Classroom learning environments can have a huge impact on the ways children learn, develop skills, gain confidence, and make connections. Even for very young children—infants, toddlers, and two-year-olds—environments help shape their learning. Laura Wilhelm, EdD— Vice President of Professional Learning at Kaplan Early Learning Company and author Enticing Environments for People Under Three— shares how early educators and caregivers can little by little create nurturing “classroom nests” for our youngest learners so that they can develop and grow in an environment where they feel both safe and stimulated.
I'm Dr. Laura Wilhelm from Kaplan Early Learning Company, and this is three steps to creating a snuggly classroom nest. Those gorgeous classrooms that we see in books and catalogs are inspiring, and maybe just a little intimidating too. Where would we even begin and who has time to make a classroom that is “Pinterest Perfect”?
There's a French proverb that says, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” That's good advice! Let's start with just a little and create a snugly classroom nest.
Step One: Define a Space
Examine the room that you have. Nests can be as small as a child playing alone or with a friend indoors or outside. Creating a nest can be as simple as lining a cardboard box with fabric, or removing the lower cabinet doors and adding a cushion.
A corner of a playground can be divided into cozier spaces with logs, chairs, or garden boxes. The corners of a classroom are prime real estate, but you can create additional cozy corners with furniture and rugs. Bath mats and baskets are also an inexpensive way to add interesting textures for babies to explore.
Step Two: Add More Interest with Textures at Eye Level
So what is eye level in a baby room? We can think of tummy time or floor time as our ankle height. When they sit up, they are about the level of adult knees. They are about elbow height when we feed them, and shoulder height when we carry them. There should be some interesting things to look at at each of these levels, as well as some calming blank spaces.
Step Three: Play with Light and Reflection
Light and shadow invite babies to experiment. You can create cozy light and shadow nests by turning a light table on its side and adding rope lights, slinkies, or a mirror ball for interesting shadows. Privacy film adds rainbows to windows, and flippable sequin fabric invites curiosity and a sense of wonder.
For more ideas, check out my new book: Enticing Environments for People Under Three.