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Balance the key to learning environments

Goodstart centres

Did you know research shows that early learning rooms with less “visual noise” can dramatically improve the behaviour of the young children within them?
Colourful artworks, photographs and signs often decorate the rooms, along with containers of paints, bright blocks and furniture – all of which can be described as visual noise.
But the colours, the noise and the movement can sometimes be more disruptive than beneficial to children.

Goodstart Early Learning general manager pedagogy and practice Sue Robb said the set up of room environments should all be about balance.
“You can eat one piece of chocolate, but not ten pieces of chocolate – that would be overwhelming. The same can be said for early learning environments. A little is good, too much is overwhelming,” Ms Robb said.
“It also depends on the age of the child,” she said. “In the early years it’s nice to have very neutral, calming rooms but as children get a little older, you can add to the room.”
Environments are recognised as being so important to children’s learning, development and wellbeing that in Goodstart Early Learning’s Practice Guide “space” takes up an entire component.

The Practice Guide outlines how environments influence people’s moods and behaviour. It states that well-organised, thoughtful and calm environments can have a long lasting positive effect on children’s ability to tolerate stress and in fact help to diminish stress.
“When the space is cluttered with materials and equipment and there is a visual overload as the result of too many images and primary colours, children will be less likely to deeply engage in play and learning environments,” The Practice Guide states.

Ms Robb agrees, saying “overall, spaces need to be relevant, beautifully presented and well organised. Labelled, organised, literacy and language rich environments are very beneficial for children.”
“We need to be thinking more about the children, but also creating calm environments that don’t overstimulate children,” Ms Robb said.

Tips for designing successful play spaces for your children:
Think about colours. Many people think that children naturally prefer or gravitate towards bright colours, but it’s neutral colours such as cool blues and greens that support our children to feel emotionally and physically at ease. 
We want to create learning environments that feel comfortable and inviting so paying attention to the use of soft furnishings, interesting textures, thoughtfully placed art, plants and objects can all help to transform an early learning environment to a cosy space for learning. 
Natural light is particularly important for us as human beings, in fact recent Australian research has found a correlation with the lack of natural light and eye disease. Natural light provides the opportunity for children to explore shadows, light refraction, coloured liquid in bottles hanging from the ceiling to support thinking about transparency and colour.  
Think about the organisation and flow of activities from children’s perspectives. Ensure children can find items so they can use them to explore and solve problems. Create quiet, private spaces for them to go, and environments where they can go to be physically active. 
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