The interior environment: design and organization (2023)

You know

Infant and toddler caregivers make many decisions every day: what books to read, what questions to ask families, what experiences to offer, how to organize materials, etc. In many cases, these decisions are the result of careful consideration and an understanding of what a learning environment for infants and toddlers should look, feel, and look like.

Babies and young children, like most of us, are drawn to welcoming and inviting environments. Thinking about how to create a safe, flexible, and fun indoor learning environment requires planning and exploring ideas from multiple perspectives.

Interior learning environment design.

Space and furnishings should work together to create an indoor learning environment tailored to the needs of developing infants and toddlers. They need close monitoring, positive guidance, and stimulating experiences during this period of rapid growth.

When considering the physical space of play areas, it is important to create a space that is not too open and not too crowded. Young children need areas with plenty of space to practice their growing skills and movements, such as rolling and crawling. Mobile babies and toddlers need space as they explore and learn to crawl, run, dance, jump and build. Space is important for both active and quiet play. Well-designed areas provide physical boundaries (eg, shelves or rugs) and visual cues (eg, several of the same toys) that support individual and collaborative play. Freedom is very important and can help or hinder a child's learning. Too much or too little personal space can make a child uncomfortable and can encourage undesirable behavior (Kaiser, B. & Rasminsky, J., 2020). Caregivers need space for infant and toddler care routines: greeting, parting, eating and feeding, sleeping, changing, and toileting. Separate infant sleeping areas are recommended to allow children to maintain their individual schedules while still being monitored. The changing and restroom area should include changing tables, sinks, and storage space for accessories. These care rooms can provide opportunities for learning. For example, a mirror placed near a changing table can provide visual stimulation and distraction for a child while changing. It also provides an additional element of interaction between the child and the caregiver. When planning all areas, caregivers must take preventive measures to ensure safe and healthy learning. Watch theSafe EnvironmentsyHealthy EnvironmentsCourses for more information.

When designing spaces for babies and toddlers, it's also important to consider logistics, aesthetics, organization, and the needs of all children in the space.

design for logistics

When designing or redesigning your learning space, there are several things to consider. We will differentiate between spaces for group experiences, privacy, spaces for adults, and storage and presentation, all of which are critical to a successful indoor learning space.

Spaces for group experiences

Although infants and toddlers learn primarily through exploration and interactions with caregivers, spending time in groups is a great way to build understanding of learning communities. For example, a short daily group time (5 minutes or less) can encourage infants and toddlers to share their ideas and to notice others' ideas (eg, says "ice cream" and caregiver suggests that everyone pretend eat ice cream together). . Caregivers can also guide infants and toddlers in movement-appropriate songs that can help develop motor skills and awareness of language sounds and patterns (Lang et al., 2010). Choose a room where the children can comfortably study together.

places for privacy

Babies and young children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions and calm down. It is important to provide a quiet space for children to take a break from the group. You can help infants and toddlers meet this need by providing limited spaces for one or two children and designed with available views to ensure safety.

The interior environment: design and organization (1)

Places and ways to support adults

Although the majority of your room should be designed for infants and toddlers, as discussed in the introductory lesson, the children's caregivers and families are also an integral part of the learning environment. The physical environment should reflect this by having at least some spaces that speak to the adults in the learning environment and make them feel more comfortable. Remember that not all children's homes are child-friendly! Here are some ways to make the environment supportive for caregivers, parents, and children:

  • Providing a rocking chair or swing that adults can use during feeding times can help provide some level of comfort and support. This signals to family members that they are welcome and can help foster relationships between caregivers and children. Adult chairs can serve as a space for family members to read a book to their child during pick-up or drop-off times, or provide a place for mothers to visit and breastfeed, and help create a homey atmosphere. in the room.
  • The use of mats not only supports the motor skills of infants and toddlers, but also helps caregivers get up and down more easily when playing on the floor.
  • Adding steps to the changing table in the changing area for older toddlers to climb on can reduce how often caregivers need to lift heavier children while still giving young children a sense of autonomy.
  • Creating a communication or display board provides family members with important information about their room (such as the weekly schedule, special notes of the day, or upcoming events).

Places for storage and display.

Baby and toddler learning rooms require a lot of materials! Toys, books, and other resources regularly rotate in and out of active use. It is important to plan for at least three types of storage in an infant/toddler learning space: open storage for children, closed storage for caregiver materials, and storage for personal items (Dodge et al., 2015). It is also important to plan for the storage and display of assessment materials and children's artwork. Keeping and displaying artwork and binders teaches children powerful messages about the value of their work and helps you do your job more effectively. The following video explains these types of storage. Think about how those around you are already responding to the suggestions, and consider what changes could be made.

The interior environment: design and organization (2)


There are many ways to design learning spaces. Watch this video to see examples of how infant and toddler learning spaces have been designed for group experiences, privacy, storage, and presentation.


In the introductory lesson, we mentioned that quality infant and toddler programs send many positive messages to children. One of the best ways to let children know that their classroom is a "good place to be" is to place little tokens around the room that express the personality of the group.


Children feel more empowered to be themselves and have a sense of belonging when their classroom environment feels like home. “The ideal, connected approach is not simply to fill classrooms. Rather, it is about creating an environment that makes sense for children,” write the authors ofRethinking the classroom landscape: creating environments that connect young children, families, and communities(Duncan, S., Martin, J. & Kreth, R., 2016, p. 79). There are many ways to add a personal touch to your classroom to help develop these ideas (we'll see more details inlesson four). For example, you can include:

  • Soft furniture, such as a large sofa or armchair
  • non toxic plants
  • Natural or soft light through the use of windows or lamps
  • Cushions, cushions, blankets
  • Other decorative details, such as B. Reused rugs or furniture
  • Family photos of children and employees.
  • Inexpensive frames to hang children's artwork on the walls
  • neutral paint colors

Creating a relaxing, home-like environment is crucial for children who may spend several hours a day in their classroom. Spending eight to 12 hours in rooms with lots of bright lights or colors can be overwhelming.

Including photos of the children and their families along with personal storage and displaying the children's artwork is another great way to convey that the space is the children's. When displaying images or adding decorative touches, remember to post or offer plenty of photos or decorative items at children's eye level to emphasize that they are valued members of the classroom. Consider placing pictures on the floor or placing them on a low shelf so mobile toddlers can see them as they move.

Invitation to compromise: provocations

Offering beautiful or wonderful objects in the classroom invites infants and toddlers to explore and participate. You can do this by using taunts. A trigger is an image, experience, or object that provokes thought, interest, questioning, or creativity (Edwards, 2002). Prompts can help young children use, think about, or see materials in new ways. When designing your classroom, it may be helpful to think about how you will incorporate provocation. Her inspiration for the teasers she offers often comes from children's current interests, their emerging developmental skills (for example, crawling or grasping), or their learning goals. The provocations can be:

  • Photos: Including images of interests can help expand the exploration of specific concepts and send the message that children's ideas are valued in your classroom. Use images of real objects as much as possible. If necessary, offer several different images. This allows children to see that not all trees are the same, or that some dogs have spots and others do not.
  • An event or experience: For example, take a nature walk outside or have a “picnic” in your classroom. You can also take photos during the event to view later. Through images of experiences that children handle in the learning environment, it is transmitted that this space belongs to the children. It also offers them concrete documentation to reflect on the experience.
  • Books: The strategic placement of books relevant to children's current interests in space can transform the way they engage in space. For example, offer a book about construction sites next to the building blocks or a book about babies next to the plays.
  • Physical elements of interest: Adding an authentic object as a challenge can support what children already know about their world or invite them to touch, smell, see or hear something new. These can be natural objects like leaves or nuts, or a vase of fresh flowers. Consider asking families to bring items from home, especially those with cultural relevance like a piece of cloth or a paper lantern. Adding things like an old record player or stained glass window can also lead to new discoveries.
  • Simple changes on the screen: For example, add a child-safe mirror on the floor so kids can see themselves as they crawl on it, or get dolls into dramatic play with small bowls and spoons that invite older babies and toddlers little ones to "feed". can. the dolls. For babies and toddlers, presentation changes may also include rearranging climbing equipment to provide new challenges or incorporating different textures and colors on the floor.

Consider the placement of your taunts. What do you expect infants and toddlers to do in each area of ​​your classroom? What concepts are you currently exploring or what developmental goals are you pursuing, and how might provocation in certain areas help expand or focus children's play? The prompts are intended as a guide or point of inspiration for how babies and toddlers can interact with specific materials or spaces, and are not intended to limit what children should do in each area or with materials. While you may have a clear intention for how the items will be used, children may have a different plan. Not every tease will interest every baby or toddler or cause the kind of play you expect. The beauty of tease is to see how each child uses it.

design for everyone

When designing or remodeling your classroom, you must consider the needs and learning goals of all children. Each time a new infant or toddler enters your room, you should consider what adjustments are needed to best support their participation and safety in the classroom, as well as the person's past experiences. It is important for children with disabilities to talk with the child's family and their coach, coach, or administrator so that they understand the child's special needs and what kind of support they can help with. As we will discuss inlesson fourMaking sure your classroom welcomes children from diverse cultural backgrounds is also critical to supporting the success of all children in your classroom.

The interior environment: design and organization (3)

In terms of environmental design, you may need to consider the physical space within learning areas or pathways between areas to ensure that infants or toddlers with physical disabilities can easily move and participate, or that caregivers can comfortably move them around. through the spaces and participate with them. be able. For more information on customizing the learning environment for children with special needs, see the References and Resources section of this lesson. The following video is about room design and choosing the right materials for all the children in your program room. Listen as a teacher reflects on how to adapt the environment and experiences to the needs of the children in her classroom.


Think about how you'd feel if a mom-and-pop store had a complete makeover when you walk in to make a quick purchase. In a learning environment, caregivers and children can also become frustrated when they cannot find what they need or when play materials are not available. As a supervisor, it is your responsibility to ensure that the materials are easily accessible and well organized. When organizing your materials, keep three goals in mind: independence, ease of use, and learning.

Organize for Independence

First, we want children to learn as they develop that they can find and use materials on their own. The best way to accomplish this is to store materials on low, open shelves. This allows children to view the available materials, select, and return the item with less adult assistance. However, remember that too many options can be overwhelming. Second, we want children to learn to use signs and symbols in the environment to support their independence. One way we help them do this is by carefully labeling objects or the places where objects belong. The best tags use written words and images or parts of the object (such as a puzzle piece on a shelf containing wooden puzzles). Labeling not only helps children learn to access and eventually sort toys on their own, it also creates a high-pressure environment. As a bonus, you may have fewer instructions and reminders to give. When children can interact with materials independently, they have more time to interact and expand learning opportunities.

Organize for easy use

It is important to organize learning and play materials so that you and the children in your care can find what you need. As babies become toddlers, this helps them realize that "I can do things on my own." When organizing for ease of use, remember to keep similar materials together.

The type of storage you choose, including bins, baskets, and bins, can affect how easily children can access and store the materials. For example, storing books on a shelf that allows children to see the entire front of the books can foster a greater interest in reading and make it easier for children to choose books that interest them. Storing simple wooden puzzles on a puzzle stand also makes it easier for kids to pick out a puzzle and put it back when the game is over. Storage containers should be open (no lids) for materials that children should have access to. Also, they should be made of a lightweight material (eg, plastic vs. metal) and not too large or heavy for children to handle alone. Clear plastic containers allow children to easily see the materials inside. Use containers large enough to hold materials without tipping over. Baskets must be free of materials that children could puncture or scratch and must not be used to store materials that could fall through holes, such as B. Crayons.

The interior environment: design and organization (4)

organize learning

Keeping the space clean is important, which affects both adults and children. The steps you take to ensure independence and ease of use will also help you keep your space tidy. It will help children to know where the materials belong and they will learn to respect the materials and the learning environment.

As mentioned above, the concept of using teasers can help you organize your space in a way that engages or is based on the interests of children. Exhibits should reflect the equity, diversity, knowledge, interests, and experiences of the diverse children in their learning environment. To keep children engaged in play and learning, be sure to rotate materials regularly so children have opportunities to use different types of materials.

The interior environment: design and organization (5)The interior environment: design and organization (6)


It is important to organize your space and materials for independence, ease of use, and learning. Let's look at some ways infant and toddler caregivers organize their materials to achieve these three goals.


Study space design allows you to make your room cozy and homey while incorporating your knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice. Remember that developmentally appropriate means that the environment you create for children must be appropriate for their current level of development while being flexible to accommodate differences in children's abilities, interests, and characteristics. When designing your indoor learning environment, always keep the following in mind:

  • Make safety a priority: Be sure to closely supervise infants and young children. Check toys and materials to make sure they are safe every day and remove any broken toys or play materials. Make sure you have secure storage for any items that are not safe for children. A well-designed learning space also keeps children in appropriate play and helps prevent unwanted and unsafe behavior (eg, jumping, running).
  • Make your study space feel like home: Use some of the suggestions from this lesson. Make sure some of your pictures are at the eye level of the children.
  • plan ahead: Consider how you will use the spaces for group experiences, storage, and presentation. Then identify the resources you need to make those areas work. List all the materials you will need in each room based on the activities, storage, and displays you plan to have.
  • Organize materials for independence, ease of use, and learning.: Babies and toddlers use the way things are arranged to direct their interactions with the environment.
    • Place materials on child-sized shelves with space between items so children can easily see each piece. If possible, store materials in individual rows on a shelf.
    • Keep similar materials together on open shelves to help children make connections and make cleanup easier.
    • Keep the materials for a specific activity together so that children can easily find all the materials they need to complete the activity. (eg puzzle pieces on puzzle board to show completed puzzle, shape sorter with shape container).
    • Use small, clear containers to store fine motor skills, such as rattles, teethers, connecting blocks (each size and type has its own container).
    • Label shelves and bins with pictures of items to help with cleanup and to support early literacy skills.

Using the information you learned in this lesson, examine your surroundings as you download and print the question, "If I were a baby or toddler...?"Our indoor learning environment activityto capture your thoughts and ideas. Then share your answers with your coach, coach, or administrator.

Think about how you could design or remodel your own indoor learning environment. Download and printinterior design activity. Use the grid and labels to think of different ways to organize your space. Discuss your ideas with your coach, coach, or administrator. Also, download and print them.Checklist for Organizing Materials. Using the information from this lesson, examine each learning area and play area to determine if the materials are organized for ease of use and learning.

References and resources

Broderick, J. T. & Hong, S. B. (2020).From children's interests to children's thinking: using a cycle of inquiry to plan the curriculum. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dodge, D., Rudick, S., Berke, K. (2015).The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers, and Two-Year-Olds(3rd ed.). Instructional Strategies, Inc.

Duncan, S., Martin, J. y Kreth, R. (2016).Rethinking the classroom landscape: creating environments that connect young children, families, and communities. Greifenhaus, Inc.

Edwards, C.P. (2002). Three approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia.Early Childhood Research and Practice, 4(1).

Erdman, S. y Colker, LJ (2020).Trauma and Young Children: Teaching Strategies for Support and Empowerment. Die National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Outreach Alliance for Better Child Care. (2019, 15. August).Adapt the care setting for children with special needs.National cooperative expansion.

Greenman, J. (2005).Kindergartens, places of learning: children's worlds that work. Exchange Press, Inc.

Greenman, J., Stonehouse, A. and Schweikert, G. (2008).Prime Times: A Guide to Excellence in Infant and Toddler Programs(2nd ed.). Red Sheet Press.

Grisham-Brown, J., Hemmeter, M. L. y Pretti-Frontczak, K. (2017).Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings(2nd ed.). Brookes Publishing Company.

Kaiser, B. & Rasminsky, J. (2020). Valuing Diversity: Developing a deeper understanding of the behavior of all young children.teach young children. 13(2).

Nicholson, J., PS Driscoll, J. Kurtz, D. Márquez y L. Wesley. (2020.)Cultural self-care for educators. Routledge.

Petersen, S. H. y Wittmer, D. S. (2018).Infant/Toddler Development and Responsive Programming: A Relationship-Based Approach(4ª ed.). Pearson


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated: 04/09/2023

Views: 5693

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.