Your Room - The Children's Environment

Before the year begins, consider TRAFFIC PATTERNS that you want to occur as the children arrive. Visualize the use of cubbies, and how caretakers will see family information. Visualize bathroom use, lining up, movement in and out of centers, lunch and rest, whole group gatherings and small group activities.

Furniture Arrangement
Arrange the ten indoor centers with these requirements in mind:
  • Children must be in full view; staff must be able to see into all spaces for safety reasons.
  • The louder areas (for example, Blocks, and Dramatic Play) are separated from the quieter ones (such as Library and Art).
  • The Block area must be protected on three sides.
  • CD players, tape recorders, and the computer require electrical outlets. Furniture is placed to hide them; plug covers are used.
  • Art and Sand & Water are ideally near a sink. Drop cloths may be needed. Keep both at a 3 inch depth.
  • Some centers need tables, but floor space is also used for play. Cafeteria-style table placement is strongly discouraged.
  • Blocks and Library areas must have rugs. Other centers may also benefit from an area rug. Rugs serve to define space, protect bodies, and add home-like touches that are attractive and welcoming.
  • Each Center has nearby storage of active materials, easily accessible to children. Materials not being used are out of sight.
  • Provide a pleasant and soft "Cozy Area" child where a child may go to be alone. The child must be visible and able to be supervised. Include something for the child to do there, if she so chooses, such as a small figures, paper and pencil, a selection of "fidget" toys. an unbreakable mirror.

Labels and Pictures
Plan how you will attach children's names and pictures to their cubbies. They must be at the child's eye level, not on shelves. Most of the cubby pictures should be up ON DAY TWO. Have the materials READY: camera, names already printed out large enough for small children to see (try font size 48) and cut neatly (use a cutting board).

Take pictures of the children as soon as possible, even the FIRST DAY if they are comfortable with you doing so:
  • Take pictures two children at a time. Stand them in front of a plain background, and fill the viewfinder with am image from the top of their heads to just below the tops of their shoulders. This will result in pictures approximately 2.5 to 3 inches square when you cut them. USE A PAPER-CUTTER! Get a minimum of 5 sets of pictures: one for the cubbies, one for the Planning board, one for the Center Management signs, one for Attendance, one for Jobs.
  • Some teachers prefer to use larger pictures in the back of the cubbies. Some centers have small plastic sleeves that are attached to the back of the cubbies, and slip in new pictures and names each year. Some use velcro, some used clear packaging tape, some laminate and staple.
  • If you will laminate, glue the cut pictures onto card stock, cut a narrow border with the paper cutter, then laminate them. If you have not used a laminator before, ask for help - two pairs of hands feeding the pictures in is best, wasting less film. Or, Staples does a great job.
The use of the other pictures is discussed on the page, Core Teaching Tools.

Prepare labels for the materials in each center with names in English and in the children's home language. Use black for English, BRIGHT blue for Spanish, red for Arabic. Use a font such as "OCR A Extended" or other font that uses primary letter formations. If you have excellent printing skills, that is fine, especially if you "build your room" with the children. If a container is not transparent, a picture of what is inside will need to be on the container, as well as its home (e.g., shelf, cubby, near a hook).

Do not label doors, tables, chairs, windows, etc. That is a teaching tool for children who are building sight vocabulary. If a child is at that level, you can use this idea temporarily for those children, connected to your lesson.

NOTE: Please be conscious of the less developed visual skills of Threes - keep your teaching displays simple, clear, and essential. Also, prevent your room from becoming plastered with things, such that surfaces become merely wallpaper, and children have trouble finding or focusing on what you want them to see.

While teachers often leave basic labels up until they need replacement, it is a good idea to have children WATCH you label some shelves and materials, especially when adding a new material to the room. This supports their growing understanding of the many functions of writing. Additionally, it is important to clean the surface when a label is removed, as the residue will collect dirt and your room will start to look unkempt and messy.

One good idea is to cut a 8.5x11 plastic sleeve into fourths. Using quality wide clear tape, secure it on three sides, leaving the top or a side open. Thus it becomes easy to change your label as you rotate materials.

Consider your wall color when decorating. Build an attractive room. Keep commercial display to a minimum, and do not include TV or movie characters. It is the children's work that must get the attention. At least 50% of the display should be of children's work, preferable individualized. Individualized means that children have had a choice in the medium and/or the subject matter of their work, and do not follow a model or pattern. Be sure bulletin boards are straight. Coordinate borders - colors and patterns can get out of control! In addition to bulletin boards, cover the backs of shelves with paint, paper or fabric and use them for display.

A Whole Group Meeting Place
Consider movement to and from the carpeting that defines your meeting place. Prepare the spot where you will sit with immediate access to the cd player and all materials needed for an activity. Some teachers use a divided basket or tote for their daily materials, which can easily be moved around as needed.

Safety Considerations and Hygiene
Each room must have 2 plastic spray bottles, one containing a soap mixture, and another containing a 10% bleach solution. Keep these out of the reach of children in a closed cabinet. Tables must be cleaned with the soap, and then sanitized with the bleach. Be sure the bleach solution is (1) made daily because chlorine evaporates, making the solution useless, and (2) with a proper ratio, because one too strong will irritate mucus membranes and one too weak won't kill the germs. The bleach is left on for 10 seconds before wiping dry. During periods of high incidents of illness, using the bleach solution on tables, chairs, door handles, bathroom fixtures at the end of the day and letting them air dry overnight is wise. Toys as well, including dress up and doll clothing, need to be washed or laundered.

Spray disinfectants and room deoderizers are forbidden. They are lung irritants, and we have many children with allergies and asthma who we must protect.

Be sure these necessities are available before the day begins, along with a supply of paper towels, and toilet paper.

Consider how you will maintain the cleanliness of your room. Some centers have established significant janitorial support, but ultimately it is your environment. Storage is at a premium, so many teachers have to keep materials not being currently used in plastic containers in basement or attics.

Any substance labeled "Keep Out of the Reach of Children" must be under lock and key at all times. This applies to markers used to make materials, and personal items in purses or pockets, as well. Check EVERYTHING.

Please review:

  1. Chapter 2, The Learning Environment in Volume 1: The Foundation in The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 5th Edition. This book must be available in every room.
  2. Space and Furnishings and Personal Care Routines in All About the ECERS-R. Every center has this book for borrowing. You can obtain your own copy here: Kaplan Early Learning Company