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The Physical Environment

by Elizabeth Prescott
March/April 2008
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/the-physical-environment/5018034/

This Exchange Classic is reprinted from Exchange, November/December 1994 "issue #100.

Anytime I encounter children who have been in a child care center, I ask them what they remember about it. Invariably their memories are about the agony of lying still at nap time, playing in the sand pile, having to eat beans, having one’s back rubbed at nap time, or being outside on hot days. Apparently their memories are stored primarily as tactile sensory impressions.

This phenomenon suggests to me the importance of paying attention to the physical environment we create in a child care program. I would like to address five key dimensions of environment which impact on the experiences of children. Then I will demonstrate how to consider these dimensions in solving some typical problems in child care settings.

Dimensions of the environment

Softness/Hardness. Softness is provided for in a center’s environment through the presence of objects which are responsive to one’s touch " which provide a variety of tactile sensory stimuli. Such objects include sand, water, grass, swings, rugs, pillows, soft furniture such as large pillows and couches, finger paints, play dough/clay, and laps to sit on.

A common characteristic of these soft materials is that they provide experiences where the ...

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