Enhancing Your Physical Environment

Training Module

Learn the importance of Learning Centers within your classroom and what to include in them in this 2-hour training.

Physical Environment

When creating a safe and educational physical environment, keep the following criteria in mind.

Physical Environment
  • The indoor and outdoor environments are safe, clean, attractive, and spacious.
  • Activity areas are defined clearly by spatial arrangement.
  • Space is arranged so that children can work individually, together in small groups, or in a large group.
  • Space is arranged to provide clear pathways for children to move from one area to another and to minimize distractions.
  • The space for toddlers and preschool children is arranged to facilitate a variety of small group and/or individual activities, including block building, social, dramatic play, art, music, science, math, manipulative, and quiet book reading.
  • Other activities such as sand/water play and woodworking also are available on occasion.
  • Carpeted space as well as hard surfaces such as wood floors and ample crawling/toddling areas are provided for infants and non-walkers.
  • Sturdy furniture is provided so non-walkers can pull themselves up or balance themselves while walking.
  • School-age children are provided separate spaces arranged to facilitate a variety of age-appropriate activities and permit sustained work on projects.
  • Age-appropriate materials and equipment of sufficient quantity, variety, and durability are readily accessible to children and arranged on low, open shelves to promote independent use by children.
  • Materials are rotated and adapted to maintain children's interest.
  • Individual spaces for children to hang their clothing and store their personal belongings are provided.
  • Private areas are available indoors and outdoors for children to have solitude.
  • The environment includes soft elements such as rugs, cushions, or rocking chairs.
  • Sound-absorbing materials are used to cut down on excessive noise.
  • The outdoor area includes a variety of surfaces, such as soil, sand, grass, hills, flat sections, and hard areas for wheel toys.
  • The outdoor area includes shade; open space; digging space; and a variety of equipment for riding, climbing, balancing, and individual play.
  • The outdoor area is protected by fences or natural barriers from access to streets or other dangers.
Block Center
  • a complete set of unit blocks. You can choose wooden, cardboard, plastic, or foam blocks. Each set has pros and cons. Choose what is best for your group of children.
  • large and small vehicles
  • animals, people, and traffic signs
  • recyclables such as cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, and oatmeal containers
  • design plans that can be donated by a parent who is an architect or engineer
Dramatic Play Center
  • dramatic play furniture (materials available depending on the current theme)
  • dishes, utensils, placemats, pots, pans, food sets
  • telephones, computer keyboards, old typewriters
  • dress up clothes, purses, wallets, shoes
  • menus, a cash register
  • paper and pencils
Writing Center
  • children's journals
  • pens, pencils
  • colored pencils
  • crayons, markers
  • various paper supplies
  • index cards
  • recycled magazines (that have been reviewed), menus, books, newspapers
  • clipboards and notebooks
  • magnetic letters; and examples of print, including sentence strips with the children's names on them, properly labeled items, and alphabet strips
Creativity and Art Center
  • painting supplies, pencils, crayons, markers, and easels
  • recyclables such as wallpaper samples, fabric pieces, and collage materials
  • glue and scissors
  • various paper supplies
Reading and Listening Center
  • children's literature (with the current theme-related literature)
  • magazines, newspapers
  • song and poem charts
  • an audiocassette or CD player, headphones, stories recorded on tape, and/or other tape-recorded songs
  • stories and poems
  • soft elements such as rugs, pillows, and beanbags
Math and Manipulative Center
  • calendar, weather, and number charts
  • magnetic numbers, puzzles, games, and flashcards
  • safe manipulative for sorting (large buttons, stamps, stickers, etc.)
  • paper, pencils, notebooks, index cards
  • measuring cups and spoons, cookie cutters in varying shapes, and other materials used to weigh and measure
Science and Sensory Center
  • sand and/or water table
  • Wonder Bottles (recycled water bottles with water and oil mixed together with small shells, rocks, sand, food coloring, etc.)
  • magnets and magnetic items
  • feathers, leaves, and other items from nature
  • magnifying glasses and mirrors
Circle Time Wall
  • Morning Message - models handwriting
  • How Are You Today? - real photographs of children that show five different emotions
  • Weather Wear - dress magnetic photographs of children using a variety of weather-appropriate items
  • Daily Schedule - hands-on charting experience that describes what's planned for the day
  • Kids of Character - features the character trait of the month


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