Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.4: Contribute to enabling play environments
Learning outcome: Understand the play environment
Assessment criteria: Identify types of environment
In an Early Years setting, there are typically three different types of environment.
Firstly, the physical environment consists of the space itself, including outdoor areas and play spaces as well as furniture, equipment and resources such as toys, paint, tables and chairs. Furniture should be the right size for the children. The physical environment may be divided into distinct areas, such as a quiet area, creative area, sleeping area, eating area etc.
Secondly, the social environment involves factors such as relationships between staff and children, parents, other adults working in the setting, or visitors. It is important for children to feel that they belong. Babies will spend most of their time with their Key Worker, but as they get older, they will develop social relationships with other adults and children.
Thirdly, cultural aspects refer to norms, values, customs and beliefs of different cultures represented in the setting. For example, it is important to recognize and celebrate language diversity as well as diverse religious practices. In addition, providing a range of resources relevant to different cultures will foster a sense of inclusion and appreciation for cultural differences. Practitioners should also be aware of potential conflicts which may arise between different cultural backgrounds and strive to create a safe environment where all children are respected.
Finally, the personal attributes of practitioners also contribute to the Early Years environment. Practitioners should have characteristics that support a child’s development and make them feel comfortable and safe. Good traits for an Early Years practitioner include being patient, understanding, empathetic and flexible when working with children and families. They should be able to create a safe, nurturing environment which meets the needs of each individual child. Practitioners should also have strong interpersonal skills to establish positive relationships with parents as well as other staff members and visitors.