My Environment

My Environment

I receive questions about my environment often so I though it was about time I shared some photos! It seems strange sharing photos when the areas aren’t set up though!

My school is new – we moved in less than a year ago. Our old classroom had a great view of the building in action…

Building our new school - from Rachel (",)

This was the horror of packing up, ready for the move…

The horrors of packing up to move school buildings! - from Rachel (",)

You can see why I felt the need to post some Calming Activities when the term ended!

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Six days before the school was due to open, my classroom looked like this. I get the ‘eebie jeebies’ when I look at these photos! We were exhausted before the children even arrived!

The new classroom, 6 days before the children arrive! - from Rachel (",)

It was a tad stressful!

I am still tweaking, and I guess I will never be fully satisfied with it, but this is how my room is looking at the moment. I haven’t got pictures of all the areas (because I forgot to photograph them) and I’m still waiting for some new display boards to be fitted, but hopefully this will give you a general feel of how it is looking right now…

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A Plan of My Environment

Thought I would share a plan view of the space I have, to help you visualise it. The space I have labelled ‘carpet area’ was actually planned to be the entrance area, but I asked for no carpet area to be laid in the main learning space, so this space is really useful for whole class sessions…

My Classroom - basic plan, from Rachel (",)

This is the basic layout of areas as I have them at the moment – please note that this is not to scale!!

My Classroom - basic layout, from Rachel (",)

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Entrance Area

As previously mentioned, we use this area for our carpet sessions too. The pegs are in here & the entrance to the bathroom, but we also have a book box, musical instruments and a basket of finger puppet books & my song/rhyme cards (you may remember these from this post.) Our fairy door and the welcome shelf (for our name stones) are housed here too. Eventually, I want my Interactive Whiteboard in this space – it was put in the wrong place when the building work was done & so we couldn’t use it last year. It does mean that we’ve been able to work out the best place for it though & so this will hopefully be reinstalled this academic year.

Entrance area from Rachel (",)

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‘Entrance’ Shelves

I use these to store some loose parts in jars.

Loose parts storage from Rachel (",)

The top is useful for displaying books, flowers and our display ‘tree’.

Entrance shelves with flowers or the 'tree' - from Rachel (",)

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Discovery Area

This area houses the Discovery Table, OHP and light panel. I’m still trying to organise the shelves – I need more baskets! The board you can see leaning against the shelves is a piece of MDF with hessian stapled to it. I use it to divide our activity table when I want to put lots of separate activities on it, as it helps makes it less distracting. It leans agains the shelf when not in use at the moment (it’s been fine there – no problems all last year), but ideally I want to organise the shelves so that the children can access the resources on them properly.

Discovery area from Rachel (",)

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Small World Area

When I was a child I absolutely loved small world play. I would spend hours, lying on the floor mixing and matching all my figures & loose parts, rarely choosing to play with them at a table. This is why my small world area is on the floor… I do put small world things on table tops or the cable reel sometimes, but I find the children are much more engrossed on the floor. They love ‘getting in’ it.

Grass, mats, floor & foil pieces are stored on top of each other in the base (there is space for a tuff spot here too, although I don’t store one here), so that I can swap them around when I want different effects. It’s good to keep them flat & makes a comfy base for the children.

The shelves aren’t labelled so that I can change the resources quickly if I want to. It is clear where the the bits & pieces belong though, and we train the children to put them back in the correct place at tidy-up time. Ideally I’d like more storage so that I could have a wider range of resources constantly available. At the moment I observe the children & put out things that match the children’s current interests. They ask if they want something else out too.

Small world area from Rachel (",)

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Construction Area 

In here, I have a mixture of wooden blocks, a few Community Playthings blocks, real terracotta bricks, small cable reels, planks, recycled materials & small world resources such as people & cars. The children also have access to baskets of logs, tin cans & fabric, which are shared with the small world area. Pegs & washing maidens are also in there, which are fab for den building. The easel is available to draw on & there is a box of clipboards & pencils too. I am waiting for display boards to be fitted to the walls in the construction and small world areas – hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

Construction area from Rachel (",)

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Maths Area

I do believe that maths can be found everywhere and that there are opportunities to explore it in all the areas. I would ideally like maths shelves with resources that the children access freely. However, I currently have no free shelves for this, just trays. And as these have a ‘table top’, I put some kind of maths opportunity on the top and try to link it with the book(s) we are particularly enjoying that week. I forgot to take a photo of it ‘face on’ when it was empty, but you get the idea!

Sometimes I have fabric on the top of it, sometimes I just leave it bare. There will be fabric at first whilst I’m training the new children to access the trays.

Maths area - from Rachel (",)

I do have these shelves (previously shared in my ‘Mirrors in the Classroom‘ post) – they are old painted shelves with acrylic mirrors (from Ikea) blu-tacked onto the back. They are housing Numicon pieces at the moment, but I may turn them into maths shelves. We will see!

Shelves with acrylic mirrors blu-tacked on - from Rachel (",)

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Finger Gym

It looks so bare with nothing on it! A low table with an acrylic mirror blu-tacked at the back. I have a bath mat as a rug in front of it usually (easier to put a bath mat in the washing machine!), but that’s been washed ready for the beginning of term, so I’ll put it back out then.

Bare Finger Gym from Rachel (",)

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Cable Reel Table

This is used as an additional table top. It often has fabric draped over the top of it, but has a piece of false grass glued permanently on to the top of it. I have a number of cable reels, both inside and outdoors. They were donated from parents – I just sent a note out asking if anyone could get hold of them and had lots sent in! 🙂

Cable reel used as an extra table in the classroom - from Rachel (",)

The trellis you can see behind the maths table has clothes pegs attached so that we can display photos of the children at play. It looks fab when it’s full!

Finger Gym, Maths Trays and Cable Reel, with trellis suspended above - from Rachel (",)

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Paint Station

This is actually a photo from my Colourful Explorations post because my paint station is currently empty as the hand wash pumps & bottles have been washed out ready for September. We just have the primary colours and black & white paint available, to encourage the children to explore colour mixing. They help themselves to water from the low sink next to it and wash up when they have finished. Quite a bit of training goes into this!

Paint station from Rachel (",)

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Malleable Area 

… for dough & other malleable materials. We have shelves with resources permanently available (rolling pins, cutters, Mr Potato Head parts, tools, plates, cups, cutlery, pans etc) & I enhance each week with additional resources that fit in with interests or whatever we are working on. I also have a cooker & microwave in the area as they love pretending to bake.

Role Play

I’ve just moved our role play resources next to the play dough area, but I’m afraid I forgot to take a photo – sorry! You can just see the shelves to the left in this photo below. If I remember, I will take a photo & add it into the post at some point.

I don’t have a fixed role play area, it is more ‘deconstructed’. Basically, there are a variety of resources so that the children can choose to role play whatever they wish, rather than a fixed area that the adults think they might like. In it, we have things appropriate for a home corner that they can take anywhere in the classroom. But I also put in resources that fit with current & popular interests – dressing up clothes, babies, blankets, superhero props, office props, mark-making materials to make train tickets, boxes etc. This is constantly added to, as needed. Of course they role play houses in the malleable area too, which is why I moved the areas next to each other.

Malleable area from Rachel (",)

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Writing Table, Creative Area and Activity Table

Marking making materials are available in all areas of the classroom, and we have lots of clipboards dotted around, but I also have this area as a place to store materials. The children ‘write’, draw and ‘make & create’ in this area.

The hexagonal table is our activity table and is used for all sorts of things… making, creating, junk modelling, drawing, name writing, train play, transient art, you name it! 😉 This is the table I mentioned earlier that I sometimes split with the piece of MDF.

Writing table, creative area and activity table from Rachel (",)

Mark-making resources are organised according to colour and I use this frame from Ikea (intended to hold a roll of paper) to hold string, tape, ribbon etc… (Another photo from my Colourful Explorations post as I forgot to take a close up.)

Organised according to colour - from Rachel (",)

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Simple Independent Snack Area

I don’t have a photo of it ‘stocked’, but there is always milk, water & fruit available for the children to access independently – milk on the tray, fruit in the bowl & water in the acrylic dispenser. A photo frame holding 10 photos is on the table – I change these weekly and they are a great talking point! I love listening to them as they look through the photos.

Simple independent snack area from Rachel (",)

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Water Area

Sometimes, the water tray is used for sensory materials instead, but there are a number of resources which are permanently available on the shelves.

I do have plastic resources, but particularly love the metal & brass things. Metal feels different to plastic and reflects the light. The containers have different weights and provide different challenges with pouring. They even sound different!

We currently have metal & brass teapots, jugs & pots, turkey basters, pipettes, syringes, whisks, rotary whisks, funnels, scoops, ladles & assorted bottles.  Additional resources are added as necessary, depending on what we are using the tray for.

Water area from Rachel (",)

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Quiet Nook

This area is intended to be a quiet zone. I love having it in the centre of the room as it seems to ‘soften’ the feel of the environment. We have chairs with cushions, books and finger puppets in there & sometimes the children take in a blanket & snuggle up…

Quiet 'nook' - from Rachel (",)

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Sand

I don’t have space to have a permanent sand tray, but do have a portable box that we bring out when I want the children to work on developing particular skills, or a sensory activity. When playing in sand, children often revert to the low-level 2 year old skill of scooping & pouring. Also, it’s quite hard to find activities that can’t actually be done in other areas (such as with mud & soil outdoors or in the water tray etc). So I would rather facilitate more challenging sand play in other ways.

This is not a current photo, it’s actually a picture from my old classroom. I can’t find a more recent one at the moment, so I’m adding this so you can see what I mean by a tub of sand!

Exploring sand with differentiated tools... from Rachel (",)

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View from the Back Door

Classroom view from the back door - from Rachel (",)

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Organising Resources

I get so many questions about how I store my resources. I do have a lot of things! It was my intention to take a photo of the inside of my store cupboard, but I haven’t actually finished sorting it yet. Instead, I’ll post a picture that I shared over on Instagram. It’s a compilation of some of the pictures I posted in this album on my Facebook Page.

Some of my resources are kept at home, as they belong to me and this is how I store them. My wooden bowls & dishes are in baskets and I tend to store them according to shape wherever possible (hearts/leaves/African etc) as it makes them easier to find. All my other loose parts are kept in different sized plastic lidded boxes. Each plastic box is labelled & the contents are in ziploc bags to keep them separate (the labels on the box refer to each ziploc bag). I have lots more boxes & baskets than this, but you hopefully you get the idea! This is how things are stored in school too – apart from the resources that are in baskets/jars on shelves or in the tray units.

Organising resources from Rachel (",)

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Outdoor Environment

I will have to take more photos & share these in another post as this area is still very much ‘under development’. It’s also packed away for the summer at the moment.

But basically, the tarmac area is split with a fence so that the Nursery children have a space to play in by themselves if they wish. (We found that some of the quieter ones didn’t want to go outside when Reception were out too.) They can also go through the gate to access the part Reception play in, if they wish.

Part of the outdoor area, still under development - from Rachel (",)

We also have a grassy area for both Nursery & Reception. One of our Reception teachers asked our site manager to fix ropes to the trees after going on a course with Anna Ephgrave. The children love it & it’s brilliant for developing motor skills and balance. The large tunnel was given to us by the builders.

Outdoor grassy area - from Rachel (",)

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Classroom Signs

I wonder if it might be helpful to re-share these signs? We use them all the time! The ‘tidy’ signs are very handy & the children like to be able to save an unfinished creation with the ‘Work in progress’ signs. There are two versions of the work on progress – a ‘flat’ one (four on the page) & one that you can fold (two on the page)…

Classroom signs (FREE printable) from Rachel (",)

If you wish to download a copy (free), they are at the bottom of this post.

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Hope this gives you a bit of an overview of my learning environment 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Don’t forget that you can also find me on FacebookInstagramTwitter &  Pinterest

Would love you to come & say hello! 🙂 

– Rachel (“,)

My bowl collection! - from Rachel (",)

My bowl & dish collection – have I got too many?! 😉

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38 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your environment! I’ve got a few rearrangements I want to try!

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    • You’re welcome, Melinda!
      Good luck with your rearrangements! 😉

      Reply
  2. Thank you Rachel, I run a drop-in program for children birth to 5 and their adults. Sometimes we have 40 people in the classroom! I don’t usually comment, but just wanted you to know that myself and the 5 other ECE’s that deliver the same program in my district often discuss and share the ideas on your site. I really appreciate the time it must take to share what is truly your passion! We are on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Ramona!
      Can’t tell you how much it means to hear positive comments from fellow practitioners! 🙂

      Reply
  3. I am so jealous of your bowl and dish collection!!! I love to check out your posts there is always something to inspire me. Thanks for sharing xx

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    • Love my bowls & dishes, Jeanette!
      Thanks for the lovely comment xx

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing. Your set ups always inspire me but today I’ve decided to have a good look at my room environment and make some tweaks. The malleable area next to home corner makes so much sense… we are forever finding playdough in homecorner. So thats my first stop to put them together and remove the mat from homecorner.

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    • So pleased I might have inspired you in some way, Chantel. Enjoy your moving around. Don’t work too hard! 😉

      Reply
  5. Lovely, lovely space! How do you use the tidy signs?

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    • Thanks Jackie!
      We use the tidy signs at tidy up time – when an area has been tidied a sign is placed so that no one attempts to ‘re-tidy’ it… 🙂

      Reply
  6. I so appreciate your taking the time out of your busy life to post as often as you do. Your posts always inspire me to better myself as a teacher and to learn new things. I am curious as to what the finger gym is and where you obtained the mural in your small world area. I live in the United States near Washington DC and hope to be able to find something similar here. Also, where do you find the grass looking rugs? Thank you so much`.

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  7. Rachel your space is so inspiring, thanks for sharing! I just want to be sure I didn’t miss something- you don’t have a traditional dramatic play space with kitchen, dress up etc? I love your small world play space and wonder if that’s your alternative (maybe not the right word). Thanks

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    • AAACK, Just saw it! Thanks again.

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      • Thanks for the lovely comment!
        Glad you found the answer 🙂

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    • I see from your next comment you just read the answer 😉

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  8. Rachel I have been following your post for two months now and although I have never commented up to now, I though I must tell you how much I appreciate the time you put in to posting your work. You truly inspire me to think deeper and reflect on my own practice, not to mention all the fab ideas I get from you. So from one teacher to another ‘thank you’.

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    • Oh wow, Sharon, thank you so much!
      What a lovely comment!
      Can’t tell you how much it means to hear that I might inspire someone else.
      Really appreciate it xx

      Reply
  9. Another round of thank yous for answering my questions–and I had a few:-) I’m going to see if I can get my hands on similar items here in the states and will take a look at the sites you referred to. Enjoy your new kiddos.

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    • Thank you, Isabel!

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  10. You have an impressive learning space. I am planning on opening a small preschool next year. My space is much smaller. We will be located in a 700 square foot cottage on our property. There is a main space and 3 additional small rooms and an outdoor porch area. What areas would you prioritize?

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    • Hi Vickie,
      Do you mean what ‘areas of learning’ you would prioritise?

      The activities I would definitely want to be available would be fine motor, construction, small world, discovery, art, maths, phonics, mark making (although you can complete maths, mark making & phonics activities through all the other areas).
      I might have missed something out – we’re away for our wedding anniversary at the moment & my brain isn’t in gear 😉

      When I had a smaller space, I tried to think about what could be provided in other ways, rather than having an area designated to it. So, for example, you could provide fine motor activities on trays. Writing/mark making opportunities could be made available in every area, instead of having a table specifically for it. There could be a box of role play things. A water tray could be used for sensory & sand activities too etc etc

      Hope that helps a bit (& hope I haven’t missed something out!)

      Reply
  11. Wow Rachel, your classroom is absolutely stunning!!!

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    • Thank you very much, Melodie! 🙂

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  12. You are truly inspirational!!! Love the intention with which you set-up your environment. I’m putting together some tinkering trays for the children for September…what are your must haves in one? I think I’ll be getting wood compartment boxes from Ikea.

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,
      Firstly, thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I can’t tell you how much they mean!
      As for tinker trays, what about a colourful one with buttons, matchsticks, feathers, counters, cubed etc – anything colourful you can get your hands on really, that will fit in the tray!
      I was going to suggest a natural one with fir-cones, stones, conkers etc, but it might be nice to do that as autumn draws in (I’m assuming you’re UK!).
      Or you could do a metal one with keys, nuts & bolts etc?
      Hope that helps a bit!

      Reply
  13. Your learning environment is so lovely and inviting. I’ve been following your blog for sometime now and I am always inspired by how beautifully you set-up your provocations. Thank you for taking the time to share all that you do. And no, I don’t think you can ever have too many wooden bowls/dishes ;)!!

    Reply
    • Ah, thank you Rosa!
      And I’m glad you approve of my bowls/dishes ‘habit’ 😉

      Reply
  14. Thank you so much for sharing. Very inspiring! And you can never have to many wooden bowls!

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    • Thank you, Sheri! 🙂

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  15. Your classroom looks great! I wish I had such a lovely environment for my home daycare (working on that ). I was wandering if you could share what your daily routine looks like! Could be an idea for another post…

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    • Thank you, Myriam.
      We have directed sessions on the carpet at the beginning & end of each session, and then play in the areas the rest of the time (the adults playing with the children) 🙂

      Reply
  16. Thank you so much for this post, as always so inspiring! I love to experiment with your ideas so it is great to see them ‘in situ’! I have been given a budget to develop my EYFS area and so was wondering which supplier you used for your open shelves eg small world area and malleable area furniture.

    Reply
    • Would love to be able to help, but despite being in a new building, we didn’t get new fancy shelves etc & so we’ve had most of it for years. Early Excellence sell gorgeous stuff, but they’re not the cheapest. There is always good old Ikea – Billy Bookcases are fab! x
      PS. Thanks for the lovely comment!

      Reply
  17. Where did you get all those bowls and lovely metal tea pots etc?! Are you a die hard car booter?
    Very inspiring. X

    Reply
    • Yes, mostly charity chops, car boot sales & eBay 🙂

      Reply
  18. Rachel – you are a complete inspiration! I’ve followed you for a few years now, via Twitter, then on FB and subscribed to your emails and I have to say that you have fuelled my passion for early years and have influenced my teaching in so many positive ways!

    Reply
    • Jan, I cannot begin to tell you how much this fabulous comment means.
      Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to write it.
      I’m just a normal everyday teacher with a passion for the Early Years and to know that what I do might provide inspiration to others is amazing!
      Thank you! xx

      Reply

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