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An optimum learning environment for infants and toddlers

With services open up to 11 hours a day, five days a week, it is vital that children's environments are of the best possible quality.
Baby boy wearing a blue top playing with magnets on the wall sitting on the floor.
© Te Rito Maioha ECNZ

Creating an optimum environment for infants and toddlers in group care and education settings.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, infants and toddlers in early learning settings are increasingly in group care and education services from as young as three months of age.

These settings vary from small community-run early learning services of 25 children to large corporate services with 100 to 150 children spread over multiple rooms of 20 or more children. The services are regulated, partially funded and overseen through the Ministry of Education.

Services are open up to 11 hours a day to cater for working families. With this background in mind, it is vital that the environment that children are in for what can be long hours, five days a week, is of the best possible quality.

How you design and structure your infant and toddler setting will depend on the rules and regulations of your country or region. It will also be influenced by your philosophy, values and beliefs.

What is your teaching philosophy? What are your values and beliefs, specifically related to infants and toddlers? How should the environment they are in feel?

I believe infants and toddlers should have a home-like environment rather than one that looks like an institution. This influences the choices I make in environment design.

The most important aspect of an optimum Learning environment is responsive adults.

This is the foundation for best practice. The environment should feel welcoming to tamariki and whānau.

Tamariki should see themselves reflected in the environment and have a sense of belonging. The environment should also foster agency, a growing ability for pēpi to do things for themselves and have power over their surroundings.

An infant and toddler environment should be calm and consistent. Consistent expectations and consistent adults. We are aiming to provide an environment that supports infants’ and toddlers’ development, engagement, well-being and learning.

© Te Rito Maioha ECNZ
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Infants & Toddlers care and education in an Aotearoa New Zealand context

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