[Image: Teacher with preschoolers]A supportive, nurturing, inviting environment for preschool age children is extremely important in encouraging them to explore and learn. Children learn through their own experiences of trial and error, repetition and imitation. Adults may encourage learning by ensuring that the classroom or day-care environment is appropriate and supports an array of experiences and choices.
A preschool classroom should be arranged to promote independence, foster decision-making and encourage involvement. This is done by dividing the classroom into interest areas. Areas that should be available to preschoolers are blocks, housekeeping, table toys or manipulatives, art, sand and water, library, music and movement, outdoors, cooking and computer.
Of course, these areas should be visible by an adult at all times, and they should be logically placed near needed resources, clearly defined using shelves and furniture and separated from each other according to whether they are noisy or quiet. It’s also important to ensure materials are readily available and easily accessible to children. Environments that are clean, cheerful, organized and interesting allow for children to belong, feel safe and explore.
When you visit a current or potential child-care program, look for the following factors that indicate quality:
- Teacher/child ratios are low.
- Children are constantly supervised.
- Teachers interact with children consistently.
- Soothing colors are used throughout the classroom.
- Furniture is child-sized, clean and well maintained.
- Room decorations are comprised of children’s work, displayed at their eye levels.
- Home-like decorations and items are used in the classroom environment.
- Each child has a place to call his or her own.
- The daily schedule is predictable.
- Everyday items are labeled with corresponding words to encourage print awareness.
- The room is orderly and easy for children to maintain.
- Children are expected to care for their environment.
- There are quiet areas for children to get away from activity.
- There are scheduled outdoor activities that occur in a fenced area.
- Materials and toys are changed frequently to maintain children’s interest.
- Surfaces are durable and disinfected or thoroughly cleaned daily.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.