What kind of impression is your child care setting making on children and parents from the moment they walk in the door? First impressions are important. Your space should help children and families feel welcome, be comfortable and be engaged.
When creating a space that is welcoming, consider how it affects the senses of sight, smell, touch and sound. A welcoming space should be warm and inviting and be free of clutter. Consider the colors that are used in the space, they should act as an accent, not the focus of the space. Plants can add a “homey” feel to a space and improve air quality when dusted and watered regularly. Keep noise levels at a productive level where no one has to shout to be heard. An inviting space also has a pleasant smell. Try baking some cookies or bread or have a cinnamon and clove cider simmering in a safe, inaccessible spot to the children. Take dirty diapers outside regularly and get as much fresh air in the space as possible.
A pleasing space for children and families must also be comfortable. Keep the temperature at around 70 degrees and humidity at around 70%, as research suggests this to be the brain’s optimal physical environment. A comfortable space for infants and toddlers includes appropriate areas for eating, sleeping, and exploring. Soft floor spaces are a must for this age group. Some adult furniture, such as a rocking chair or couch, allows adults and children opportunities to sit comfortably together to read book or cuddle. Tunnels, lofts, risers or draped fabric in a corner or over a small table can offer a sense of privacy for children.
An effective space needs to be engaging. There should be a variety of safe materials for children to explore and discover. Display materials on low, open shelving to allow children to access them and put them away independently. Rotate toys regularly to keep them interested. Display children’s artwork and family photos on the children’s eye-level, while leaving some blank space to avoid overstimulation.
A welcoming, comfortable and engaging space sends the messages: you belong here, this is a place you can trust, you are a valuable member of this classroom or home community, you can do many things on your own here and this is a safe place for you to explore and try out your ideas. Take some time to look at your space from infant’s, toddler’s and family’s eyes. Do you like what you see, hear, smell and touch? If not, look for ways to make your space more inviting and pleasing to spend time in. The children and their families will greatly appreciate your efforts.