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Play Environment in Early Years Settings

How environment support play

According to Penny Tassoni in Early Years Educator – for the work-based learners:

Physical environment: physical environment comprises indoor and outdoor areas. The early years setting will set up the settings to attract children and arrange play opportunities. The ideal setting should have:

  • cosy area, where children can feel secure and warm;

  • furniture according to children's sizes;

  • resources where children can access them;

  • toys and material appropriate for their ages;

  • outdoor and indoor allowing for different areas of play.

The physical environment will motivate children to play. The main idea is every time the children enter some part of the setting they need to feel motivated and interested in exploring the place.

Social environment: early years setting must make the children feel part of the group and they need to feel they belong there, this we call social environment. The key person system helps the children feel secure and develop relationships.

The environment should provide social interaction. Interaction helps children to play together and enrich their plays and improve their social skills.

Cultural environment: the early years setting reflects through the designer cultural aspects, sometimes using posters, books, etc. the setting also can write some signs in children’s home language. Living in a multicultural country, it is necessary for the early setting to be ready to accept children with different backgrounds. It is good if the setting reflects their “mother country”, it makes them feel comfortable.

The Characteristics of an enabling play environments

Indoor space needs to be cautious in preparing its requirements to be flexible to accommodate children’s changing interests. Books need to be attractive and appropriate for their ages. Resources such as blocks for building with felt pens, chalks or pencils, clothes for dressing up in and small items such as cars, dolls and jigsaws should be available to children themselves.

In indoor spaces, this might mean cosy corners and areas where children can play together or with an adult. This creates opportunities to socialize and communicate.

Indoor environments should be prepared for children's size (height). The resources should be on low shelves or in baskets and for babies on the floor or where they can reach. This creates opportunities for children to make choices.

The baskets, boxes or shelves should be labelled with photographs of what they have inside, then the children can identify and choose what they want to play without asking for help. This creates opportunity for children to develop independence.

The resources should be diversified because this way children can develop a range of skills. Giving opportunities to children to play in different ways creates opportunities to gain a range of experiences.

At the same time, resources would be easy, and the children don’t need to ask for help to get them, some resources should be put out, and then children need to ask adults for help. It is also important for some resources to challenge children and instigate their curiosity to learn. It is important to create opportunities for children to have a challenge.

How it is the requirement of the EYFS that children must go outside every day and the outdoor activities also reflect the seven areas of EYFS. It is important in an enabling outdoor play environment.

Children need the opportunity to play and socialize outside too. If the settings don’t have their own outdoor area, the practitioners should go to some playground or park area near the nursery. The outdoor area helps children to socialize and develop their communication.

The outdoor environment is not just physical development, you can allow children to play in a range of ways, including sensory play, etc. all the EYFS areas can be covered in outdoor areas. The children can have a range of experiences.

The perfect outside area is where children can be as independent as possible and make their own choices.

“An outdoor enabling environment gives children a range of challenges that allow them to build on their level of development”. It is important to give opportunities for children to have a challenge.

In the outdoor area, it is also important to give opportunities to children to experience the natural world.


TASSORI, Penny. Early Years Educator – for the work-based learner. Cache level 3

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