Nursery Equipment: Enabling environments - main messages and baby room

Ruth Thomson
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Warwickshire local authority has showcased Enabling Environments for the under-threes in a bid to promote best practice. Ruth Thomson reports.

Enabling Environments, one of the four principles within the Early Years Foundation Stage, may now be part of the early years lexicon, but it still raises challenging questions for many settings. What does a 'top-quality' baby room look like? What are the essential features of a toddler room? What kind of layout and resources best meet the needs of two-year-olds?

With this in mind, Warwickshire Early Years Advisory Team created a series of three 'inspirational learning spaces': a baby room, a toddler room and a room for two-year-olds. The aim was to illustrate enabling environments, explain the essentials of best practice and give guidance to local settings on planning and the role of the adult. All the rooms were set up at Camp Hill Early Years Centre in Nuneaton, and here we feature details of the baby room and the main messages about best practice. On pages 9 and 10, we look at the toddlers and two-year-olds rooms.

Under-threes' rooms: main messages

- In their planning, practitioners need to consider a child's interests and developmental needs across three equally meaningful environments: the emotional, the outdoor and the indoor (Enabling Environments 3.3 - The Learning Environment). For children under three, however, the emotional environment is of paramount importance. They need to feel safe, loved and secure.

  • A room for this age group has to satisfy both a child's need for emotional security and their desire to explore - with their feet, mouths, ears and noses, as well as just their hands.
  • Adults are the most vital resource within rooms for the very young. Adults support learning and, in the case of the key person, meet the child's physical needs and provide emotional support and care.
  • The indoor environment should feel like a second 'home' (EE 3.3 - The Learning Environment).
  • Very young children 'gain physical, psychological and emotional comfort from snuggling in' (Practice Guidance for the EYFS 2008, page 29).
  • Care routines are an intrinsic part of learning and development and play an important part in building an attachment between a baby and their key person. Wherever possible they should reflect the routines at home and be carried out by the key person. Children should always be accorded both privacy and respect at such times. (See also pages 12-14.)
  • Babies, toddlers and two-year-olds do not differentiate between care and education and nor should practitioners. When planning a room, practitioners should consider, 'What is it like for a child here?'
  • The environment is the starting point for effective planning. Settings need to consider what resources to make available as continuous provision, while practitioners should use their observations to inform what additional resources to offer.

The baby room: essential elements

1. The baby room created by the Warwickshire team, featuring:

2. a cosy space where the key person could feed or spend special time with a baby

3. a sleep area, with neutral warm colours to provide a warm, relaxing atmosphere

4. a nappy changing area with washable toys and mobiles to engage and comfort the children. Both this and the sleep area had baskets for holding the babies' personal belongings

5. a sensory area with black-and-white resources, as babies up to four months can differentiate only between black and white. Other sensory experiences to offer babies are opportunities to play with jelly, gloop, spaghetti and shredded paper

6. themed treasure baskets, including a basket of ribbons, one of shiny and high-contrast materials and another with bathroom items, such as loofahs and brushes

7. an exploratory area offering a range of sensory experiences for children to access independently

8. a 'baby gym' with stimulating resources and opportunities for stretching and grasping.

Resources for babies: questions for reflection

  • Is your room a warm, welcoming environment? In what way?
  • What can a baby see while lying on their back or stomach on the floor or in a baby seat?
  • What do the surfaces that babies lie on feel like?
  • What are the toys that you offer made of? Are they all plastic or of a variety of materials to develop sensory learning?
  • Are there mirrors in the room to help the babies develop a sense of self?
  • Is your changing area welcoming, comforting and engaging, as well as hygienic?
  • Does each baby have their own basket or box for their personal belongings?
  • Are the babies able to make choices and access resources freely?
  • How do you observe children and use observations to inform your planning?

For information about the baby room, visit viewpage.asp?uniqid=12201

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