Plan an enabling play environment: indoors, outdoors

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.4: Contribute to enabling play environments
Learning outcome: Be able to provide enabling play environments
Assessment criteria: Plan an enabling play environment: indoors, outdoors


For this assessment criterion, you will be required to plan enabling indoor and outdoor play environments.

When planning enabling play environments, it is important to consider the age and stage of development of the children.


Babies aged 0-1 will need the environment to have areas where they can sleep and relax as well as areas to eat and have their nappy changed with privacy. They should be free to explore their environment safely and access toys and resources. They will also want to spend a lot of time interacting with their Key Worker, for example during feeds, reading, singing/rhyming or just for cuddles. For this reason, there should be a comfortable and relaxing area for these activities, such as an armchair. Practitioners must make the environment ‘baby safe’. This means ensuring that they don’t interact with anything that could cause them harm, such as small items that they could swallow. For outdoor environments, natural materials should be accessible but also safe – for example, small stones should be removed.

Toddlers of ages 1-3 are more mobile and will have energy to burn and so they will require more space. Therefore, the environment must be made as safe as possible for them to move around. They will need to be provided with resources that interest them and support their development. There should also be a rich variety of resources because children of this age find it difficult to concentrate on one thing for too long. Group activities should be designed for children to carry out independently but alongside one another (parallel play). By observing other children and working alongside them, they will begin to develop the social skills that will help them to play cooperatively as they grow older. Outdoor environments should provide opportunities for developing gross motor skills, such as kicking, throwing and using ride-on toys.


Older children (3+) will begin to interact with one another and learn to play cooperatively, so resources and activities that promote socialisation, such as sharing and taking turns should be available. They will also be more independent and so should have more freedom to explore their environment and make their own choices.

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