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  • Elizabeth Matthews

Impacts of the Physical Environment of Early Learning Environments on Young Children's Development

Updated: May 8, 2019

How do space, furniture, spatial layout, light and nature affect young children?



Early Childhood Education Settings

As greater numbers of very young children enroll in early learning environments, nations are placing quality early childhood education at the top of their national agendas. Many studies have shown that investing in these early years has significant benefits for children, their families and society as a whole. To date, the majority of initiatives that aim to strengthen young children's learning environments have centered on social aspects of the environment. These social factors are important to address, yet the physical environment of the learning setting is often neglected.


Environmental psychologists have long argued that the physical setting is not just a backdrop for social actions to occur--it also shapes how social behavior evolves. After many years of painstaking research, there exists, a robust body of empiricism on the influence of the built environment on young children's development. Investing in improving spatial layouts in classrooms, providing break out spaces/nooks and access to nature/natural light and enabling adequate visual surveillence for the child all help to improve children's attention, socialization and comfort in the classroom. In addition, ensuring that ambient noise levels are minimized is important to the development of important language and pre-reading skills in this age group. For a review of the environmental psychology research related to learning environments, please review Chapter 6 in Brill's new title " School Space and Its Occupation". Let us know your thoughts!




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