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Learning environments

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Last updated by Justine Mason

Written by Justine Mason, CORE Education, February 2011


The provision of an early childhood environment for infants and toddlers demands a great deal of thoughtfulness on the part of adults, as very young children are reliant on them for creating an
environment where they:

  • have a sense of well-being
  • belong
  • can communicate
  • can participate in their social world.

Te Whāriki offers a description of what this might mean for infants:
"a predictable and calm environment that builds trust and anticipation" (p.22),

and for toddlers:
"a secure environment and a programme that provide both challenges and predictable happenings" (p.24).

In this section our focus is on creating learning environments specifically for infants and toddlers. The ideas, resources and discussion offered will provoke thinking about designing and creating learning environments that nurture trust, curiosity, creativity, engagement, communication, social competence, and persistence.


  • Examples from practice: Enticing environments for infants and toddlers
    This story describes a centre's journey to improve their outdoor environment by undertaking a 'nature challenge'. Includes reflective questions.

  • Oral language - We all talk, don't we?
    If as teachers, we are to help children develop oral language in ways that ensures they have language sufficient to think with, to express themselves, and to enable them to cope with reading and writing, we need to know a great deal about how oracy develops, and what the components of speech are.
  • A sense of place
    The early childhood environment can contribute toward a growing sense of belonging in Aotearoa New Zealand for our very young children - how should we be promoting young children’s connectedness with features of Aotearoa New Zealand?

  • Creating a culture of respect
    Anita Homewood, Unitech Early Learning Centre in Auckland, discusses her ideas about creating a culture of respect in her work with infants and toddlers. She highlights three main concepts - emotional, physical, social environments - that remain foremost in her mind when she considers her practice with children and their families.

  • Free movement
    Maureen Perry, qualified early childhood teacher and RIE Associate, is passionate about free, independent movement for infants. Here she shares insights and understandings about this approach to infant movement.
  • Heuristic play
    Heuristic play and treasure baskets have become a popular part of the infant and toddler curriculum in Aotearoa, New Zealand.