Módulo 2: Comunidad de Aprendizaje: ambientes para explorar, crear y vivir


Author and Work-Team Leader:

Mari Lourdes Mendoza


Isamar Rosado
Yanitza Lebrón


What do I know about early childhood?
Justify your response. Explain.
Are the characteristics, styles, and interests of children during their development important?
Does the brain have an important role in a child’s development?
Do we all learn in the same way?
Do I treat all children the same?
Are children born with self-control?
Do children develop independence with educators’ intervention?
Can I accept frustrated behavior?
Does children’s learning have to be passive?
Should infant environments, nursery schools, preschools, and kindergartens be organized in the same way?
Are materials the same in different environments?
Are all centers or areas necessary?
Is space important in a learning environment?
Can I allow a sick child into my classroom?
Does nutrition have an impact on early childhood?
Should parents participate in the decisions and processes of a child’s education?


An educational environment is an essential part of the success of an early childhood program. In this module we present the fundamental elements for creating appropriate, healthy, and fun environments so that our Puerto Rican youngsters can learn with their educators, families, and the community.

Human beings develop biologically and culturally. This means that just as we are born with biologically imparted capacities, we also have cultural skills such as using tools (language, for example) and to learn how to use others (Rogoff, 2003). It does not matter where we are; from the time we come into the world we are part of a culture and we modify our actions and lifestyle accordingly

Human beings learn to interact and to share ideas and thoughts with other people. In this module our vision of a classroom is based on the concept of a learning community. As readers, you may ask: what is a learning community? Think of the terms and ideas that immediately come to mind:

Define each of the following terms and write your own definition of what a learning community is:

  • Community
  • People
  • Relashionships
  • Learning together
  • Students
  • Sharing

Traditionally, the teacher is the one who makes decisions and has “control” of the teaching and learning process in education: he/she is the one who teaches the subjects and the student is the recipient of the fruit of this teaching. However, in a learning community this is not the case; teachers, students, and parents participate in educational activities in a collaborative way and in a variety of roles meant to achieve the holistic development of each child (Rogoff, Goodman Turkanis, & Bartlett, 2002). Adults are responsible for guiding and supporting children in addition to providing leadership and fostering this in the children. In the end, each member of the learning community learns together with others in activities that everyone is involved in.

This vision of a learning community is supported by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In the document Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria – The Mark of Quality in Early Childhood Education (2005), they establish ten standards that every program must comply with in order to achieve desired quality. Among these are relationships, curriculum, teaching, evaluation and assessment , health, educators, family, community relations, the physical environment, leadership, and administration. All of these create mutual support between the center or school, families, and the community. Each one also highlights those indicators of excellence that allow children to develop in a holistic way and offers an appropriate learning experience for the development of each student. In this module we try to present these educational environments and their elements so that our youth learns and enjoys the process.

Constructive Environments

If we want a real and significant learning experience, we have to focus on constructive environments in which human beings learn how to interact with their surroundings, objects, and people. Educators are not the only source of knowledge – on the contrary, they, along with the students, are always learning. The role of educators is to support, facilitate the process, and guide the students in learning. How do they do it? Well, they organize and prepare the classroom with materials, organized or spontaneous activities (based on the children’s interests), and allow time for interaction in pairs and with the educators. There is freedom to observe, analyze, form opinions, and solve problems; this is done either individually or in pairs. For example, in a classroom for infants we see the little ones exploring the floor while the instructor observes and guides, conversing with the infants about what they are doing. Likewise, in a nursery school classroom, we see toddlers exploring the room, exercising their new physical abilities while the educator plays hide-and-seek with a child. As for a preschool or kindergarten classroom, we find total mobility: children interacting with one another, playing in different areas while the instructor plays along as a peer or performs an experiment or notes what they observed in the children’s games.

In a constructive environment games are the most appropriate strategy for our young children. According to Van Hoorn, Nourot, Scales, and Alward (1993), this must be at the center of the curriculum in early education programs because it stimulates all areas of development: physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and linguistic. Through games children integrate what they have learned and are more open to new possibilities. The playful element in games is important since it is in line with new research on the brain (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2001). When we talk about a curriculum focused on games, it means that we are thinking of the child as a complete being for whom the development and learning process is holistic. It is not about the rote learning of skills in which children are recipients of information.

General Implications for the Brain

The brain was previously thought to be static, fixed and that from birth humans were equipped with certain cognitive capacities for the rest of their lives. This understanding has changed as a result of recent research related to the physiology and behavior of the brain. Neurological research (Caine & Caine, 1994) shows that it is a malleable organ. During the first five years of life there is neurological activity that is never repeated. In preschool years the brain creates a large number of connections, or synapses (the linking of certain dendrites with others), as a result of experience. The brain’s capacity to change various experiences into responses allows children to develop a series of abilities to grow, develop, and adapt to their environment. This impacts the learning process in a significant way.

Learning principles based on studies of the brain:

  • Learning is a continuous evolving process.
  • Each brain is organized in a unique way.
  • All learning is physiological.
  • The brain is social.
  • The search for meaning is innate and happens according to pattern creation.
  • Emotions are critical in forming patterns.
  • The brain simultaneously processes information in part and in whole.
  • Complex learning is fostered through challenge and is inhibited by the threat associated with the feeling of not doing anything.

Based on these principles and the related research, we know that the educator performs a very important role. It is necessary to activate the child’s brain in a properly equipped, organized environment and provide them with gratifying and enriching learning experiences.

The concept of a community of learners is in line with studies on the brain and NAEYC’s best practices, as well as the importance of games and the implications of neurodevelopment in the learning process. Because of this it is important that the objectives of this module are clear before continuing with the reading. Once the reading and activities from this module are completed, the educator will be able to:

  • understand how a learning environment is structured for preschool and kindergarten children;
  • apply knowledge to create an organized, pertinent, and appropriate environment in line with the characteristics of preschool and kindergarten children;
  • understand and value the socio-cultural and linguistic background of each child;
  • create inclusive environments for all children;
  • analyze the essential elements of a learning environment.

For convenience, we have outlined the organization of the reading below. We begin with a self-assessment exercise. Following that we present the content, organized by key elements for the creation of educational environments:

Development of Preschool Childhood and Kindergarten Children: In this section we present a brief description of children from birth to age six. For each stage we describe the characteristics that make it unique. This allows the educator to plan, design, and organize the educational environment based on knowledge of development characteristics. To obtain more specific information, consult the Childhood Growth and Development: An Integrated Approach module.

Exploration and Experience: Environments for Exploration, Growth, and Living. In this section we present the organization of the interior and exterior physical environment from the standpoint that the environment must stimulate exploration and be significant and pertinent to the reality of each child (experiences) so that children live and learn with meaning.

Community Relations. The educator organizes the environment while taking into consideration aspects of emotional (intelligence) development of the child in order to foster positive interaction in the classroom. The influence of the educational environment, social interaction, and behavior management are all explained.

Respect for Individual Differences. Each child is a unique individual. The educator, while having in-depth knowledge of individual differences, creates an educational environment that takes into account the characteristics of each child. This allows for sensitivity and respect in an inclusive community.

Application Exercise. Once the reading is finished, the reader will complete an application exercise.

Professional Resources, References, and Websites. These sections are included for the purpose of giving the reader the opportunity to widen his/her knowledge and seek out more information on the themes presented in this module.

Development of Preschool Childhood and Kindergarten

NAEYC states that organization of the learning environment should respond to the developmental stages and characteristics of each school or center’s demographics. This module covers ages from birth to age 6. You have already read the module on Childhood Growth and Development: An Integrated Approach, but for your benefit and as a review, here is a brief description of the age groups that this material covers:

  • Infants, from birth up to 12 months (first year). During the first six months of life, infants respond to different stimuli in their environment, such as light, sound, and texture. They gradually develop their motor abilities. As they continue growing they demonstrate greater progress: they are in the process of sitting with support, crawling, kicking, grabbing objects, etc. Eventually they will be able to reach objects with greater ease than before, explore, and put things in their mouth, all part of satisfying their need for sensory exploration. Around six to eight months they will take a big step in their cognitive development: focusing on objects. They will be able to follow an object, even if it disappears from their sight. In the case of another person, for example, even if the person disappears from the sight of the infant, he/she can hear the voice and know that the person is nearby and thus will not cry because they have disappeared. As for linguistic development, the infant in their first year responds to social contact through vocalizations: babbling, cooing, murmuring, and smiling.
  • Toddlers, from 12 to 36 months
    • 12 to 18 months: Young explorers have already developed the ability to stop themselves and take their first steps on their own. At this age they want to discover the world around them; they are independent in their exploration but emotionally they still require an adult (parent, educator) nearby to feel secure. These toddlers will sit in the adult’s lap and grab his/her leg to seek this security. Their speech is characterized by vocalizations and sounds.
    • 18 to 24 months (1.5 to 2 years): Now toddlers begin to progress in their motor development: they walk and therefore their exploration intensifies. Now they do not depend on adults (parents, educators) to touch, taste, see, or hear. They are quite active and like to practice their new motor skills: jumping, climbing, throwing, and kicking. Their speech evolves and becomes more intricate, showing signs of intonation.
    • 24 to 36 months (2 to 3 years): They are more expressive and explore more. They require special attention to their development. Their speech makes unbelievable progress. During this year they can already speak in fragments and simple sentences, which accompany cognitive development. They enjoy interpretive games, more so than before. Now they can get past the actual object to imagine that a shoe is a telephone. One important lesson at this stage is toilet training. For this there is no specific age; the important thing is that there is development and control of the sphincter, of speech, and self-reliance; for example, taking off their pants.
  • Preschool, 36 to 60 months (3 to 5 years old). There is an evolution in physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development. For many children, this is the first experience of contact with other people. It is important to develop social skills at this stage. The preschooler finds it difficult to share and see other points of view. According to Piaget’s theory, in terms of the child’s cognitive development, they are egocentric because they still have not left behind the physical and concrete limitations of objects. As for physical development, children show greater mastery over their skills. During these years speech evolves until the child can hold a conversation, both with peers and adults (such as parents and educators), with organized, well-thought-out ideas.
  • Kindergarten, from 60 to 72 months (5 to 6 years old). Children at this age are vigorous, active and untiring. Kindergarten is like a transition from preschool to elementary or primary school. These children like to play, as they now possess greater abilities in all areas of development. In social terms, they are able to make decisions as a group; for example, to decide on the rules of a game in the area of blocks or in play-acting. They integrate imagination, fantasy, and drama into constructive play. Their manipulative skills are refined and they like materials that have connective pieces that can be linked together or inserted into one another; (they can use pieces of half an inch). Their speech is more elaborate, and they are able to hold more complex conversations with adults, understanding concepts of time, and showing greater interest in concepts such as clocks, fractions, among others.

Exploration and Experiences: Environments for Exploring, Creating, and Living

The environment in which children explore, create, live and relate to affects us all. It also has repercussions on the way that we feel. Besides, it is one of the central elements of a curriculum.

When we talk about environment we are referring to the structure and use of space, the materials and equipment, and the learning centers themselves. The organization of these has to correspond to the stages of development and characteristics of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners. Feeney, Christensen, and Moravcik (1996) as well as Bredekemp and Copple (1997), among others, maintain that the learning environment in a high-quality center encourages child development. The design of the learning environment has an impact on learning materials and the quality of the relationships which children establish with other people.

The organization of an appropriate environment for children, although different for each age, has certain consistent points. For example, all children need a defined space that reflects preferably, the home environment. This environment requires inside and outside play areas, spaces for both active and passive experience, access to nature, and the space for free movement (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Christensen, Feeney & Moravcik, 1996). Likewise, materials provided should take into account the cultural diversity of the families involved (NAEYC, 2006).

All spaces should be clean, safe, and there should always be supervision. It is important that the educators in each center have an ample visibility of everything that is happening in the classroom. Areas should be organized taking into account routine, learning, and the variety of ages. For example, infants and toddlers need special areas for their naps, changing, and eating.

It is necessary that the environment be welcoming to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). Activity and learning areas for infants should be separated (Feeney, Christensen & Moravcik, 1996; Koralek, Colker & Trister, 1993). These areas should be well equipped. For example, the changing area should have a sink with warm water and remain separate from the eating and play areas.

Various specialists recommend that play spaces be flexible, comfortable, and allow movement while also being customizable according to the children’s sizes (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). The use of rugs or carpeting is also suggested in areas for infants and toddlers so that they can play, crawl, climb, and go up and down without getting hurt. It is suggested is to include sensory objects and ítems that can be manipulated, blocks, an area for play-acting, books, and art supplies among others. All these equipments and materials should be at height and size of each stage of development.

In offering a high-quality service, the children’s interests and characteristics should be incorporated into their learning centers within the organziational framework of these environments. For example, for preschoolers and kindergarteners the learning centers (or areas) should be separated by shelves or other dividers. This applies to areas for building blocks, reading, play-acting, manipulatives, art supplies, musical intstruments, movement, writing, scientific exploration, math, and social studies (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Seefelt, 1992).

Plannig of Phsical Facilities

When children’s learning facilities are being planned it is important to consider:

  • The location of the building, as well as federal and state regulations such as:
    • The ADA Act
    • The IDEA Act
    • Licence to use facilities
    • Fire safety certification
    • Health permit
    • Licence from the Department of Family Affairs
  • The type of program, curriculum, and the target population
  • The safety and protection of the children and staff
  • The size of the space, equipment, and materials
  • Flexibility (taking into consideration the children’s interests and characteristics)
  • The cost

The Space within the Physical Environment

The space or interior of a learning environment must include:

  • size of the space
  • arrangement of the space
  • floors, walls, and the ceiling
  • order, structure, and type
  • learning areas
  • welcome area
  • food preparation area
  • cleaning/hygiene area for educators and children
  • storage for materials and equipment
  • laundry area

Size of the Learning Environment

The size and space of the learning environment must account for the:

  • child to adult ratio
  • number of children per square foot (35 inches for each child, on the inside)
  • outsider space should be 75 square feet for each child
  • total dimensions of the learning environment (excluding the bathrooms, laundry area, and kitchen)
  • space’s capacity for necessary materials and equipment

Group Size

A high-quality service ensures that there is an appropriate ratio of adults to the children in their care. In the following table we can see how many adults per each child there should be in a learning environment. For example, if there are eight children from newborns (N) up to 12 months old, there should be two adults (one for each 4 children). The shaded area indicates the amount of children that it is not recommended to have in one location. For example, in a classroom there should not be more than eight children that are newborns (N) up to 12 years old. The health and safety quality standards are at risk when these ratios are not followed.

Recommended Child-to-Educator Ratios According to Group Size (per classroom)

Number of Children
N–12 months 1:3 1:4
12–24 months 1:3 1:4 1:5 1:4
24–30 months 1:4 1:5 1:6
30–36 months 1:5 1:6 1:7
3 years 1:7 1:8 1:9 1:10
4 years 1:8 1:9 1:10
5 years 1:8 1:9 1:10

Arrangement of the Learning Environment

The way the environment is organized can affect the security, autonomy, comfort, discipline, and learning styles of children. Following are some recommendations to consider when organizing the psysical environmment.

  • Avoid hidden areas since they do not allow for observation and supervision of the children
  • Organize learning areas (or centers)
  • Maintain open spaces (for infants and toddlers) and closed ones (for preschoolers and kindergarteners)
  • Offer active and passive areas. It is important to allow for balance in activities. When we talk about passive and active areas, we are referring to the fact that each area has to respond to a need as part of the learning environment’s organization. Passive activities include manipulatives, reading, and writing. These allow the children to play and work quietly and in peace. However, we cannot forget that each child develops in a unique and particular way. Some require time alone as part of their learning process while others perhaps need more activity. In order to satisfy the latter, there should be active areas that include building blocks, musical instruments, a sandbox, water toys, and allow for play-acting. These activities are dynamic and noisy, as the children are in constant movement.
  • Individual and group areas. It is necessary to provide activities in which children can interact and have contact with their peers. Social learning is one of the essential developmental processes and the educator has to provide the physical space for this. When we talk about individual activities we are referring to those for only one child, a child who, as part of his/her learning process, prefers to be alone. This fosters respect for the space that we occupy and the activities that we engage in.
  • Areas that are clean, attractive, and always organized.
  • Areas that provide access to nature so that the children maintain contact with plants and animals.

Floors, Ceilings, and Walls

It is recommended that interior spaces have high ceilings, between approximately ten to eleven feet. The walls can be covered with different types of materials, such as non-toxic, high-quality paint (latex) in pastel colors, or with wallpaper. The dividers in building block areas should be set up to muffle noise. For these areas and those for tumbling or group work, it is recommended to use rugs with pleasant colors, as well as other materials.

Order, Structure, and Nature

The learning environment should be designed to satisfy children’s needs so that their personalities and growth patterns are on display for us (Polk, 1991). A space, or classroom, that is ordered and structured offers trust and security. These elements allow children to engage in activites with sense of purpose; they will be able to find materials and then put them back in their place once the assigned task has been completed. Even when the space is organized, it is not necessary that each item always remain in exactly the same spot. The educator should observe the space and change the materials so that it is dynamic and reflects the individuality of the children.

It is recommended to observe the learning environment and see if any materials are not used. Unused items can be moved to another area or point of interest, or perhaps they should be changed or something added to make their use more challenging.

Nature has to be a part of the educational environment. Having plants and animals helps create awareness about the importance of the environment and its care, appreciate order, harmony, and beauty master the laws of nature, which form the basis of all arts and sciences, and understand and better participate in the amazing things civilization creates (Polk, 1991). Having pets allows children to have responsibility for the care and feeding of another living being. In choosing a pet it is important that it be appropriate and safe for little children. For example, a fish is ideal since caring for and feeding it is easy to do at a care center or school. It is not recommended to have turtles since they can transmit many sicknesses and tend to bite.

In the outside space it is extremely important to have trees and plants and even allow children to plant and care of them on their own. Educators should plan activities and learning experiences that stimulate the conservation and protection of nature.

Color, Lighting, and Ventilation in the Learning Environment

These three elements should be considered at all times, as they can positively or negatively affect the learning process in any learning environment.

The Influence of Colors

Pastel colors should be chosen for the classroom. The atmosphere has to be relaxing, warm, and conducive to participation (Polk, 1991). However, there are active areas (such as the crawling area for infants or play-acting and building block areas for toddlers and preschoolers) that can be painted with brighter colors, like red and yellow. According to some researchers, the red color should be chosen for activities that engage gross motor skills; yellow is a good choice for music and art, green, blue and purple are good for reading areas. Using various colors is perhaps most important in environments that serve both infants and toddlers rather than for preschoolers and kindergarteners, as the former need to see and learn colors.

As for the lighting and ventilation, research shows that it is crucial to have adequate lighting and that uniform, fluorescent lighting is perhaps not the best for children. For this reason it is recommended to have natural light in all learning environments.

It is imperative that in all learning environments there be ventilation that provides fresh air. Windows should be covered with screens to prevent insects and rodents from getting in. If the building has an air conditioner, it should be kept clean. Smoking is strictly prohibited.

Reflect on your classroom or learning environment:

  • What permits do I need to set it up?
  • What colors would I use on the walls? Why?
  • Is ventilation adequate?
  • Do I organize the space according to the children’s interests?
  • Is my space organized, clean, and pleasant?
  • Make a list of materials that need to be replaced.
  • What changes should I make in my classroom in order to ensure a high-quality service?

Learning Centers

Learning centers are places, or centers, in which children work and play within the framework of planned activities, whether they are individual or group oriented. It is important to point out that all of these activities should be pertinent and appropriate to the development of the children concerned. Also, the materials and activities must be suitable, practical, and as commonplace as possible so the children can use them. The educator will be responsible for arranging, setting up, cleaning, and equipping these centers.

Recommendations for the organization and distribution of learning centers or areas:

  • All areas of a learning environment should correspond to the developmental stages, characteristics, and interests of the children they cater to.
  • Ensure that all activities and materials are relevant to learning objectives.
  • Appropriate spaces should be created, both inside and outside.
  • Centers/areas should have a variety of materials so that children can explore.
  • Materials should be selected and organized according to developmental stages, as well as being arranged in a logical manner.
  • All materials should be accessible and identified by name or with a symbol.
  • The size and location of centers/areas should be decided according to available space in the learning environment.

Appropriate Learning Centers/Areas for Infants

  • welcome area
  • cubby-holes to store the children’s belongings
  • rest area
  • eating area
  • changing and cleaning/hygiene area
  • crawling (small and large muscles)
  • playing
  • reading
  • outdoor/yard

The classroom for infants, while very similar to a home environment, tends to be one of the most costly environments since the required materials and equipment must be safe, appropriate, and washable. It is recommended to provide mirrors corresponding to the height of the infants, as well as pictures of them and their families, so that the space is more inviting.

Learning Centers/Areas Appropriate for Toddlers

  • play-acting (pretending and imitating)
  • manipulatives
  • building blocks
  • larger motor skills (climbing)
  • art
  • sandbox and water toys
  • music and movement
  • reading
  • outside/yard

The classroom for toddlers should be spacious, with few shelves for materials since children of this age are exercising their motor skills more and more, in such activities as walking and climbing. It is recommended to have fewer centers/areas. Many of them can be combined; for example, manipulative building blocks with art wtih writing. It is recommended that the play-acting area for imitating and pretending have the most space, as well as the one for climbing; this will help prevent arguments among the toddlers. If the area is small, the children will restrict each other’s movements and this can cause conflict. The art area has to be near the bathrooms, which should also be scaled to toddler-size (in the range of 18 inches).

Appropriate Learning Centers/Areas for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • reading
  • writing
  • music and movement
  • building blocks
  • play-acting
  • manipulatives
  • science
  • math
  • social studies
  • computers
  • art
  • woodworking (optional)
  • outside/yard

If there is limited space, you can integrate some areas into others. For example, social studies can be put together with science in an area called “Research.” The play-acting area can be turned into a doctor’s office, a restaurant, or a barn, among other things. Reading and writing spaces can be combined, and the reading area can be put on a raised platform so as to incorporate another area underneath.

Think about your classroom or learning environment:

  • Which active areas would you organize alongside one another? Why?
  • Which ones would you combine? Why?
  • How are these changes beneficial to the children?

Getting to Know the Areas


The following areas are essential to environments that serve infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners:

Welcome Area

This is the area where families are received. It should be near the main entrance and have a bulletin board on which information is posted for parents; this information can include employee health certificates, emergency instructions and exit routes, and weekly agendas. This information help to orient parents about daily activities.

Rest Area

This area is meant for children to take naps. Each infant should have his/her own crib and a minimum space of three feet. It is recommended that the cribs allow for visibility, such as those that are made of plastic, since they permit the infants to see what is happening around them. Toddlers can use a washable mat to rest on. If the preschool and kindergarten programs have a full-day schedule, the children can rest and use a mat or a sleeping bag.

Eating Area

This is the area where the children eat. It should be equipped with highchairs. If it is for toddlers, the children can sit in chairs with backs and arms. For preschoolers and kindergarteners, it is also possible to serve them at a normal table with regular chairs. Work tables can also be used to serve food, and chairs with arms are not necessary.

You can also involve the children in the clean-up of this area once the meal is finished.


  • Infants should be fed one at a time.
  • Toddlers should sit in seats appropriate to their size, with feet resting on the floor.
  • Each child should have his/her own plate of food.
  • There should always be an adult to supervise and serve as an example.
  • Eating times will depend on the daily schedule of each center.
  • In full-day programs it is recommended to offer breakfast, lunch, and a snack. During extended hours a second snack should be offered.

Changing Area

This is the area for changing and cleaning children. For infants, there should be a changing table with cubby-holes to keep personal belongings in. It is also necessary to have a sink near the changing area. For toddlers there should be a changing and potty area since they are in the process of learning to use the bathroom and take care of their own bathroom needs. For preschoolers and kindergarteners there should be a bathroom for each ten children and marked for each gender.


  • The changing area should be separate from the eating area.
  • One child should be changed at a time.
  • All necessary materials should be within arm’s reach (for example: latex gloves, baby wipes, disposable diapers, and a change of clothes).
  • Have cleaning materials to sanitize the area after each changing.
  • Adults should wash their hands after changing each child.
  • Toilets/potties and sinks should be accessible to the children. If there are no toilets corresponding to the size of the toddlers, then potty-seats can be used (see Appendix 1).
  • Children and adults should wash their hands before and after each meal, using the bathroom, and after activities involving play-doh, paint, or similar materials. If they go out for an excursion and there is no way to wash their hands, take some baby wipes and rubbing alcohol.
  • There should be very visible instructions for hand-washing, toilet use, and diaper changing that catch the children’s eye.

Outside Area

This is the place where children are exposed to sunlight and fresh air. It should be near the building/facilities. An area to push children around in strollers should not be left out (for infants). Also, the area should be clearly defined and provide for large and fine muscle movement. Outside play contributes to children’s exploration of all their senses, allows them to practice their abilities, develop their social skills, and to begin to value, appreciate, and respect the lives of others. Little children need outside activities everyday. If they are not able to go out onto the yard (if it is raining), then the surroundings should still be varied by taking them out to a covered area, as remaining in the same classroom for several hours can be monotonous.


Human beings need to be in contact with nature; children even more so. Because of this, the outside area should include spaces where children can explore and interact with their surroundings. For infants and toddlers, there should be equipment and areas for them to crawl, slide, climb, run, jump, leap, hide, and throw freely. It is necesary that children strengthen their muscles (see Appendix 1 for materials and equipment). For preschoolers and kindergarteners the outside area is extremely important for their physical and mental development. The area should be inviting, safe, and organized with green areas (nature) and an area with rubber or asphalt. These areas allow for the division of the yard into play areas, such as: observation areas, areas to climb, jump, slide, throw, hide, and run. Children need to stretch their muscles, breathe in fresh air, get sun, release tension, share with other children, simply, to enjoy freedom.

If there are infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners in the same center, the outside area has to:

  • be established and defined accordingly
  • allow that the groups are there at different times in order to avoid accidents and conflicts
  • have equipment and toys appropriate to each age group
  • allow for continuous supervision

General Recommendations for the Outside Area:

  • All children require a safe and clean environment in which to play.
  • There always has to be an adult to supervise the area and the children’s play.
  • The play area should be designed according to the equipment that will be used. The play areas should have a defined traffic flow for the children; this will prevent the equipment from getting in the children’s way.
  • Conflicts between the children should be prevented by providing the same toy in pairs.
  • The equipment has to be set up according to the instruction manuals.
  • Inspect the equipment monthly.
  • Adapt the equipment to children with special needs.
  • The space has to be big enough; the ideal is to have 75 square feet per child. If this is not possible, only allow small groups of children at a time; this will prevent conflicts from arising.
  • It is necessary for the educator to supervise and observe.
  • The educator should observe and inspect the equipment to make sure it is not rusty or splintered and that the area is clean.
  • There should be material to pour, dig, build, ride, run, slide, swing, jump and hang from.
  • If there are going to be platforms, they should be put together according to the instruction manual.

If there is no open-air space, then look for a nearby location while making sure that:

  • it is safe for children,
  • it is within walking distance,
  • it has equipment and materials that are safe for children,
  • it has a water fountain and bathrooms,
  • it has accident insurance for the children,
  • it has a first aid kit on hand,
  • the children can play safely,
  • children are not yelled at from a distance
  • you interact with the children
  • you organize activities, such as playing with clay and water, have a picnicin which movements can be done with music and reading aloud.

Consider the following:

Carlos is two years old. He arrives at the center with both parents. Upon entering the front door, Carlos sees the teacher, the cubby-holes, and the sleeping mats. He tries to put his belongings away, but he is unable to and he drops them because he does not reach the cubby-holes. Suddenly, his parents say good-bye and leave; Carlos begins to cry. Analyze and reflect on the pshysical enviroment . As an educator, what would you do?

The areas described below are for infants and toddlers

Crawling Area (large muscles)

This is a large space in which the child is allowed to move around freely and can go from one place to another. It is recommended that in this area the floor be covered with some kind of material, such as a rug or vinyl, to soften any falls the child may have while exploring his/her body.


  • The area for crawling should be sufficiently large.
  • The area should be safe for child movement and should not have sharp edges.
  • The floor should be covered by a rug, rubber mat, or vinyl.
  • For toddlers, the equipment used, such as ramps, slides, among others, should correspond to the children’s size.

Play Area

This area is made up of different shelves on which there are various toys or materials for children to explore, use, and discover. Appropriate choices for toys include pacifiers, wrag dolls, sing alongs, stacking boxes (see Appendix 1 for more details).



  • Toys should be accessible and visible to the children.
  • They should be organized and stored in an inviting way.
  • Items must be cleaned each time the children put them in their mouth so that they can be used by another child.
  • The items should be stored in the same place after each use. This enables the children to learn concepts of organization. It is recommended to put up illustrations of the toys as a reference point when putting them away.
  • When toys are chosen, it is important to think about the development and characteristics of each child.

Reading Area

This is a fixed area in which there is a variety of books that children can look at, explore, and touch and which adults can read to them. For infants, cloth, plastic, or laminated books are recommended. This area can have cushions so that children can recline while enjoying a book.



  • All children should explore the books.
  • Encourage the children to observe and comment on the illustrations.
  • While reading, pause and allow the children to interrupt.
  • Respond to their questions.
  • Change the tone of voice depending on the characters in the book.
  • Read the book as many times as the child asks.
  • Read the story out loud.
  • Enjoy the reading.
  • Allow the child to see you reading.
  • Store the books in the learning areas/centers.

Building Block Area

This is a very active area where children can build things using a variety of materials, such as building blocks, legos, and edublocks. For infants, brightly colored four-inch blocks made of fabric or rubber are recommended.


  • Store the blocks on a shelf that is labeled and accessible to the children.
  • Do not leave the blocks on the floor; help the children pick them, as this will prevent falls or conflicts.
  • Place a rug in this area to muffle noise and support the structures which the children create.
  • Add some other toys, such as buggies, animals, familiar characters, public service action figures (firemen, doctors, etc.). Avoid items with small parts so that children do not put them in their mouths and choke.
  • Place the building block area near the play-acting area as these two can complement one another since they are both active areas.
  • Clean the blocks and other toys with disinfectant at the end of each day.

Area for Pretending and Imitating (Play-Acting)

This area is meant for children to act-out and imitate various family roles. Pretending and acting are among the most important ways children learn about the world around them. For toddlers, it is recommended to have a set that includes wooden kitchen toys with rounded edges and does not have cabinet doors (to prevent accidents).


  • Allow the children to dress up.
  • Provide animal and people action figures.
  • Provide items for them to pretend with.
  • Play with the children by participating in their pretending and create a dialogue by asking open-ended questions.
  • If you are not able to have the pieces for play-acting, place decorative boxes with costumes, shoes, hats, jewelry, among others, in the area and label them according to theme.

Music and Movement Area

Here children can experience music by exploring objects that make a variety of sounds and move around in a natural way. Music and movement contribute to holistic development. Research has shown that listening to and making music help activate the brain (Frost, Worthan & Reifel, 2001; Schickedanz, 1999; Shore, 1997). Also, music and movement provide opportunities for children to explore their feelings, interact with one another, and develop ideas. These experiences also help in the development of listening, speaking, motor, creative, and aesthetic appreciation skills.


  • This area does not have to be defined if there is not a lot of space.
  • It is important that the musical instruments be organized in one area.
  • You can have a variety of musical instruments stored on a shelf or put into boxes that are accessible to the children.
  • If there are limited financial resources, you can make instruments out of recycled materials.
  • Movements can be allowed within and outside of the classroom and in all the learning areas.
  • Integrate movement depending on the theme of the activity in which the group is participating.
  • Add scarves, costumes, or other clothing to the movement activities.
  • Create rhymes, guessing games, lullabies, songs, stories, and games that go along with the rhythm of the music and movement. In Puerto Rico, our culture is rich in these aspects. You can refer to the module Best Practices for Linguistic Development.
  • Display songs, verses, rhymes, or poems that are understandable for the children depending on their learning stage. Refer to the written text while you sing or read.
  • Integrate puppets into the music and movement activities, as well as a variety of sounds.
  • Listen and allow the children to enjoy and identify the sounds they hear.

Art Area

This is one of the preferred areas for children. It is a very active area with a variety of materials that allow for exploration of colors, shapes, sizes, and especially for having sensory experiences. Also, it allows the child to experiment. Since it is an area where things are created, it should be near a sink or bathroom. For this reason it should also be separated from the reading area to avoid damaging the books. There is really no need for a special space for art; infants and toddlers need only a little bit of space on the floor or a table to paint, sculpt, draw, tear, or cut their materials. These activities develop a sense of spatial reality, refining fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.



  • The area does not have to be defined if there is not a lot of space.
  • All materials should be non-toxic and safe for children.
  • The materials have to be organized and stored in a safe place to avoid spills.
  • Allow children to explore freely.
  • Use aprons or oversized shirts to avoid damaging clothing.
  • You should prepare all materials ahead of time; this allows you to maintain order and for everyone to enjoy the activity.
  • Showcase their work by displaying them at the children’s eye level.
  • Put up pictures of the children in action (creating their work) and display these at their eye level as well.
  • Talk to the children about the work of famous artists, providing children’s books about these figures.
  • To help with organizing the materials you can use egg cartons to store the brushes, scissors (with the point facing down), or to classify objects.
  • Use spray bottles for the water (these can be found in beauty supply stores).
  • Use plastic packaging (such as for salt) to separate the different colors of paint.
  • The little plastic baskets used for tomato and strawberry packaging are good for organizing paper, pencils, and crayons.
  • Use foam packaging (like that used for meat) to mix the paint.
  • Be imaginative in creating inviting areas for the children.

Manipulatives Area

In this area, the children can freely explore the materials. This allows emphasis on the fine muscles, speech, and involves the senses. These activities refine fine motor skills and the development of hand-eye coordination; they are also ideal situations for the educator to shape sharing and social skills. As for toddlers, it is important that there are doubles of all toys since the children are at a self-centered stage and do not really understand the feelings of others.


  • This area should be near a table or there should be enough space so that the children can take their materials to the right area.
  • Store the materials and toys in an organized way.
  • Shelves should be labeled.
  • Remember that the toys should be larger than one inch and a half in diameter to prevent the children from putting a piece in their mouth.
  • Materials should be non-toxic and should be cleaned daily.

If you are not able to have all areas because of a lack of space, make sure to have at least the following for infants and toddlers:

  • welcome
  • rest
  • eating
  • changing
  • crawling (large muscles)
  • play
  • play-acting (only for toddlers)
  • outside

Ensure that the play area has materials that stimulate the senses. Provide the children with the opportunity to smell, touch, observe, handle, and explore. Maintain all toys accessible and organized according to age-level and complexity.

Imagine that you work with infants. Describe an appropriate environment where they can be very active, playing with toys, using materials, and interacting with instructors.

Getting to Know the Preschool and Kindergarten Areas

Reading, Writing, Language or Library Area

This area, which is considered passive, is designed to work apsects of language development: speaking, reading, listening, and writing. It should be located in an area where there is not a lot of activity so that the children’s concentration is not affected. The activities carried out in this area are geared toward expression and communication. You can designate one section for reading, or as a library, and another for writing. If you do not have a lot of space, put them together. Another alternative is to set up the reading area on a mezzanine. It is important for the educator to establish safety rules for going up and down the stairs leading to the reading area. If you use a raised platform or loft, you can put the reading area on the upper level and use the lower level for play-acting.

Keep in mind that the written word plays a part in everything. In a preschool or kindergarten environment you can put informative books in different areas of the classroom. For example, if you are recreating an aquarium you can place some informative books about aquariums or the animals of the aquarium.


In addition to the previous points, take the following recommendations into account when organizing these areas for preschoolers and kindergarteners:

  • They should be located near other passive areas, or those that are quieter, such as the manipulatives area.
  • Label the areas, with both words and drawings; this will help with organization and indirect learning in the literacy development process.
  • Review and observe the area each day.
  • Set the area up with chairs, rocking chairs, cushions, a table, bookshelf, recording equipment, CDs, and other items (see Appendices 1 and 2).
  • Separate the areas according to their components. For example, place the table near the bookshelf where all the writing materials are stored (pencils, crayons, markers, different types of paper, glue, stapler, stencils, among others); place puppets near books with corresponding titles and characters. The recording equipment should be near the musical instruments and microcphones.
  • Place a rug and pillows in this area so that the children will feel free to lay down and read.
  • Light the area with floor lamps or hanging lights. This will keep the children from straining their eyes and make the area more inviting for independent reading.
  • Decorate the area and make it interesting by using pictures and curtains.
  • Choose age-appropriate books for the children, but without underestimating their learning capacity (see Appendix 2).
  • Promote reading and writing all around the classroom.
  • Adults should act as role models: read and write everyday.
  • Watch and speak with the children.
  • Read aloud everyday.
  • Point out the words, the author, and illustrator of the story being read.Point out the words, the author, and illustrator of the story being read.
  • Respond to the children’s verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Ask them questions.
  • Show the illustrations.
  • Invite parents to participate in the reading activities.
  • Display the children’s writing projects.

Music and Movement Area

In this area children can explore with rhythms and tones. They can listen to music, observe books, dance and move, sing and play instruments among others. This area is considered active; thus it can be close to the area of blocks. Besides the previous recomendations, the following are specified for preschoolers and kindergarten:

  • It is not necessary to have this area delimited. The educator can organize the activity in a circle, in a prepared space, or outside.
  • You can sing or listen to musi, play instruments and move.
  • Invert activities such as to imitate or represent any animal or person.
  • Invent and create materials with the children to produce sounds and music, utilize, for example, sandpaper, sand, bean seeds, or rice.
  • You can have a diversity of musical instruments on a shelf or in accessible boxes for children.
  • If financial resources are limited, you can make instruments out of recycled materials.
  • Movement activities can be done in and out of the classroom.

Learning more about a Linguistically Enriching Environment

One of the strategies for the development of literacy skills is to have a linguistically enriching environment (NAEYC, 2004; Newman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 2000; Schickedanz, 1999). Literacy skills include the early development of reading and writing abilities. This approach establishes that these processes, along with oral expression, manifest themselves as natural processes. Research in the fields of reading and writing indicate that before entering formal education children already possess knowledge about these processes.

It is important that, from an early age, children have significant and enriching experiences of the printed word so that they can build on their knowledge of its functions. Children that have this kind of experience have the ability to understand both the written and spoken word as having a functional, communicative purpose; this results in producing an effective reader.


In a linguistically enriching environment, the written word is visible in all areas. The educator uses the written word in a meaningful way in the classroom. For example, during lessons the educator will read and point to the text while writing on the board. Also, the words to songs will be displayed on the walls (and be visible to the children). Regardless of the ages of the students, all areas are labeled, including the children’s names. They also have signs/charts that are prepared with the children that illustrate class excursions or the favorite foods of each child.

It is crucial that the educator provide a variety of activities in which children can take part in a process of communicating a message. As they are exposed to this they develop ideas about how to use the written word and continue producing written work. Their writing skills progress, going from scribbles with meaning to more conventional writing. This is a natural process for each child and there is not a single method to follow.

Using photocopies or notebooks in which there are out-of-context exercises with no meaning are inappropiate practices. Literacy skills are very important because they help children learn in an enteratining way while they build their knowledge about the process of writing.

Building Block area

The building block area for preschoolers and kindergarteners is used to build structures, or they can use more complex types of blocks. The area can also be used to make structures that relate to concepts taught during the week. Non-fiction or story books related to specific themes can be placed in this area. It is an area that is considered active and noisy. The blocks facilitate exploration and allow for the learning of math, science, and social studies. This activity also fosters cooperation and contributes to the development of large and fine muscles.


Keep in mind the following recommendations for preschoolers and kindergarteners:

  • Since there are so many different types of building blocks in the classroom, it is recommended to identify their places on the shelf with cut-outs of their shapes.
  • Place accessories or supplemental material in boxes or baskets on the shelves. This helps the children to choose what they are going to play with.
  • Take good care of wood blocks – if they are thrown, they can break or splinter.
  • Clean, polish, and paint the blocks so that they are more inviting.
  • Incorporate themes from other areas or from the curriculum into the building block area.
  • Allow children to make labels, such as “Don’t Knock Down,” “Caution,” “Road Work Ahead,” or to name their constructions. This will foster the use of the written word (literacy skills).
  • Use the blocks to solve problems. For example: make a tower that is stable using the blocks.

Play-Acting Area

This area is designed so that children can pretend or imitate adults:family members, community figures, among others. The area can be turned into a little cottage, a doctor’s office, a market, a restaurant, a jungle, among others. Because of the variety it offers, this is one of the children’s and adults’ favorite areas.


Consider the following recommendations for preschoolers and kindergarteners:

  • The space and its location should be well-defined.
  • Limit the number of children according to the available equipment and space. An appropriate number is from four to five children per area.
  • Each child has to be shown the play area and then how to place the materials back where they belong.
  • Furniture can be used to help define the area.
  • The best location for the play-acting area is near the other active areas, such as the building block area. This helps to prevent interrupting the other children’s activities in the passive areas (such as reading or board games).
  • Keep the area tidy, organized, and inviting so that the children can enjoy their pretending. This is a way of teaching them that at home they should also keep things organized.
  • Use labels.
  • Depending on the theme, provide writing materials. For example, if it is a doctor’s office, provide prescription booklets, notepads, among others.
  • Organize the items according to category: wallets, hats, shirts, food, office supplies, among others.
  • Use racks to hang the clothes on.
  • The materials have to be cleaned.
  • Change the play-acting up: turn the house into a doctor’s office, a cave, a supermarket, a beauty salon, or a restaurant. Other things can be done according to the story being developed.

Manipulatives Area

Designate this area for use of small objects that are geared to developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial reasoning.


Recommendations for preschoolers and kindergarteners:

  • Store the materials according to their complexity.
  • Organize them by category: for example, animal puzzles, food, instruments, tools, and items such as tops and other toys with strings attached.
  • Get involved in the children’s games; observe and ask questions.
  • Stimulate children so that they play using their hands and knowledge.
  • Provide toys that touch on themes from other curricular areas, such as reading or math. For example: paper letters that can be strung together, stories like “The Three Little Pigs,” numbers, among others.
  • Place story books nearby that are related to the theme.

Art Area

In this area encourage creativity using paint, paper, crayons, markers, and other materials. The children can work with concepts like color, shapes, size, and texture. They can also express their feelings and refine their fine motor skills.


In addition to previous recommendations, consider the following for preschoolers and kindergarteners:

  • Place the materials and organize them in an inviting way on a shelf that is accessible to the children, making sure they are labeled.
  • Baskets and plastic containers are very good for storage and organization.
  • Cardboard boxes and juice containers are very good for holding pencils and scissors.
  • Baby-food packaging is ideal for holding paint and glue.
  • Juice container caps are useful for holding glue for individual children.
  • Designate an area for displaying the works made by the children; plan an exhibition and invite the parents.
  • Expose the children to works of art. Talk to them about the style, technique, and other related topics.
  • Incorporate art into other aspects of the curriculum, reading and writing in particular. Have children’s literature on famous artists and their works available.

Sandbox and Water Area

This is one of the most fun areas for children because they can explore using two of nature’s materials: sand and water. Here they learn scientific and mathematical concepts such as saturation, emptiness, quantity, and measurement. They also develop language skills, practice social skills, and perfect their fine motor skills.



  • If you are not able to put this area inside the classroom, you can put it in the outside area.
  • You should separate the two: one for water and the other for sand. This will allow the children to play independently.
  • If the area is inside, you should put it near the building blocks and play-acting areas, which tend to be active.
  • To prevent falling or stumbling, you should place a waterproof rug in the area; this will help control spilled water and scattered sand.
  • The toys and materials should be maintained. If they are rusty because of the water, they should be removed immediately.
  • You should change the water daily in order to avoid sicknesses.
  • Invite the children to help you pick up the materials.
  • The sand should be covered after each use. If it is outside, it should be covered to prevent animals from getting into it (such as cats).
  • You can incorporate the play here into other aspects of the curriculum.
  • Observe, engage with, and supervise the children during their play.

Cooking Area (for older children)

Here children can prepare and eat their own food. The activities here are not designed to teach cooking and the recipes do not necessarily require the use of a stove or oven. The purpose is to promote nutrition, health, safety, language skills, math, science, social skills, fine motor skills, decision making, and problem-solving. Not all programs have this area since it requires a large space and continuous supervision. However, it is recommended to incorporate this type of activity at least once a month.


Don’t worry if you do not have the space, as you can organize these activities according to the theme of the moment. Be creative and you will see that the children will enjoy the experience all the same. Remember:

  • Recipes must be easy to follow for the children.
  • The right ingredients should be used and be sure not to cause any accidents.
  • Make sure the children are not allergic to any of the foods.

Woodworking Area (optional)

In this area children can enjoy physical exercise while they work on mathematical and logical development by recreating their environment through their creations. It is an area that is quite active and requires constant supervision. This center is not present in all programs.

Science/Social Studies/Math/Research Area

This area can simply be called “Research” and you can incorporate science and social studies into it. Research is part of the reality and routine of preschoolers and kindergarteners. These children are natural scientists. Science entails exploration, discovery, testing, and observing. According to Feeney, Christensen and Moravcik (1996), science, like play, is an active, dynamic process that is related to expression of thoughts. It is highly important that the educator develops scientific knowledge for the children. How? For one, creating activities (such as experiments) that give the children time and space for observation, asking questions related to the observations, analysis, working with things, experimenting, and solving problems. You also have to guide them in making predictions and drawing conclusions. The activities should not be complicated; even in their daily routines things could come up that leads them to experiment or analyze some occurrence.



  • Read stories related to people so that the children learn about others.
  • Observe how plants and animals grow and develop.
  • Observe objects and materials such as seeds, leaves, animals, rocks, water, among others.
  • Observe the moon phases, how the sun moves, people, and animals.
  • Create simple experiments. For example: the different states of water, mix colors and other substances, among others.
  • If it is not possible to have a defined space, incorporate this into the manipulatives area and organize the area according to theme.
  • If it is not possible to have a defined space, incorporate this into the manipulatives area and organize the area according to theme. Another space-saving alternative is to incoporate the science and social studies areas into a single “research area.” If this is done, it is important to alternate the materials of each area in a balanced way. You can create experiments, both for science and social studies. For example: work on the theme “island” during the week of the Day of Discovery of Puerto Rico by placing pieces of foam on a tray as a model of the archipelago that makes up Puerto Rico and surrounding it with water colored with green food coloring. This activity easily integrates social studies and science.

Social Studies

The purpose of social studies is to help the children develop skills and abilities that can help them in making good decisions, being good citizens, respecting cultural diversity, and living harmoniously in a democratic society.



  • Teach the classroom rules and serve as a role model.
  • Respect the children.
  • All the children should express their frustrations and fears.
  • Participate in the development of friendships among the children.
  • Teach and demonstrate to the children how to wait their turn.
  • Enjoy being with the children.
  • Engage in group discussions.
  • Read to the children about other children and places.
  • Visit museums and watch educational films with the children.
  • Visit and become familiar with the local community.


As for the math area, if you do not have a lot of space you can incorporate it into the manipulatives area. The important thing is that you provide activities and materials that will develop mathematical and logical thought, counting skills, geometry, among others. For preschoolers and kindergarteners the materials need to be tangible, solid objects. Provide numerous objects to count, such as bottle caps, large buttons, or dolls. One of the basic skills for mathematics development is the biunique correspondence (one-to-one relationship). This is one of the first things that have to be worked on.



  • Sing songs with rhythms related to numbers.
  • Count objects, touch them, classify them, and organize them in rows or columns. Remember that math is all around us. Everyday we can count the children present, pencils, paintings, among others.
  • Prepare and organize illustrations, whether this is with the names of the children, their gender, with animals, or other things.
  • Play “Simon Says” (“Simon says jump to five.”)
  • Observe objects and describe their shapes and sizes.
  • Measure the children’s height.
  • Provide materials that incorporate other curricular areas, such as books about numbers, puzzles that encourage counting or grouping things, construction items such as cardboard cutout numbers, among others.

Computer Area

The computer area is very innovative these days. Nowadays, many children have access to computers at home and therefore it is not necessary to have them in the classroom. However, it makes learning easier for children that are already using this technology. Other topics the educator is covering could also be incorporated into the use of the computer.



  • Place the area in a quiet spot. It can be near the reading and writing area.
  • The area should be well lit.
  • Put the computer in a place where it will not get wet.
  • Make sure the outlets are safe for both the computer and the children.
  • Place the computer on a table and provide chairs for the children.
  • Choose a good computer.
  • Choose a variety of software programs that are appropriate for childhood education.
  • Supervise the children while they work.
  • Maintain and protect the computer, since it is very expensive.
  • The educator should know how to operate the computer and its programs.
  • Demonstrate the use of the computer before the children use it.

To learn more about the learning activities and experiences that correspond to each area, consult the Integrated Curriculum module.

The Physical Environment of My Learning Area

Place a check mark ( √ ) in the appropriate box to record your response.

The materials and equipment are accesible to the children.
There is space for individual and group activities.
The materials are in optimal condition and ready for use.
There are enough materials inside and outside the facility.

  • Play-Acting
  • Building Blocks
  • Sensory Material
  • Sandbox and Water
  • Music
  • Movement
  • Other
The children are always under supervision.
The areas are designed according to the learning areas.
The material complements the curriculum, goals, and objectives.
Outside experiences, such as running and jumping, are offered.
The outside area is safe and protected by rails and fences.
The outside space is at least 75 square feet for each child.
The sandbox and water area are protected to prevent accidents.
The inside space is about 35 square feet for each child.
The facilities comply with federal and state laws.
The facilities are clean, safe, and organized.

The Schedule and Daily Routine

The schedule and daily routine are essential elements in the curriculum since they define the amount of time spent on the activities carried out as part of each section. When they are planned, consideration must be given to the holistic development of the children, their specific characteristics, and the children’s needs. This makes them more enjoyable and the day will pass without any problems.

A good routine has certain qualities:

  • A good start is to be friendly. Welcome the children in a relaxed way. The staff should speak individually to each parent and child.
  • See to the physical needs of each child, such as potty training and eating periodically throughout the day. These parts of the routine can be flexible.
  • The routine provides balance between physical activity (active and passive) and rest.
  • The routine should include activities for large and small groups and time for the children to play alone.
  • There should be activities in which the children choose whether to do their own thing or participate in planned activities.
  • The goals of the program should see to the characteristics of the children as individuals and as a group. There should be a balance between outside and inside activities and time should be provided for the children and adults to choose which ones to do.
  • The routine should be flexible, taking into account different circumstances and the weather.
  • A routine should offer security for the children.
  • A good routine ends with an evaluation of the activities carried out.

Consistency is a very important aspect of the routine and schedule. This allows for organization within the preschool environment. Also, it helps the children to feel safe, confident to be able to predict the sequence of events of the day.

Tips for Better Planning:

  • There should be time for:
    • Arriving and leaving
    • Meals and snacks
    • Naps and resting
    • Changing and personal needs (bathroom, handwashing, brushing the teeth, etc.)
    • Pick-up and cleaning
    • Transition from one activity to another
  • Take a look at your work schedule with the children, taking into consideration the possibilities and limitations of the school day.
  • Visualize the day in large blocks rather than in small segments.
  • Combine activities whenever possible; this will save time and you can get better results by combining similar activities (reading, singing, poems, etc.).
  • Plan the centers and activities for small groups; this will provide more opportunities for personal contact and the chance to make better observations.
  • Instruction time should take place in the morning. This allows for an overview of the day’s theme and the activities can take place throughout the day. It also helps you to get to know the children and make modifications to the plan if necessary.
  • Encourage socializing among the children.
  • When forming groups in the different areas, take into consideration the maturity, personality, abilities, or difficulties of each child.

You are an instructor with fifteen toddlers and it is almost time for lunch. What kind of transition activity do you use to prepare the children for mealtime?

Health and Safety in the Learning Environment

It is essential to provide a safe and healthy environment. A quality environment is one in which accidents are prevented, there is emergency preparation, and the children are educated about health and safety practices.

The programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Resources of the United States propose adopting an approach that accounts for the health of children, families, and the staff of each center or school. NAEYC (1998), as well as Shapiro, Kaufmann and Messenger (1995), point out that programs should include policies that protect and promote children’s health. These health practices would include hand-washing, supervision of play areas (inside and outside), offering education and orientation to parents and families, and discussions of health with preschoolers. The following points are emphasized:

  • Health records
  • Health of program staff
  • Emergency plans
  • Hygiene (hand-washing, sanitizing materials, diaper changing, potty training, etc.)
  • Taking medicine
  • Infant abuse and negligence
  • Food preparation

Educators must look after the health of the children they care for; the staff and parents share this responsibility. Anyone who works directly with children should maintain a clean and safe environment in which they prevent risks, observe the children’s daily behavior, pay attention to health problems so they can inform the right person, administer medicine when necessary (and following the program policy and regulations, as only a trained and licensed professional should do this), and provide health education to the children as part of their daily routine.

Feeney, Christensen and Moravcik (1996) agree on the above points and add that a good program should be physically and psychologically safe. Because a preschool environment includes a lot of equipment and material, educators have to supervise the children at all moments; it is their responsibility to minimize potential risks.

Health Policy

Any program that serves preschool children should be guided by a set of policies, processes, or regulations that ensure the children´s well-being. These regulations are necessary for the maintenance of the children’s security, health, and nutrition. The rules should be revised and updated according to new research developments and specialist recommendations; most importantly, they should fit the program in question.

Tips in Drawing up Policies:

  • Be specific and detailed
  • Indicate who, what, when, where, why, and how
  • Ensure that responsibilities are clearly defined
  • They have to be written by a committee comprising parents, staff, and area specialists
  • Organize policies by topic or theme
  • Ensure that all staff are familiar with the policies

Personal Responsibility

The policies protect and promote the children´s health. These regulations ensure a healthy environment and provide preventative practices. For these reasons it is the responsibility of directors, educators, parents and children to understand the importance of these rules. It is imperative that educators understand these regulations so that they can effectively execute them in the work place.

Themes That Should Be Included in The Health Policies:

Children’s Health Records

  • Physical exam
  • Screening results
  • Updated immunization certification
  • Tuberculosis exam results
  • Contact information for primary care physician
  • Confidentiality agreement and information release forms

Educator Records

  • Job application requirements (criminal background check, health screening, among others)
  • Non-discrimination policies
  • Subsitution plan
  • Vacation and sick leave
  • Disciplinary policies
  • First aid and CPR certification
  • Certifications from the Child Support Administration and the Department of the Treasury

Accident and Injury Prevention Policies

  • Checklists to identify risks in the surroundings
  • No smoking policy in work areas
  • First aid procedures
  • Field trip procedures


  • Diagram of the evacuation route
  • List of emergency telephone numbers for parents and staff
  • Evacuation plan, including special considerations for infants and toddlers that cannot walk
  • Personal responsibilities
  • Record of monthly drills

Managing Communicable Illnesses

  • Procedures for evaluating symptoms, including special precautions for such things as respiratory or intestinal problems
  • Care procedures for a child that develops symptoms while at the center
  • Criteria for managing sick children
  • Procedures for children returning to class from being out sick

Procedures for controlling sickness and infections:

  • Hand washing
  • Disinfectants
  • Personal hygiene
  • Diaper changing and using the bathroom
  • Taking out the trash

Procedures for Medicine Administration

  • Parent authorization for administering medication
  • Storing medication
  • Record medicine administered
  • Communication with the parents

Abuse and Mistreatment

  • Procedures for reporting child abuse and negligence
  • Procedures for identifying signs of abuse
  • Documentation and incident log
  • Parent communication procedures


  • Security procedures for the school bus/transportation
  • Field trip security procedures
  • Drop-off and pick-up procedures, including escorting the children
  • Driver-training procedures

Food Preparation and Distribution

  • Strategies for teaching nutrition to the children
  • Procedures for washing eating utensils
  • Food management procedures
  • Food storage

Dental Health

  • How to clean the toothbrush
  • Storing toothbrushes
  • Dental First Aid

All programs that work with young children should have a protocol that outlines all procedures and rules to follow in any situation; families should be aware of these.

Health and Safety in my Learning Environment

Place a check-mark (√) to indicate if you comply or not.

I Comply
I don’t Comply
The program has a health record for each child that contains the following information: immunization records, insurance plan, medical exams, family information, medical history, nutritional background, etc.
The program complies with all teacher first aid requirements.
The program complies with health and safety procedures.
The staff provides information to families regarding the health of children and any incidents at school.
The staff complies with hand-washing procedures.
The program has trained personal for administering medication.
Materials are sanitized.
The program provides nutritional food.
The areas are cleaned and sanitized.

Community Relations: Socio-Emotional Environment

Positive Interpersonal Relations with Adults and Peers

Interpersonal relations are important in a learning environment. From the time they are born, the links between infants and adults are acknowledged as one of the determining, critical factors for socio-emotional intelligence, and linguistic and cognitive development. A good learning environment prepares the child to grow through interacting with adults and peers (NAEYC, 1998).


How do you describe early childhood? From the time they are newborns, children are actively building their consciousness. At the same time they initiate and manage their own activities and interactions with peers, who are important figures in their socialization process and provide opportunities to learn through games and creative interaction (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).


How should the educator promote positive interpersonal relations in the classroom?

  • They have to actively support the child´s development through activities, materials, and appropriate learning experiences for young children while making it a priority to get to know each child.
  • Establish positive interpersonal relationships with the children in order to promote their development and stay informed regarding their needs and potential.
  • Maintain one-to-one, face-to-face interaction while using a calm voice, simple language, and frequent visual contact.
  • Listen to the children’s responses and adapt to their individual traits, styles, and abilities.
  • They should understand the family and community background of each child in order to be familiar with their perspectives and priorities (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

Through interactions, children develop empathy for others, including the educator. Also, this helps children to understand and identify with the emotions of their peers. For more information on this theme, you can take a look at the module entitled “Mutual Support Between Schools, Families, and the Community.”


How to Foster Independence in Children

How do you foster a sense of independence in your learning community? If you respond by saying that children perform tasks on their own, without adult intervention, then you have a well-defined strategy for fostering independence in young children.


Imagine a child crawling or taking his/her first steps, exploring and discovering his/her environment and taking care in doing so. You can rest assured that you have fostered this behavior and that the child is doing things for him/herself, with little or no intervention from you. With toddlers, sometimes we adults want to do everything for them, as we underestimate their abilities. It is necessary to be attentive to the signals they give, especially when they say “Let me!” or “I want!” We should respect their space and desire to do for themselves during the day’s activities. For example: taking off their shoes, brushing their teeth, handling objects, picking up the play area, and other activities.

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With preschoolers and kindergarteners, it is important to guide them toward their own choices in the activities that interest them. This chance to make decisions stimulates learning about responsibility and increases free choice. One example is when the children choose their learning areas; this helps them to be more independent and responsible in their actions.

What can I do to foster independence in my classroom? Allow the children to:

  • Choose materials, activities, and areas to work in;
  • Decide which wall they want to hang their art on;
  • Choose which story book they want to read in class before nap time;
  • Choose which songs they are going to sing in as a group.

This type of independnce helps children resolve conflicts about classroom materials and areas without adult intervention. But the most important thing is that they learn to behave in the classroom.

How to Foster Team Work

“We´re painting a mural! Carlos, Valeria, and I are painting! Hey Karla, come build something with these blocks!”

These are some expressions that children can use when they are engaging in team work in the classroom.

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How do you manage to effectively foster this kind of social experience? Remember that from an early age interpersonal relations develop through games and activities that are interesting for children (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). The experience of interacting with others allows them to discover the views of others; their peers begin to be social agents and provide opportunities to engage in team work and interact during the learning process.

The educator should use strategies that help to build a sense of group participation that leads to a sense of community. In order to attain team spirit, children (even infants) can use their bodies to paint a mural in the classroom. Toddlers can make sculptures or a mural using different materials. Preschoolers and kindergarteners can make books that they themselves write and illustrate. They can also make post cards to give to someone special. Prepare activities that are relevant and interesting in order to achieve effective teamwork. Other activities you can prepare are:

  • Friendship Sandwich: use white, wheat, or raisin bread to prepare a sandwich. Use different types of bread to show that while we may be different colors, we are equal in all other aspects.
  • The Cobweb – use a wool yarn, starting around the waist; throw the yarn to a friend and tell him or her what you like about him. When finished, all will be united.
  • Music activity – use songs that talk about friendship.
  • The Friendship Quilt – take large squares of cloth and cut small holes in the corners to tie the pieces with wool yarn.
  • Friendship Circles – use hula-hoops to pair children. Play music and when the music stops, the children have to move to another hula-hoop. As the game progresses the hula-hoops are eliminated until there is only one left.


Self-Control in a Supportive Environment

Self-control is about voluntary, internal learning in which children first build their concept of themselves and evaluate themselves to learn how to control their behavior. This is an integral part of childhood growth and development; it is also essential for social and moral order.


The educator is responsible for understanding the development of each individual and helping him/her to exercise self-control in order to acquire different cognitive skills that help with this goal. At an early age children need the educator to support the internalization of their actions. In order to achieve this, communication between the two is vital. The educator facilitates problem resolution in the children through observation, guidance, and helping only when it is necessary. For these reasons the educator has to be attentive to the signs, traumatic events, and tension that can arise so as to minimize them and keep the children’s stress levels down so that they can better control themselves (NAEYC, 1998).

Children are not born with self-control. This develops starting around the age of two and continues during their development. Each individual is capable of self-control. As they grow, their cognitive, perceptive, and linguistic framework continues developing and enables them to see things from other points of view and thus gives them access to better behavior management. For example, infants are not capable of self-control as their movements in the first months are reflexive. Later they acquire an intrinsic behavior. Toddlers learn to use the bathroom with help from educators. Preschoolers and kindergarteners learn to wait their turn through various learning activities.

Children demonstrate self-control when:

  • Controlling their impulses and acts – they stop, observe the situation and decide how to act in the moment; for example, when they are sharing building blocks, rather than reacting aggressively or by crying, they use their words.
  • Dealing with frustration – they stop themselves from doing something in a difficult situation; for example, when they control the impulse to throw, break, or bite something.

The Role of the Educator in Creating Interpersonal Relations

The role of the educator in early childhood is of great importance since they have the responsiblity to organize the educational environment. Also, they create the opportunity for interpersonal relations through activities in a positive, stable environment for children. This should help children integrate themselves and participate in these interactions, with the educator and with their peers. It should also allow time for children to have a dialogue about their situations and listen and offer solutions to the situations that arise. This allows them to value and respect individual and cultural differences.


According to research on neurodevelopment, the brain is social in nature. From the time we are born emotional relations are essential for establishing connections between neurons (synapses). According to Jensen (1998), the educator has the responsibility to foster positive experiences in the various environments in which children get to know each other and interact; it is therefore important that emotional skills are promoted at school so that children can develop their self-esteem and acquire a sense of empathy and cooperation with their peers.

Neurological development happens in accordance with the social environment. At an early age the brain’s functions are very interrelated with empathy, affection, and self-control. These interpersonal relations between the educator and the children should be established in a caring environment that fosters respect and trust. Touch and speech are fundamental components in this process: children grow when their peers and educators hug and touch them. This kind of constant attention nourishes the brain with positive experiences.

The educator must be an active observer of the children’s play and learning activities at all stages of their development.

Place a check-mark (√) in the boxes that apply and write some comments.

How Attentive am I…
Do you identify when a child needs help to solve some kind of problem with their peers?
Do you foster positive interpersonal relations by taking into account the level of social behavior of the child?
Do you recognize that getting involved could aggravate the situation?
Do you create playful activities that foster development?
Do you pay attention to the actions and behavior of the children? Are you attentive to tense situations?
Do you offer suggestions and offer solutions accordingly?

Educators’ Roles (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997):

  • Use an appropriate tone of voice (soft, calm, confident, happy).
  • Create a welcoming emotional environment.
  • Give reminders to children about what you want them to do.
  • Offer help and allow the children to do things themselves.
  • Encourage children to solve problems themselves.
  • Establish rules and limits; it is important to explain the reasons behind these.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Recognize all achievements no matter how small.

How do you foster positive interpersonal relations in your classroom? What strategies do you use to achieve a sense of community? How do you help children exercise self-control in difficult situations?

Strategies for Managing Emotions and Frustrations

It is natural for children to get angry and frustrated while playing. You can accept their feelings but not necessarily their actions. From birth, infants demonstrate various emotional expressions, some of which are simply reflexive, such as smiling. As they grow up their feelings become more varied and are expressed in different ways. Smiling and laughing are part of their behavior, as well as anger, annoyance, tantrums, and sadness, all of which can be because of separation anxiety, pain, fear, anxiety, hunger, or fatigue.

The educator who works with young children foresees and prevents conflicts that can arise during learning activities, such as active play. At this age it helps to express thoughts and feelings with words; this means that the educator recognizes the child’s feelings and helps them manage the situation in a positive way. A soft voice should always be used during tense situations so that there is a sense of calm and the behavior toward the child encourages them to verbalize their feelings.

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Some unacceptable behavior can include harassment, kicking, biting, pushing, or destroying materials. Expressing feelings can eliminate tension but the educator has to help the children channel their feelings by talking to them about the effects of their actions and guide them while they are playing, as well as engaging them in activities in which they talk about their feelings so that they can identify their own emotions.

You hit your friend and hurt him. You should calm down: take a deep breath and we will talk about what happened. Would you like it if Carlos hit you? No, right? You hurt Carlos and now he is upset. Friends are supposed to respect each other and your hands are for playing and working. If something bothers you, use words to express what you like or do not like.

When children are able to think about how they feel, they can exercise more control over their emotions and distance themselves from conflict by going to another area or seeking help from the educator. If there is frustration regarding a toy, help them so that you act as a facilitator and help them develop interest in achieving things on their own. For example: putting together a puzzle, stringing things together or opening the lid of a package.

Neurodevelopmental research tells us that (Jensen, 1998):

  • The brain responds to positive interaction and reacts to negative situations.
  • Positive emotions help the brain to integrate new information.
  • If the brain suffers tension or trauma, this can cause behavioral problems and affect learning.
  • Feeling is a skill related to thinking.


Every educator should help children develop their emotional capacity so that they can manage their feelings and frustrations better in the learning environment.

Marina and Karla are four years old and are good friends. Marina shows her friend the magnifying glass she found in the research area. Karla grabs the magnifying glass without saying anything. Marina starts crying and reaches for the magnifying glass. The two of them struggle to take the object.

Could this situation be prevented? Explain. How would you intervene?

Parents as Collaborators in a Learning Community

It is extremely important for parents and educators to share their knowledge of the children they care for so that they can better understand the children’s learning and development situation. Mutual support between educators and parents should be about mutual respect, cooperation, and sharing responsibilities and goals.


For young children, parental collaboration is essential. To keep the parents involved in the community, it is important to have constant communication. It is healthy for parents to participate in decisions regarding the care and education of their children, and to observe and share ideas.

One way to achieve parent participation in the educational process is to involve them in planning and in the evaluation of their child. The educator has the responsibility to educate parents on the learning and development of their children. There are various ways to communicate with them and get a good response: telephone calls, letters, meetings, emails, morning or afternoon chats, roundtables, bulletin boards, bulletins, among others. The following are some activities that you can carry out with parents that will integrate them into the learning community.

  • Invite the parents to observe their child during their active play time.
  • Establish a resource bank with the parents’ professions.
  • Coordinate with parents so that they prepare recipes with their children.
  • Read them their favorite books.
  • Organize a play day that integrates parents into the activities.
  • Plan cultural activities and science fairs.
  • Create a book club and a collection of family books.


The essential thing is to maintain effective and constant communication with parents and give them the chance to participate and be part of their children’s learning community.

Read each premise and circle the number that best rates your situation

How effective is communication with parents? (1) (2) (3)
How much do parents participate in the center’s activities? (1) (2) (3)
Do parents show an interest in participating in activities for their children? (1) (2) (3)
Do you plan activities that integrate parents? (1) (2) (3)
Do you carry out activities to educate parents about their children’s development? (1) (2) (3)
Do you take into consideration parents’ concerns in order to help them with their children’s education? (1) (2) (3)

Leyend: (1) Very Much (2) Somewhat (3) Not at all

Respect for Individual Differences

Each human being is different, with a unique, individual development. We all have different types of abilities and intelligence. Because of this, we are not all good with numbers or speaking in public. Observing and discovering how each child develops is one of the primary goals of a good educator. As we observe and respect children with normal development, we have to do the same for those that have some type of handicap.

An inclusive environment means that this special type of child is integrated into a group of other children so that they benefit equally from the daily activities, especially playing. The goal of early intervention programs and education is to develop social skills in children with special needs. Part of the effectiveness of this is based on the educators and how they interact and influence the children’s games so that these experiences result in developmental progress.

As mandated by Federal law, it is our responsibility to provide an unrestrictive environment to children who have a handicap. In light of this the educator has to be familiar with the conditions that could be present in the community they serve, such as physical handicaps (visual, hearing, or motor). There could also be children with developmental impediments (language or cognitive, such as mental retardation). Other developmental conditions include autism, Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD), or children that are considered high-risk for biological or social reasons.

The educational environment has to provide materials and facilities that are in line with the needs of each child. This is not impossible since much of the equipment and materials we have in our classrooms is easy to adapt to children with handicaps, although sometimes this can be challenging for some educators. For example, in the case of children with motor handicaps, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida and use wheel chairs or crutches, it is important to provide ramps and ample space so that they can easily access both inside and outside areas. This is a rule established by the IDEA Act. This support system will allow the independence and ability for these children to perform their own tasks each day. As for the yard furnishings, 50% of the ramps, slides, or monkey bars have to be adapted to special-needs children.

In the case of children with hearing impairments, there tends to be significantly delayed development in speech and results in less interest in play-acting or other imaginative activities that children with better hearing engage in. It is possible to foster social interaction if the teacher knows sign language or if they explain to the child’s peers how to communicate with them (lip reading, for example). Research indicates that, in inclusive environments, children with hearing impairments can participate in more sophisticated play-acting than their peers in separate classrooms (Parten, 1932, in Frost, Wortham, Reifel, 2001). The materials that you have for children without handicaps can also be used by children with hearing impairments. It is important to integrate them into spontaneous play activities since they tend to play alone and away from other children (Frost, Wortham, Reifel, 2001).

When there are children with sight problems, the modifications to the facilities will depend on the type of condition. If you care for children with very light conditions and they use corrective lenses, you can modify the materials you use and make labels and signs with bigger lettering; this will help them integrate more easily and feel more accepted by their peers. If the condition is severe, you can provide materials in Braille. It is important that children with vision impairments be integrated into the group, as their play tends to be solitary and they do not interact with other children as much. They should be provided with toys that encourage play-acting, such as dolls, buggies, building blocks, among others. The educator has to allow more time and space for these children so that they can adapt and acquire the skills provided by playing.

For children with speech or mental impediments, it is important to have stimulating experiences. It is essential that once they have been evaluated they receive the proper treatment, which can include speech therapy.

A linguistically enriching environment is important not only for handicapped children but for all children. It is an environment in which educators use language purposefully and this includes singing, dancing, asking open-ended questions and those with specific answers, all to develop certain concepts. The use of songs with facial expressions or body language helps children who are not able to pronounce a complete word or sentence. Participating in singing with all of the other children improves the self-esteem of children with speech impediments. Another strategy for children is modeling, which also helps with mental retardation. The educator has to teach the child to imitate, depending on the developmental stage of each child. Sometimes it is necessary to teach them to imitate things that are simple or complex, like singing a lullaby or preparing food.

While Ana was cooking, someone took the pan from her. Since she has a speech impediment, her friend could not understand her when she asked for the pan back and so she did not return it. The educator observes and intervenes in order to prevent a conflict; this is done by modeling for Ana how to ask for things back in a simple way. Ana imitates the behavior and the situation is resolved.

Handicapped children progress little by little and depending on the stimulation they receive at home and at school. It is crucial that all individuals and services that work with them keep this in mind when taking care of them.

For children considered high-risk, whether for biological or environmental reasons, the goal is to avoid the possibility that they develop some kind of condition or handicap. Early intervention programs have greater responsibility in offering treatment at a very early age. The handicap often manifests in sensory-motor development, and this can be diagnosed and evaluated using observations of the children at play. Children whose imaginative or interactive playing is seen as being limited in comparison to the norm for their age could be considered high-risk, as they could develop autism or PPD in the future. These conditions are usually diagnosed at preschool age, but in the first years the condition can be minimized, thanks in large part to early intervention.

For high-risk children sensory experiences can be stressful. Because of this, the educator can use approximation strategies and little by little give them different sensory experiences. Playing with children without handicaps is a way to effectively integrate them. The role of the educator is important in helping the children develop interactive and representational play skills. In these cases the materials and equipment used are similar to those presented throughout the module; the educator should go along analyzing how these tools influence the development of autistic children. For example, the play house or play-acting area can have only a few items in order to make playing a little easier.

The important thing is that you, as the educator, be attentive to special situations in a child’s development. Keep in mind that for children with handicaps, integration with their peers through play is essential and necessary.

For more information on this topic, you can consult the module entitled Ensuring Diversity in an Inclusive Environment.

Respect for individual differences in my learning environment

Place a check mark (√) in the box that best represents your situation.

I Comply
I Don’t Comply
I observe and note the characteristics of each child.
I provide special toys to children with special needs.
My environment does not have structures that limit the movement of handicap accessories.
I initiate play with enthusiasm and grab the children’s attention.
I use positive reinforcement everyday.
I use body language along with verbal cues.
I show flexibility when engaging in play activities.
I use modeling during play activities.
I prepare the play area according to the needs of each child.


What do I know about early childhood?
Justify your response. Explain.
Are the characteristics, styles, and interests of children during their development important?
Does the brain have an important role in a child’s development?
Do we all learn in the same way?
Do I treat all children the same?
Are children born with self-control?
Do children develop independence with educators’ intervention?
Can I accept frustrated behavior?
Does children’s learning have to be passive?
Should infant environments, nursery schools, preschools, and kindergartens be organized in the same way?
Are materials the same in different environments?
Are all centers or areas necessary?
Is space important in a learning environment?
Can I allow a sick child into my classroom?
Does nutrition have an impact on early childhood?
Should parents participate in the decisions and processes of a child’s education?


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Maxin, G. (1997). The very young: Guiding children from infancy through the early years. New Jersey: Merrill.

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Schickedanz, J. (1999). Much more than the ABC’s the early stages of reading and writing. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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Asociación Puertorriqueña para la Educación de la Niñez en Edad Temprana

Association of Early Childhood Educator, Ontario

Choosing Quality Child Care Indicators of Quality Child Care Programs

Duke University and Durham Child Care Council

Early Childhood

Early Childhood Care and Development

Early Childhood Resource Center

Erikson Institute

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Long Term outcomes of Early Childhood programs

March of Dimes: How Your Baby Grows

National Association for the Education for the Young Children

National Association for Family Child Care

National Center for Early Development and Learning

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

National Network for Child Care

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care

Zero to Three


Appendix 1
Materials and Equipment in a Classroom for Infants

Rest and Changing Areas

  • A chair with a back for the teacher
  • Wood and acrylic cribs that are 30”x 54” for children under 18 months
  • Recliner (glider heavy duty)
  • Blankets
  • Crib sheets
  • Plastic bib (catches and holds crumbs and liquids; has an adjustable latch at the neck)
  • Armoire
  • Changing table
  • Trash bin with a lid
  • Shelf separated into cubby-holes to keep children’s belongings
  • Shelves accessible to children for storing materials
  • Mobiles that attach to the ceiling and the crib
  • High chair with a tray and security strap
  • Strollers with safety straps that hold up to four children
  • Child’s table, 12” high
  • 7.5” chair with wooden back and side panels

Table with Table and Chair Measurements

Age (months)
Chair Height
Table Height
Table Diameter
6–18 5.5” 12” 12”
9–24 6.5’ 14″ 24″ x 36″
18–36 8’” 16″ 24”x36” ó 30”x 60”

Crawling Area

  • Equipment that allows for a variety of activities (things made of foam, that incorporate different textures, has buttons, and plays music)
  • y música)
  • Rug/carpet for crawling on
  • A jungle gym
  • Balls (large, small, different textures)
  • Ramps, 18-22 inches
  • Rattles
  • Teething rings
  • Rag dolls
  • Toys appropriate for the crawling area
  • Music box (jack-in-the-box)
  • Textured building blocks
  • Rubber building blocks 4” x 4”
  • Building blocks with images of animals, people, or vehicles
  • Buggies
  • Counting blocks
  • Push-buggies
  • Pull-buggies
  • Acrylic floor mirrors
  • Children’s puppets
  • Colorful toys that make sounds and can be chewed
  • Tumbling mat
  • Puzzles with two or three pieces

Remember that for security reasons the materials should be smaller than one and a half inch in diameter.

Art, Music, and Literature Area

  • Recording equipment
  • CD player
  • Game music
  • Classical music
  • Folk music
  • Children’s music
  • Pop music
  • Baby music
  • Plastic musical instruments for infants
  • Small children’s books, plastic bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
  • Small children’s books, rubber bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
  • Small children’s books, canvas bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
  • Poetry books
  • Non-fiction books
  • Classroom manuals (changing, bathroom, doctor visits, etc.)
  • Photo albums (put together by parents)
  • Non-toxic paint (finger paint in various colors)
  • Home-made clay (oil-based)

Yard Equipment for Infants

  • A jungle gym with stairs and a slide, with transparent panels installed, with various activity areas
  • A jungle gym that provides various sensory experiences
  • A swing-set for three different age groups (from six months to three years old)
  • Sandbox and water area
    • Plastic animal figures
    • Plastic action figures
    • Cups
    • Strainers
    • Grinders
  • Hammocks

Materials and equipment for toddlers

Rest and Changing Area

  • Chairs with a back for the teacher
  • Sleeping mats or cots 24” x 24”
  • Blankets
  • Table 14” to 15” high
  • Chair, approximately 8” with a back and arm rests
  • Armoire
  • Changing table
  • Shelf divided into cubby holes to store the children’s belongings
  • Shelves accessible to children to store materials
  • Trash bin with lid
  • Stroller with safety straps and space for four children
  • Rug / carpet
  • Cushions

Music, Art, and Literature Area

  • Music
    • Recording equipment
    • Karaoke machine
    • Multi-function CD player
    • Game music
    • Classical music
    • Folk music
    • Children’s music
    • Pop music
    • Plastic musical instruments
    • Small children’s books, plastic bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
  • Reading
    • Small children’s books, rubber bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
    • Small children’s books, canvas bound (about relatives, animals, and everyday objects)
    • Poetry books
    • Non-fiction books touching on topics covered in lesson plans
    • Classroom manuals
  • Art
    • Small crayons
    • Large crayons
    • Glue
    • Non-toxic and washable paint (finger paint in a variety of colors, tempera)
    • Non-toxic, washable clay
    • Mirror
    • Easel
    • Water-based markers
    • Small paint brushes
    • Paint brushes of 5” – 6” in length
    • Round-tipped scissors
    • Sponges of different sizes and shapes
    • Glue container
    • Chalk
    • Aprons
    • Paper in various shapes and sizes

Manipulatives, Building Blocks, and Play-Acting Area

  • Manipulatives
    • Objects to organize of various shapes, sizes, and colors
    • Balls (large, small, with texture)
    • Puzzles with two or three pieces (of people, relatives, fruit, body parts, etc.), with thick knobs
    • Puzzles of four or eight variations, with thick molds
  • Building Blocks
    • Rug for minimizing noise
    • Miniature farm
    • Miniature car garage
    • Miniature airport, etc.
    • Wood blocks
    • Blocks with animal prints, people, or vehicles
    • Buggies
    • Packing boxes
    • Push-buggies
    • Pull-buggies
    • Wood buggies
    • Plastic buggies
    • Toolbox with 16 pieces in a plastic container
    • Wrag dolls
  • Play-acting
    • Toys to act stories out:
      • Hats
      • Plastic dishes
      • Cleaning (broom, mop, etc.)
    • Kitchen set in wood or rubber, without cabinets, with rounded edges (refrigerator, stove, sink, cupboard)
    • House set in wood or rubber, with rounded edges (recliner, couch, table, chairs)
    • Materials for sandbox and water area (grinders, cups, toy boat, sancastle manipulatives, floats, etc.)
    • Telephone
    • Hispanic-looking dolls, of 17 inches, anatomically correct and with hair (clearly identifiable boy and girl)
    • Doll clothes
    • Floor-length mirror
    • Medical kit with 10 pieces in a plastic container
    • Grocery store shelf with food packaging, with a total of 19 pieces in a plastic container

Yard Equipment

  • A jungle gym with stairs and a slide, with transparent panels installed, with various activity areas
  • A jungle gym that provides various sensory experiences
  • A swing-set for three different age groups (from six months to three years old)
  • Sandbox and water area
    • Plastic animal figures
    • Plastic action figures
    • Cups
    • Strainers
    • Grinders
  • Hammocks
  • Various types of age-appropriate recreational vehicles (tricycles, wagons, buggies, etc.)
  • Various weather-resistant ítems that are built according to specifications

Materials and Equipment for a Preschool and Kindergarten Classroom

Rest Area

  • Chair with a back for the teacher
  • Sleeping mats or cot of 24” x 24”
  • Blankets
  • Table 16” to 20” high, made of wood and with a covering
  • Tables for individual work that are easy to clean; they can be any shape: circular, rectangular, etc.
  • Chair, 10” to 12” with backs
  • Armoire
  • Shelf divided into cubby holes to store children’s belongings
  • Shelves to store materials and that are accessible to the children
  • Trash bin with lid
  • Rug/carpet for group lessons
  • Cushions

Music, Art, Reading and Writing Area

  • Music
    • Recording equipment
    • Headphone
    • Karaoke machine
    • Multi-function CD player
    • Game music
    • Classical music
    • Folk music
    • Children’s music
    • Pop music
    • Musical instruments for preschoolers and kindergarteners
    • CDs
  • Art
    • Work exhibition area
    • Small crayons
    • Large crayons
    • Glue
    • Non-toxic paint (tempera)
    • Non-toxic Play-doh
    • Non-toxic clay
    • Water-paint
    • Pastels
    • Finger paint
    • Play-doh (different colors, smells, and textures)
    • Mirror
    • Easel
    • Aprons
    • Water-based markers
    • Small paint brushes
    • Brushes of different shapes and sizes
    • Round-tipped scissors
    • Left-hand scissors
    • Sponges of different shapes and sizes (animals, letters, vehicles, people)
    • Glue container
    • Chalk
    • Colored pencils
    • Paper of different shapes, sizes, colors and textures
    • Cookie-cutters
    • Plastic play-do molds in different shapes and sizes
    • Wrack for the work to dry
    • Pipe cleaners
  • Writing
    • Rulers
    • Erasers, Wite-Out
    • Stamps
    • Magnetic letters
    • Magna Doodle
    • Magnet board
    • Stamps and ink pads in the shape of letters
    • Different types of paper
    • Computer paper
    • Notebook paper
    • Construction paper
    • Envelopes, notebooks, all of different sizes
    • Agenda
    • Markers
    • Colored pencils, pens
  • Reading
    • Books of different literary genres (see Appendix 2)
    • Rug, cushions, children’s chairs
    • Bookshelf

Manipulatives, Building Blocks, Sandbox and Water, and Play-Acting Areas



  • Manipulatives
    • Kit with 10 vowels to sew: a total of five upper-case and five lower-case letters with strings
    • Objects of different shapes, sizes and colors to organize
    • Balls (large, small, and textured)
    • A pegboard with thick pins
    • Puzzles with five to ten pieces and thick knobs (showing people, relatives, fruits, body parts, etc.)
    • Puzzles of four to eight variations, with thick knobs
    • Illustrated tables for autonomy (with zippers, large and small buttons, broaches, etc.)
    • Items to pair up according to shape
    • Shapes and patterns to attach with string, of different themes such as animals, vehicles, community figures, etc.
  • Building Blocks
    • Rug to minimize noise
    • Legos
    • Textured blocks, some with sound, some with water
    • Hollow blocks
    • Compact wood blocks of various shapes and sizes (curved, cylindrical, triangular, inclined, etc.)
    • Blocks with animal, people, or vehicle prints
    • Books about construction
    • Packing boxes
    • Toy vehicles (buggies, boats, motorcycles, trucks, planes, etc.)
    • Miniature farm
    • Miniature garage
    • Miniature airport, etc.
    • Rag doll
  • Play-acting
    • Toys to pretend with:
      • Hats
      • Plastic dishes
      • Cleaning items (broom, mop, etc.)
    • Dress-up items: suits, shoes, blouses, pants, etc.
    • Wood kitchen set with rounded corners (sink, stove, fridge, cupboard)
    • House set in wood, with round corners (recliner, couch, table, chairs)
    • Bedroom set (closet, bed, nightstand, etc.)
    • Grocery display shelf with food packaging, a set of 19 pieces in a plastic container
    • Recliners
    • Telephone
    • Hispanic-looking dolls, 17”, anatomically correct and with hair (boys and girls easily identifiable)
    • Doll clothes
    • Floor-length mirror
    • Toolbox with 16 pieces, in a plastic container
    • Medical kit with 10 pieces, in a plastic container
  • Sandbox and water area
    • Sandbox and water materials
      • Grinders
      • Cups
      • Toy boats
      • Sand molds for sculpting sand
      • Floating toys
      • Magnifying glasses
      • Marbles
      • Measuring spoons
      • Molds
      • Animal and people figures
      • Straws
      • Bubble wands
      • Droppers
      • Plastic bottles
      • Liquid soap
      • Water wheels, whisks, etc.
    • Aprons
    • More complex toys, such as test tubes, food coloring, etc.

Math, Science, and Research Materials


  • World map, globe
  • Non-fiction books with maps showing climate, etc./li>
  • Puzzles showing the Puerto Rican archipelago
  • Aquarium
  • Terrarium
  • Abacus
  • Domino games with different themes
  • Games of categorization and classification
  • Games of chance
  • Number flash cards
  • Items to be counted
  • Puzzles with scientific and mathematic themes
  • Pin-up material illustrating mathematic concepts
  • A pouch with 10 numbers (0-9) to be sewn together, with string
  • Animal figures such as: insects, mammals, fish, amphibians, dinosaurs, birds, etc.
  • Three-dimensional models showing the metamorphosis of insects (butterflies, bees, ants, etc.)
  • Books and flash cards about science and math
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Microscopes and slides
  • Material showing the human body
  • Non-fiction books about the human body
  • Incubators
  • Kaleidoscopes
  • Prisms
  • Magnets
  • Collection of seeds, leaves, and dissected animals
  • Toys for measuring:
    • Scale
    • Measuring cups
    • Measuring spoons
    • Watch
    • Thermometer
  • Computer
  • Age-appropriate computer games

Yard Equipment for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Balancing beam (and cushions)
  • Ramps
  • Monkey bars
  • Stairs
  • Platforms
  • Slides
  • Swing-sets
  • Seesaws
  • Toys (bicycles, buggies, tricycles, wagons, cars, etc.)
  • Sidewalk for wagons and other toys with wheels
  • Traffic signs
  • Balls of different sizes
  • Cylinders and hula-hoops of different sizes
  • Cones, outside building blocks
  • Gazebo, playhouse, tables, benches
  • Sandbox and water area

There should always be materials needed by the educator in all parts of the facility (see References)

Appendix 2

Literary Genres

It is important to provide a variety of books from different literary genres so that the reading area is interesting and stimulating for the children it serves. You can place books in different parts of the room; they do not necessarily have to be in the reading area.

Books about tradition and folklore

Everyone grows up learning a few traditional tales. This genre expands the children’s imagination while entertaining them. It is important to include various stories, such as “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldielocks and the Three Bears,” “Snow White,” and “Cinderella.” There are several versions of these stories and one we that should be mentioned is “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.” In addition to being entertaining for preschoolers and kindergarteners, stories like this show that there are different ways of looking at things.

Picture books or flash cards

This literary genre provides a variety of books. For infants (birth to one year old), toddlers (one to three years old) and preschoolers (three to five years old) they are ideal, as they allow the children to make the story up. These books have little or no text, making the illustrations the most important thing. In this genre there are many themes, such as toys, transportation, or animals. Another topic is the alphabet, in which the letters of the alphabet are illustrated. There are also books about numbers, which, as the name suggests, are about numbers. These books aim to familiarize children with these topics.

Books about Puerto Rican literature

For children, there is nothing more enjoyable than bedtime stories, among which it is important to mention those by Esther Feliciano Mendoza and Isbelita Freire. In the special case of infants – who are not able to sit up on their own – these stories create a bond between the children and the person taking care of them (parents or educators). Poetry is also well represented by Puerto Rican writers. Poetry is a genre that is frequently dismissed when working with preschoolers and kindergarteners because we think they have to focus on understanding or analyzing the poem, forgetting that poetry is about imagination and rhythm. Children like rhymes, finger games, tongue-twisters, and riddles; musicality fascinates them. Repetition and rhyme, like in tongue-twisters, is really enjoyable for them, especially preschoolers. This genre is represented by some very distinguished Puerto Rican writers, such as Isabelita Freire, Georgina Lázaro, Esther Feliciano Mendoza, and Carmelina Vizcarrondo.

Realistic fiction

This genre is made up of stories in which the narrative could happen in real life. Some examples include “The Day You Were Born.” Realistic fiction stories are really enjoyable for preschoolers and kindergarteners, as they are stories that can happen to them and they are able to identify with the characters.

Fiction and fantasy books

There is a variety of books that represent fantasy. The important thing is to make a good choice according to the children’s personalities. For example, for toddlers and preschoolers, the narrative has to be pertinent to their reality, being simple and having little text on each page; even better if it is sequential and repetitive. For kindergarteners, the narrative can be more complex and in line with the children’s interests. For this genre we can point out writers such as Eric Carle, Leo Leoni, and Tomi de Paola.

Fables and legends

This genre is a favorite of children in primary school. There is a variety of books of fables and legends from Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America. For children these stories are like entering the world of the imagination and fantasy. Legends are stories that are passed down through generations.


This literary genre has grown a lot in recent years. There are a lot of biographies of important people, such as athletes (Roberto Clemente, Michael Jordan), historical figures (Martin Luther King), among others. For kindergarteners this genre can be very interesting. When buying these books, make sure the information is accurate.

Non-fiction books

These books provide information about different themes that children are interested in, such as animals from the jungle, woods, the desert, among others. This type of book is good for showing children that books are not just for stories. For older children, this genre fosters interest in learning different things. These days many of these books come with illustrations.

Aspects of Books According to Age Group

  • Infants and Toddlers – Books for infants and toddlers can be in canvas, cardboard, or plastic. It is important that the material is safe and resistant, as children could put them in their mouth as part of their exploration. At this age, books with laminate are the most appropriate. If they have text, there should not be a lot of it. Suggested themes are: toys, animals, or stories about daily life (like eating or going to the bathroom). For toddlers, laminated books about fantasy are preferred, as they have little text and the narratives are age-appropriate.
  • Preschoolers – The narrative of the story has to be simple, cannot have much text, and the themes should be enjoyable for preschoolers: animals, toys, imaginative stories about animals.
  • Kindergarteners – The narrative can be more complex for this group. Fables, legends, realistic fiction, and fantasy are all enjoyable for this age group.

In general, peek-a-boo books are ideal for all ages, as they foster play, which is an important activity in the development of children this age. Another characteristic of a good book is that of repetition, sequence, and rhythm.

Appendix 3

a01 a02 a03

Environmental Layout for Kindergarteners

Practical Exercise

Set up an interior and outside area for________, you can choose one of the following age groups:

  • a group of ten infants (from two months to one year old)
  • 15 toddlers (from one to three years old)
  • 20 preschoolers (three to four years old)
  • a classroom for 20 kindergarteners