The tech-savvy, adult world that we’re living in should stay out of our nursery and preschool classrooms – as much as possible, at least. It’s not about making phones, tablets and computer games a forbidden fruit for our children, but about considering that they mustn’t lose touch with nature, natural elements (“Children are better at identifying Pokémon characters than real animals and plants”) and everyday life activities – as simple as watering plants or cooking a basic meal (Practical Life exercises, as the Montessori method names them).
First of all, bright, clear looking spaces create a better setup for the learning to happen in a more orderly manner, enhancing children’s concentration, coordination, and autonomy. To begin with, natural light is known to provide great benefits for children’s health and their academic performance, making it a key aspect to consider when designing our classroom setups. At Kido centres you’ll never find windows covered with children’s work or unnecessary paper and displays.
Studies show that students receiving higher levels of natural light achieve better test scores, improving their performances up to 20% in comparison to those who get lesser exposure (Windows and Classrooms: A Study of Student Performance and the Indoor Environment). In addition to this, a natural environment surrounding schools (making for a nicer, greener view outside our windows) is also proven to enhance student’s learning.
Apart from improving their performance, the benefits that children get from daylight include generating more vitamin D and developing a healthier circadian rhythm. Finally, by reducing the need for artificial light, schools reduce their energy costs, making buildings more efficient and sustainable.
Getting inspired by Nature
Natural materials offer great open-ended play and learning opportunities. For us adults, it’s as simple as remembering to our own childhood, when we used to play outdoors, in the garden or in the park, exploring, searching and collecting our little treasures. Twigs, rocks, leaves, pinecones, seashells, these are all incredibly rich sensory tools for our development.
When it comes to setting up an environment for a classroom, or any other space at home for that matter, you can always provide experiences with natural elements for children, either indoors or outdoors. For example, by creating areas with natural materials for free exploration, surround children with plants, and consider adopting a pet for them to care of.
Other suggestions include:
- Using large stones or tree trunks as seats or small workspaces; using them for children to climb onto or for an obstacle course; to create a reading area where children can sit on the branch of a tree.
- By placing natural elements in a block play area, or in the dramatic play area, children’s imagination will lead them to include those in the most inventive ways. On any table or desk, these elements may become items for classification and counting. In the art sector, these can be used for collages and other art forms.
So, whenever you consider designing a space aimed for children – from a child’s room to a traditional classroom – I’d like for you to reflect on the following questions, considering how materials and spaces will affect your children’s life: Is this space beautiful to you? How do the materials feel to touch? How do they smell? Do they come from nature?
This article was written by Thasin Rahim, Chief Academic Officer at Safari Kid International.