Create an environment which facilitates cognitive development of children in own setting

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.9: Facilitate the cognitive development of children
Learning outcome: Be able to facilitate the development of cognition in children
Assessment criteria: Create an environment which facilitates cognitive development of children in own setting


Creating an environment that facilitates cognitive development in early years settings is a central task for practitioners. This environment should be stimulating, safe, and supportive, catering to the various developmental stages and needs of children. Here’s how an Early Years practitioner might create such an environment:

1. Safe and Nurturing Space

  • Physical Safety: Ensure that the environment is physically safe, with childproofing measures in place to prevent accidents.
  • Emotional Security: Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere where children feel emotionally secure, valued, and understood.

2. Play-Based Learning Environments

  • Variety of Play Areas: Set up different play areas, such as a reading corner, art station, building and construction zone, role-play area, and sensory play section.
  • Open-Ended Resources: Provide materials that can be used in various ways, encouraging creativity and imagination (e.g., blocks, fabric pieces, natural materials).

3. Interactive and Stimulating Materials

  • Educational Toys and Games: Include toys and games that promote problem-solving, critical thinking, and numeracy/literacy skills.
  • Technology Integration: Appropriately incorporate technology, like tablets with educational apps, while ensuring balanced screen time.

4. Language-Rich Environment

  • Books and Storytelling: Have a diverse range of books available and regular storytelling sessions.
  • Language Exposure: Use rich and varied language, ask open-ended questions, and encourage children to express themselves.

5. Inclusivity and Cultural Diversity

  • Diverse Materials: Use books, toys, and materials that reflect different cultures, languages, and family structures.
  • Celebrating Diversity: Incorporate activities and celebrations that reflect the cultural diversity of the children in the setting.

6. Outdoor Learning Opportunities

  • Nature Exploration: Provide opportunities for outdoor play and exploration, which is crucial for sensory development and physical health.
  • Gardening Projects: Engage children in gardening or nature-based activities to teach about the natural world and scientific concepts.

7. Encouraging Independence and Choice

  • Accessible Resources: Store materials where children can easily access them, promoting independence.
  • Choice and Decision-Making: Allow children to make choices about their activities, fostering decision-making skills.

8. Artistic and Creative Expression

  • Art Supplies: Provide a variety of art materials for free expression and creativity.
  • Music and Movement: Incorporate music and dance to enhance motor skills and creative expression.

9. Collaborative and Social Interactions

  • Group Activities: Plan activities that require cooperation and teamwork, building social and communication skills.
  • Role-Playing and Dramatic Play: Encourage role-playing games that help in understanding emotions and developing empathy.

10. Regularly Updating the Environment

  • Responsive Changes: Adapt and change the environment regularly in response to the children’s evolving interests and developmental stages.
  • Feedback and Reflection: Use observations and feedback from children to inform changes in the environment.


An Early Years practitioner must be dynamic, reflective, and responsive in creating an environment that fosters cognitive development. It’s about balancing safety and challenge, structure and freedom, and individual and group needs. This environment should stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and support holistic development, laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

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