environment:

  • Is it accessible for all?

  • Do children feel cared for, safe and secure?

  • Is the environment inviting to children?

  • Will children experience many things without prompting from adults?

  • Will children be stimulated by the environment?

  • Will the environment challenge children to experiment, problem-solve and push themselves?

  • Is the environment safe whilst still being challenging?

  • Does the environment allow children to be flexible and is the environment itself flexible?

  • Will the environment be interesting for children?

Be aware of the three different enabling environments:

  • The Emotional Environment

  • The Indoor Environment

  • The Outdoor Environment.

Emotional Environment

When children feel, safe, secure and happy in an environment that responds to their individual needs they are more likely to feel comfortable to try new things, push themselves and on the whole, relax into enjoying their day. They will then be open to learning so many new things and allow themselves to be challenged physically, emotionally and cognitively.

One of the best way for children to learn is for them to feel comfortable to make mistakes and persevere until they get it right. Children will only be willing to do this if they are in a setting that has an emotional environment that encourages and supports all to explore and try new things.

Indoor Environment

The indoor environment will need to take children’s changing interests and needs into account, be interesting and accessible by children.

When babies become mobile, ensure they have space to move about in and provide stimulating objects; however, it is important to ensure that the environment is safe and that there are no objects that could cause a choking hazard.

Ensure there are spaces inside where children can be active. If space is limited, consider activities such as dancing, active stories and yoga. These do not require a lot of space yet significantly raise the heart rate.

Outdoor Environment

Children should be outdoors as much, if not more, as being indoors and have a balance of self-directed and adult-let activity time. An effective outdoor environment does not need to be tidy or pretty, it should be exciting and inviting. When children are outdoors they can play and explore without many of the restrictions that are so often placed on them. A natural environment will generally offer open-ended experiences and will spark children’s imagination, encouraging them to discover and learn through their senses; leading to natural physical and cognitive development. Children can experience many things they are exposed to indoor, but many on a larger scale. This can be great for little hands that have not developed dexterity and fine-tuned their fine-motor skills and for children who struggle to sit still and concentrate.

  • Regularly place babies on their front, back and side

  • Allow plenty of tummy time, little and often

  • Provide soft areas inside and outside to place babies on

  • It is important for babies to spend time outside

  • Ensure clothing does not restrict movement

  • Reduce long periods of stillness

  • Use age-appropriate sensory stimulation

  • Place stimulating objects just out of reach to encourage movement

Provide different areas

Divide the outdoor area into different sections such as:

  • Messy play

  • Wheeled equipment (bicycles, etc.)

  • Bug hut (Collected logs and pieces of wood to look under)

  • Physical area (open space, large equipment such as climbing frame, large tree trunks, etc.)

  • Quiet area (For children to relax, read, etc.)

  • Topic zone (Area that can link activities to current topics)

  • Role-play area

Inexpensive outdoor resource ideas
  • Blackboard paint to use as permanent fixture

  • Chalk to create games on cemented surfaces

  • Strong cardboard packaging to create shelters

  • Pieces of fabric/ old sheets to make tents and dens

  • Guttering to create water play area

  • Tyres – these can be free from local garages

  • Planks, logs and pieces of wood

  • Signs

  • Boxes and crates to build with

  • Old CDs hanging at different levels

  • Old pots and pans strung on a strong line between trees with spoons to play them

  • Trellis – perfect for weaving thread or vines through

  • Shallow trays for water

  • Old wellingtons to plant in

  • Spare hosepipe wound along the fence with a funnel at each end to use as a telephone

  • Plastic drinks bottle filled with different substances and objects to hang or to create skittles

You might ask parents to donate items, and use resources such as uk.freecycle.org websites. Rotate resources to ensure children try a variety of things, allowing them to develop different skills.

Develop strategies to allow for balance of lead activities; set up activities and leave children to continue without you and for them to create their own activities. More formal adult-led activities are useful when children get older to prepare them for formal learning at school.

An enabling environment will allow a child to develop naturally through exploring, moving and experimenting. Allowing children independence, space and time to practice will enable them to excel.

Good luck!

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