When it comes to early education, toddlers can be a difficult audience to teach. They are too old to be interested in the simple sensory games of infants, yet they aren’t quite old enough to begin preschool concepts like reading or mathematics. Because of this gray area, toddler classroom ideas can be difficult to come up with. However, teachers can help their toddlers develop new skills by setting up learning spaces!
In a toddler classroom, learning spaces can offer an outlet for young children to learn through play and communication. These inspiring spaces for young children provide a place to do fun activities while also building the skills toddlers are already learning. Rebecca and Christy Isabel’s book The Complete Learning Spaces for Infants and Toddlers offers tips and suggestions on how to set up learning spaces in toddler classrooms. Here are a few of their examples:
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Art Learning Space
The art learning space is exactly what the name implies—a place to do art activities! The space can include shelves and racks for crayons, paint, chalk, paper, and any other tools you may need. You can also set up tables for the children to sit at while they work, or simply spread pieces of paper out on the floor for finger painting. The art space should also have an area where children can display some of their work throughout the year.
An art space not only builds a toddler’s creativity, but also aids in language and motor development. By drawing or painting a picture, toddlers learn that things written on paper can represent concrete objects, a knowledge invaluable to reading and writing. Children will also use language to describe their artwork and may use it to illustrate their emotions as well. Meanwhile, using tools like crayons or paintbrushes help develop fine motor skills and aid in sensory development.
Private Place Learning Space
The private place is a bit more complicated. This learning space is set up to be an area where young children can go when they are experiencing negative emotions like anger or sadness. Toddlers often have difficulty controlling their emotions, so setting up a private space will give them a place to go when they are upset. The private place can be set up in a corner of the room or between a wall and a shelf—any setup that creates a somewhat private niche. The space could have curtains, pillows, books, or diagrams that depict emotions. Along with the setup, there should be rules for entering the private space, such as “Only one person is allowed in at a time” or “Tell the teacher if you need to go to the private space”.
If a child ends up in the space—either by choice or at the teacher’s suggestion—one of the instructors can use that area to talk to the child about their emotions and help them remain calm. This will gradually teach children how to work through their feelings and develop emotional maturity.
Science Learning Space
In the science learning space, teachers can include a variety of educational materials that discuss scientific concepts a toddler may have encountered. Books about why the seasons change or where animals live can be read in this space, and educational toys or objects can be placed here. The theme of the area may also change week to week or month to month; perhaps there can be different kind of rocks displayed one week and then toy food displayed the next. Activities range from weighing objects, following a recipe, or collecting pinecones from outside.
The science learning center not only teaches toddlers about the world around them but how to explore it themselves. With science activities, they learn to compare and contrast, think critically, and investigate about their environment. Experiments can also build their motor skills and introduce new concepts like weight, height, or temperature. Since young children are naturally curious, this center is bound to be a fun and educational one!