As an early childhood provider working with 2-4 year old children I will be sure to provide a safe, healthy, and appropriate indoor and outdoor learning environment that helps their developmental characteristics. When preparing my indoor learning environment as well as my outdoor learning environment I have to take into consideration each child; their needs, their skills, their backgrounds, etc. For my indoor learning environment it is extremely important to make sure that the area is welcoming for the students as well as the parents, I will make sure that the area is lit properly (natural light and/ or energy saving bulbs) and full of colors. The furniture in the classroom will be child sized and very sturdy. Children will also be assigned their own cubbies where they will be able to place their knapsacks and other belongings (this gives them a hint of independence). There will be different sections of the classroom for different activities (reading area, drama/pretend play area, circle area, music area, etc.), not just for play but will enhance their social, emotional, physical and cognitive domains. I will also make sure that the entire classroom is cleaned on a daily basis and all toys are sanitized. I will also be sure that all sockets are covered with protectors and make sure that there are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and an evacuation plan in the facility, as well as having clear pathways in case of an emergency.
In the kitchen area I will make sure that all cabinets so children will not be able to have access to any hazardous materials as well as any foods. Also in the kitchen area I will have a bulletin board accessible to all kitchen staff to list the name of the children in the facility and their allergies (if any). In the restroom I will be sure that all toilets and washbasin’s are to the children’s reach so they can be more independent and for those who are being potty trained be sure that there are more than enough and be certain that they are cleaned (by an adult) after every use. Children will be encouraged to wash their hands often to reduce the spread of germs to each other. For the outdoor learning environment, I will definitely make sure that the area is properly gated; there is no high grass or trash around on the floors. I will also make sure that the children have easy access to the restrooms, and be sure that there is a first aid kit handy. I definitely will make sure of the child to teacher ratio; this helps with keeping an eye on the children, which helps reduce the chances of one of them being seriously hurt.
I will also make sure of the following: “Selection of play equipment is appropriate for children’s ages, play equipment is in good condition (e.g. no broken or rusty parts, missing pieces, splinters, sharp edges, frayed rope, open “S” hooks, or protruding bolts), Large pieces of equipment are stable and anchored securely in the ground; finishes are non-toxic and intact, Equipment is placed sufficiently far apart to allow a smooth flow of traffic and adequate supervision; an appropriate safety zone is provided around equipment, and, a variety of play surfaces (e.g. grass, concrete, and sand) is available; shade is provided” (Marotz, 2012), just to name a few. One thing that we have to keep in mind as an early childhood provider is the relationship between a person’s safety, health and nutrition. Parents entrust that their children are well taking care of each time they drop them off in our care; they want to make sure that they are feed a well-balanced healthy and nutritional meal, and that they are safe from danger, so how is it that some may feel that these three things are not related. In my personal opinion they work hand in hand and very much so dependent on each other. Health, safety, and nutrition are very much so interrelated.
Health is a state of wellness. Complete physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being; the quality of one element affects the state of the other; safety refers to the behaviors and practices that protect children as well as adults from unnecessary harm; and, nutrition refers to the science of food, its chemical components (nutrients), and their relationship to health and disease. It includes all of the processes, from the ingestion and digestion of food to the absorption, transportation, and utilization of nutrients, and finally the excretion of unused end products. Nutrients are essential for life and have a direct effect on a child’s nutritional status, behavior, health, and development” (Marotz, 2012). I cannot help but to agree with these examples given and it is best to have children practice these things as young as possible. In the 2-4 year old age group children really mimic what they see us doing as adults. So if we eat healthy, exercise and practice things such as good hand washing, what do you think they will do? There are so many age-appropriate learning activities and toys that reinforce the important of health, nutrition, and safety for the 2-4 year old age group. I have listed a few that really caught my attention. This game will be considered a group game, this game teaches the children to identify their alphabets (upper and lower case) as well as their number; this game is called “Homemade Letter Bingo”, as we know “children learn through play. And letter or number bingo is a great place to start.
The following items needed for this game are: printable bingo cards: numbers, alphabet, or numbers and letters, printable caller cards, small objects to use as markers, such as marshmallows, cereal, pennies, or M&M’s” (Richards, 2014). A second learning age-appropriate activity is that of “Cereal Patterns”: Practice patterning the fun way—by playing with your food! Using a Fruit Loop-type cereal and yarn, help your preschooler create crunchy, edible patterns. The following items needed for this learning activity is that of: Fruit Loops or other loop-shaped cereal in a variety of colors, small bowls or cups, age-appropriate scissors, yarn or string, and masking tape” (Edwards, 2012). Building blocks are great toys for children (whether blank or with letters on them). With building blocks it helps children in this age group (2-4 years old) with their problem solving skills, but what you will find most amazing is what they build out of the blocks. And another toy that will be considered age-appropriate is that of a kitchen set that will be located in the drama/pretend area. With this toy children pretend that they are chefs working in nice restaurants, they pretend that they are a parent cooking a nice meal for their families and the list goes on and on.
But what I find so amazing with this age-group is that there is no limit to their imagination. However, we as educators have to continue to encourage the children to use their imagination, because they not only learn from us, we learn from them. An ideal location, space, and security of a center or school is very important, not only to the early childhood provider, but to the parents as well. “Nowhere is health and safety more important than in group programs serving young children. When families enroll children in a program, they expect that the teachers will safeguard their child’s well-being. They assume the facilities, toys, and equipment will be safe for children’s use, that teachers will carefully supervise their children’s activities, that the environment is clean, and the food is healthy. These expectations require teachers to be well informed and knowledgeable about how to create and maintain environments that protect and promote children’s health and safety” (Marotz, 2012). We have to make sure that there is adequate space for the children to move around inside and outside; it is good to also make sure that the facility is not in a noisy location where the children can be easily distracted.
But most of all we have to think about the health of our little ones, we have to make sure that the building is properly inspected so we can protect them as well as ourselves from potential hazards. As early childhood providers/educators it is our sole responsibility to make sure that the children that we care for will be given the best education and protection, this includes their safety, nutrition and health. One thing that I live by and believe is that the children are our future, so it is our duty to mold them from young. I choose to work with the age group of 2-4 year olds because the one thing that amazes me with them is their imagination which increases their ability to learn. As an educator for such young children you have to able to open enough for them to teach you as well. I feel that Reggio Emilia Approach said it best “children are capable of constructing their own learning” (Isbell & Raines, 2007).
Bradford-Edwards, S. (Sept. 7, 2012). Cereal Patterns. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/activity/article/fruit-loop-patterns/Isbell, R.T., & Raines, S.C. (2007). Creativity and the arts with young children. Belmont, CA: Delmar. Marotz, L.R. (2012). Health, safety and nutrition for the young child 8th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Richards, S. (May 9, 2014). Homemade letter bingo. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/activity/article/letterbingo_preschool/