Your Environment IS Your Child’s 3rd Teacher
By Rae Lang, Director of Teaching and Learning
“If you can light the spark in a child, they will learn without further assistance…... Children are natural learners.” - Sir Ken Robinson
Many of us will remember a time when your child was so engaged in what they were doing, they did not want to be disturbed – the look of excitement, the wonderings, the pure joy of discovery. What was it that lit the spark for your child? Most of the time it would be something they connected within the environment and most of the time without any direct input from us adults!
The environment and how we use and create these spaces are powerful learning tools for our children. With a few little tips and ideas to consider, you can create these spaces at home too.
Colour is an important factor. Imagine being in a candy store surrounded by all your favourite candy and you can only pick one. This can feel overwhelming. Colour is the same. Too much colour overstimulates and can feel chaotic for our children. It also puts the ‘colourful things’ at the centre and not the child. Instead think about a natural and neutral colour palette to create a calm, relaxing environment making it easier for the child to choose and bring them to the centre.
Create warmth to a space, by adding soft lighting: a gentle glow from a lamp or the use of fairy lights. This gives a sense of security, comfort and nurturing. Place the lighting in a corner and add some draped material to create a cosy nook. Add a little natural table and place a few of items for your child to explore – flowers, seashells, leaves, cogs, nuts and bolts, add a magnifying glass and something for them to record their wonderings.
Next, think about using loose parts. Any material can be a loose part, so long as it can be moved, redesigned, put together and taken apart in a variety of ways. Loose parts allow children to be imaginative, to create their own play, their own narrative. Let them decide how they wish to use the loose parts.
Nature provides an abundance of loose parts: twigs, sticks, rocks, stones, pinecones, leaves, branches, flowers, seeds, seashells, dried fruit – anything from nature can be used as a loose part. Also check your cupboard spaces for those long-forgotten bits and pieces: buttons, old baking trays, scraps of material, jars (yes glass jars), twine, cardboard tubes, yarn – the list goes on. Collect these loose parts with your child, then find baskets or containers for each type of material and let your child explore, create and investigate.
How we think about and plan the child’s environment can enhance your child’s natural curiosities and wonderings. Your environment truly is your child’s 3rd teacher.