Enabling Environments: Display - Love it!

Victoria Harrison
Monday, August 8, 2011

A display helped children at Yarm School nursery to explore the meaning of love, as Victoria Harrison explains.

At Yarm School nursery, we have a constant stream of exciting, colourful and informative displays, all child-initiated but often created and developed with adult support. One recent example was on the theme of love.

The idea stemmed from one of our regular staff meetings, when someone commented on how often the children had used 'love' in their recent conversations about their families: 'I love my Mummy', 'I love my Daddy', 'I love my hugs.'

We decided to run with this interest, first by reading stories about love (see box) and then by posing the question, what is love? A theme for a display was born.

Staff put up a large whiteboard and invited the children to write down what love meant to them. Many managed to do this on their own, and others had words scribed for them:

'I love Mummy and Daddy ... because I love painting with them ... because I love having a bath with them ... because I love playing games with them.'

'It's when you love your Mum and Dad so much and you cuddle them. I think that's what love is.'

'Love is teddies.'

'Hearts and a thank you.'

The comment 'Love is a heart' prompted staff to create some heart-shaped cards, which were passed to parents with a request for them to fill the cards with comments about their love for their children.

The returned cards were wonderful. Some had jewels glued around the edge, others had the words written in different colours and sizes. Some had hardly any space uncovered, others had short but meaningful messages, such as 'She gives the best hugs'. Other examples were 'His playfulness', 'Funny', 'Full of beauty', 'Cheeky' and 'Giggles'.

The comments showed that the parents and children had shared their feelings openly at home, and the positive comments inspired everyone to bring in 'love' items to add to the display. These included bags with hearts on them, signs depicting the word 'love', fairy lights, lamps, heart-shaped tins, boxes and cutters, red hearts and books.

Creating the display

  • We used a hessian board to display the children's drawings and writing. These were on white paper mounted on a black border.
  • We hung fairy lights around the board.
  • We put a table in front of the display and draped it in black fabric with boxes underneath to create a tiered effect, and put a lamp on it.
  • We stood a metal stand in the corner and attached the parents' hearts to wires so that they hung in front of the display.
  • We arranged the books and other accessories on the table.
  • When we turned out the main lights, the display twinkled as the hearts moved and the fairy lights reflected the jewels.
  • Children (and staff and parents!) were constantly drawn to the display to discuss, read and comment.


Once the children had explored the word 'love' and discovered more about what it meant to them, we began to introduce resources and activities to extend their interest in families, and the importance of love in family relationships, all aimed at building on what they had discovered through the display.


  • What colour is love? by Linda Strachan and David Wojtowycz (Bloomsbury) A little elephant wanders through the jungle wondering what colour love could be. 'Is it pink?' he asks the flamingo. 'Is it yellow?' he asks the lion. But, of course, only one person really knows the answer, and that's mum!
  • Love, Splat by Rob Scotton (HarperCollins) Splat the cat is desperate to become friends with one of the girls at school. But he's much too shy to talk to her. How will he ever get her attention?
  • Hug by Jez Alborough (Walker Books) A fantastic picture book that follows a baby monkey on the hunt for his mum and a cuddle.
  • The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith (Frances Lincoln) An illustrated snapshot of contemporary families.
  • So much! by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury and Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke and Paul Howard (Walker Books) Celebrating the warmth of Afro-Caribbean family life.
  • I love My Mummy and I Love My Daddy Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd (Orchard Books)
  • My Dad, My Mum and My Brother by Anthony Browne (Doubleday)



Early years settings should aim to create enriching environments that inspire children to initiate their own learning opportunities. By drawing upon children's existing knowledge and understanding, and focusing on their current, and developing, interests, practitioners can ensure that appropriate resources and activities are readily available to the children in their care.

Displays should be an integral feature of this ever-changing learning environment. Some should be purely children's creations; others may be joint creations by both children and practitioners and many will include input from parents.

Possible learning outcomes

Creating displays enables children to:

  • develop a sense of pride in the group achievement and feel valued for their individual contributions
  • explore ways of displaying thoughts and feelings through print and illustration
  • find out about how to use available space and create borders
  • learn techniques such as fastening and joining materials
  • learn to use such resources as scissors and paper clips
  • develop an appreciation of colour, space, shape and form.



See our four-part series on well-being by early years consultant Marion Dowling at www.nurseryworld.co.uk/go/well-being/

Victoria Harrison is nursery teacher at Yarm School, Stockton-on-Tees. She talked to Jean Evans

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