By Rebecaa Isbell, Ed.D.
Jessica, age four, enters her new preschool classroom for the very first time. She looks around and tries to determine what happens in this space? Does she belong here? Will it be an interesting place to spend her days? Will she be supported as she grows and develops?Jessica will discover the answers through her interactions with the physical environment of her classroom. If she spends her day in an effectively designed environment, Jessica will be physically, emotionally, aesthetically, and intellectually nurtured. This appropriate environment can maximize her intellectual potential and provide a foundation for the development of her emotional security. Young children strive to make sense of the world in which they live. They try to organize the visual images and concrete objects in their environment into meaningful systems. Children want to determine how the space works and what activities can happen in this place. Today's young children are spending a large number of hours in a "new" environment—child care. Some children who begin attending child care in infancy may spend as much as 12,000 hours in this setting. This massive number of hours in one environment demands that the space be carefully designed to create the "best" place possible for young children.
The first step in creating an appropriate environment for infants, toddlers, and preschool children is to examine how young children learn and develop.