The principle of providing an enabling environment is that children learn and develop in enabling environment, the environment plays a vital role in supporting children’s individual needs in learning and development, strong partnerships between practitioners and parents is a positive start to providing an enabling environment. The health and safety of the environment is vital to ensure the safeguarding and wellbeing of the children. Babies and children will feel emotionally safe and secure and will develop and learn most effectively. A truly enabling environment provides the stimulation and the positive relationships that support children to feel safe enough to explore. A good early childhood environment meets the child’s basic needs and supports and encourages children to engage in activities that implement the program’s curriculum. Further, the environment is designed to enable staff to facilitate the optimum learning for their children. Finally, the environment makes parents and guardians feel welcome, involved, and empowered.
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In this essay I will look at how to organise a safe, but challenging environment for children. Explain the practitioner’s role within the wider multi-agency environment. Describe the regulatory requirements that must be followed when organising an environment for children in the early years. Evaluate the effectiveness of the environment in meeting children’s individual needs.
There are a number of important principles to think about when you are planning for a safe environment for children and young people. When preparing environments for children, it is important to consider their age and stage of development. We also need to consider whether the environment meets the needs of the individual children. Children develop at different rates. Some children need more challenging activities while others may need a different type of activity or different resources observing individual children to see how they engage with the environment will help us to plan appropriately. Every child is an individual with different needs depending on their age and abilities. You must think about this when planning activities, for example when they involve physical play, or if more consideration must be given to the needs of a child who has just become mobile than to an older child, when planning room layouts. Some children have specific needs such as sensory impairments; for example think about the challenges to a child with limited hearing understanding explanations about safety. The different needs of families and carers must be considered. You should always consider the child’s safety and welfare in your mind when planning.
Every child and young person has a right to a safe and secure environment. Before starting any activity it is important that you take into account the health and safety requirements of all children, ensuring that the environment is free of any hazards and it is safe for children to play. Health and safety is the most valuable factor to consider when planning a safe and challenging environment for children’s learning and development to take place. Developmental needs of children are also a factor to consider; as children grow and develop in different stages, so it is important to consider the developmental needs and abilities of children when planning an environment for children.
Things we should consider when planning is:
Safety and supervision of infants and toddlers is a key role to providing a safe environment. “All registered providers must meet the minimum requirements for space within their environment and staff ratios. Meeting staff ratios ensures the safety of children, failure to meet these ratios could cause accidents and injuries”(Open Study College Early Years Level 3 PG50) By following all these points we abide with the legal obligation to the duty of care.
Staff ratios as follows:
1:3 children under 2 years
1:4 children aged 2 years
1:8 children aged 3-5 years
When planning for a healthy and safe indoor environment rooms should be organised to limit the safety, space is also a vital factor to consider, by ensuring there is sufficient space in relation to the number of children who will be using it within the environment. This allows children to move around easily and comfortably.
Children from birth to two years require 3.5m2 space per child, children aged two to three years old require 2.5m2 space per child, and children aged three to five years require 2.3m2 space per child. (Open Study College Early Years Level 3)
Multi agency working is when a number of professionals work together to provide support in meeting the individual needs of children. The wider community plays a vital role in children’s learning and development. Practitioners need to work together across services for example working in partnership with health visitors, general practitioners, social workers, physiotherapists, and speech and language therapist. To best support children and their families all these groups need to communicate well, listen carefully to all concerned and to put the children’s needs first. (Open Study College- Early Years Level 3 -V1.0 PG 40, 66)
According to (The CAF process 26 April 2012) “The CAF is a four-step process whereby practitioners can identify a child’s or young person’s needs early, assess those needs holistically, deliver coordinated services and review progress. The CAF is designed to be used when
a practitioner is worried about how well a child or young person is progressing (e.g. concerns about their health, development, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of their wellbeing)
a child or young person, or their parent/carer, raises a concern with a practitioner
a child’s or young person’s needs are unclear, or broader than the practitioner’s service can address.”
The EY. Statutory framework provides regulations that all early years setting must comply with when providing an environment for children. Health and safety legislations play a key role on the provision of an environment and must be followed by all employers with the setting.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974- all employers have legal responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work at 1974. Employers must meet certain rules to ensure that health and safety is implemented and to make sure everyone at work is safe within the environment. As practitioners everyone in the childcare setting must know what their health and safety policies in the settings are. In a childcare setting the following guidelines apply: buildings should be in good condition and designed with the safety of users in mind buildings and surroundings should be clean and safe and equipment must be safely used and stored. This act helps maintain healthy, safe and secure environments as is safeguards both the children and the adults working with them.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) COSHH is the law that all employers must follow in regards to harmful substances. (COSHH Regulations 1999) states “Hazardous substances are anything that can harm your health when you work with them if they are not properly controlled.” Most settings use cleaning products or have other products that are hazardous. While caring for children early year’s workers may have to handle nappy changing, or clean up after toileting or other accidents. In order to minimise the risk to health, it is important to be aware of hazards in the environment. It is essential to use protective equipment such as gloves and masks, if using hazardous substances.
All products that are used by children, including toys, must be in a good condition and reasonably safe to use. All children are protected by safety laws. Various symbols are used to indicate toys and equipment are safe and suitable for children of particular ages. The kitemark symbol is used in the United Kingdom to ensure that products are safe and suitable. According to Author: John Rowlinson 21 December 2012) “when you see a toy or product with a Kitemark this means that the British Standards Institution has independently tested it, has confirmed that the product conforms to the relevant British Standard” “The CE Mark symbol includes the name and address of the first supplier, was required by law to appear on all toys placed on the market in the European Union on and after January 1990.” “The Lion Mark was developed in 1988 by the British Toy & Hobby Association as a symbol of toy safety and quality for the consumer.” “The lion mark for retailers – By displaying this sign the retailer is saying that all products in the shop meet a certain standard of safety. This symbol displayed in the shop, in catalogues and in retailer advertising, indicates that the retailer has agreed to the Code of Practice.”
Practitioners need to consider that the toys they provide for children to play with meet their requirements of their individual age and stage of development. Practitioners should consider when taking donations or buying second hand toys, extra care is needed to ensure that they are safe and meet the current regulations. Avoid toys which are a risk to children choking e.g., toys with small components or parts which detach, avoid toys with sharp points, and edges or finger traps, also check toys have not become dangerously worn.
Safety equipment is used within the early year’s settings to promote the safety and wellbeing of the children. Regular check on all safety equipment should be carried out, and the manufactures instructions should be closely followed. It is considered as good practice to buy new equipment, as it will confirm with the latest safety regulations. Below is a list of the safety equipment commonly found in the early year’s settings:
Stair gates- prevent babies and children from falling down the stairs.
Electric plus covers- prevent children from putting their fingers or objects into sockets.
High chairs- helps young children to sit safely at mealtimes, they will have safety harnesses to keep the child secure.
Window locks- prevent children from falling out, opening or leaving the premises.
Radiator covers- to prevent children from touching the radiators when switched on and burning themselves.
Early years premises should ensure high levels of security around the building to keep children safe at all times. Entrance doors should be kept locked at all times and controlled by staff members to ensure the safety, settings are required to keep a record of visitors, making sure they are signing in an out at all times staff should fully supervise visitors at all times whilst on premises. Children should only be allowed to leave the setting with an authorised individual that has been identified by the child’s parents prior to starting the setting. In my setting where I previously worked we had to ensure that all children in our building are safe and have a secure environment, we had certain security arrangements in place, we had two mechanical doors which can only be opened from the inside of the building and as a security alarm system fitted which sounds whenever the door opens, we also had a policy about getting information from parents who can collect the child, names and pictures were taken prior to the child starting the nursery.
Environments need to be appropriately heated and ventilated to prevent the spread of infection and to ensure a good supply of fresh air to children. Lighting should be appropriate for clear visibility and to enable children to work in comfort.
The organisation of the furniture and activities is important in promoting the safety of the children and providing an enabling environment. When planning the setting of the environment fire exits should be clear of obstacles to enable safe evacuation if necessary, the layout of the environment should be adaptable for children with disabilities, the layout of the furniture and resources should allow sufficient space around the setting for children to move around more easily.
Risks and hazards – risks and hazards are found within all workplaces; within an early years setting there can be risks and hazards for children, staff members and visitors. A hazard is something a child does not see, is something that has the potential to cause harm, whereas a risk is a challenge a child can see, and chooses to undertake it or not, risk is the likely or possible outcome of the hazard. A risk assessment is a legal requirement which is used to identify potential hazards within the environment. Risk assessments are important within the early year’s settings to ensure the safety and welfare of all the individuals in the setting of children. Risk taking is important for children it gives them a chance to take on a personal responsibility when children learn how to take risks; they also learn how to think independently. The role of the practitioner in risk taking is decide what is safe for the children and then to supervise the children in taking the risk. As children become older practitioners can encourage children how to keep themselves safe. Practitioners working with children need to be the ones to control the risk, taking account the individual needs of children.
Babies and young children have basic needs that must be met for them to develop and mature. For children, these essential needs include warm, caring, and responsive adults; a sense of importance and significance; a way to relate to the world around them; opportunities to move and play; and people to help structure and support their learning.
The emotional environment is more than physical space because it contains the emotions of the children who spend time in it, the staff that work there and the parents who leave their children. Maintaining positive feelings is important for children to feel safe in the emotional environment. The emotional environment plays a key role in meeting children’s individual needs. Practitioners within the setting should ensure that the setting is warm, loving, secure and accepting place to be for everyone, not just for children. Practitioners should encourage children to express themselves by giving them chance to talk and by actively listening to them. According to (Martine Horvath Sunday March 03 2013) “When children know that their feelings are accepted, they feel safe.”
The indoor environment will have an immediate effect on children learning and development. The indoor environment should be well equipped with high quality resources; indoor space needs careful planning as it needs to be flexible to accommodate children’s individual needs. Environments should be attractive and make children feel safe and secure and happy to be there. Children learn through play, exploring their environment and beginning to find out about the world around them. Play theorist Bob Hughes identified 16 different types of play. Early years settings need to provide a separate room for babies, but should be given regular contact to see older children to help promote their social and emotional development, as children some older, they require a balance of structured activity as well as the ability to initiate their own play.
The outdoor environment holds equal value to the indoor environment and provides many opportunities for learning and development. Children gain enormous benefits from learning outdoors, ideally they should have access to outdoor space on a daily basis, not all children will gain access to a garden or outer space within their home, and therefore they should be given the opportunity to explore the outdoor environment whilst at their setting. The outdoor can provide development opportunities for children socially intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Being outdoors supports confidence and self-esteem. Outdoor play opportunities will be different depending in the age of the child.
Child development theorist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), believed “Children construct an understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment” ( by Saul McLeod published 2009, updated 2012)
When it comes to children and young people, both the safety and the stimulating aspects of the environment should be considered at the same time. Every child and young person has the right to a safe environment and children must have the opportunity of growing up and developing in an environment that is as healthy and safe as possible. An enabling environment will support and facilitate learning and development for children. Children within the early years settings are actively encouraged to explore the indoor and outdoor environment equally, conscientious practitioners and key workers will support learning as children freely engage and interact with their surroundings.
Greenman, J. (1988). Caring spaces, learning places: Children’s environments that work. Redmond, WA: Exchange Press. Available online:http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=294
By Martine Horvath Sunday March 03 available online: http://eyfs.info/articles/article.php?Enabling-Environments-64
The CAF process updated 26 april 2012 available online: http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/strategy/integratedworking/caf/a0068957/the-caf-process
OPEN STUDY COLLEGE EARLY YEARS LEVEL 3 STUDY GUIDE NCFE INVESTING IN QUALITY
Author: John Rowlinson – Updated: 21 December 2012 Safety Marks: What Do They Mean?
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