Places and Spaces for Learning

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Standard (NQS) do not make distinctions between indoor and outdoor locations. Instead, these documents focus on the learning that occurs and ask educators to think more deeply about how, what and when children learn in the early childhood setting.

The NQS highlights environments for learning in various Quality Areas (QAs):

  • QA1—Educational program and practice;
  • QA2—Children’s health and safety; and
  • QA3—Physical environments

The learning framework has five learning outcomes for children that promote a holistic approach to supporting children’s learning and development. The principles and practices of the framework are built on current theory and beliefs that:

  • Children are capable and competent.
  • Children actively construct their own learning.
  • Learning is dynamic, complex and holistic.
  • Children have agency.
  • They have capacities and rights to initiate and lead learning and be active participants and decision makers in matters affecting them.

Environments that support learning are vibrant and flexible spaces that are responsive to the interests and abilities of each child. They cater for different learning capacities and learning styles and invite children and families to contribute ideas, interests and questions. (EYLF, pg.15)

The physical indoor and outdoor space for children should provide;

  •  A sense of belonging;
  •  Emotional security;
  •  Space;
  •  Safe risk-taking opportunities;
  •  Challenge;
  •  Stimulating resources and materials (inclusive of all children’s needs);
  •  Experiences based on children’s interests and abilities; and
  •  Displays (that are meaningful to the children).

Good learning environments provide well defined spaces for:

  •  Quality interactions with educators and children.
  •  Good learning environments provide well defined spaces for:
  •  Quality interactions with educators and children.
  •  Exploration and investigation
  •  Relaxation
  •  Noisy, active play
  •  Creativity
  •  Small group play

Good learning environments have adequate and meaningful resources, materials and equipment that:

  •  Reflect the interests, needs, lives and identity of the children
  •  Support open ended experiences to build and extend children’s learning
  •  Welcoming spaces for families
  •  Opportunity for risk taking and challenge.

The design of the physical space plays a primary role in facilitating the development and maintenance of relationships. Indoor and outdoor spaces should send a message that getting to know one another is important, and construct expectations of how we work, live and play in that setting. For example, the numbers of chairs at a table sends a message about the group size for learning in that space. All spaces need careful planning, particularly as they need to be flexible enough to accommodate children’s changing interests, needs and increasing skills and abilities.

When we allow children to make choices and decisions and we are active participants in their play, we are implementing the practices outlined in the EYLF (DEEWR, 2009, pp. 4–5): We are fostering ‘children’s capacity to understand and respect the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land’.

‘Responsive learning relationships are strengthened as educators and children learn together and share decisions, respect and trust.’


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