Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

RP Products by Topic: Environment

from the DEC Recommended Practices on Environment:

Young children who have or are at risk for developmental delays/disabilities learn, play, and engage with adults and peers within a multitude of environments such as home, school, child care, and the neighborhood. Environmental practices refer to aspects of the space, materials (toys, books, etc.), equipment, routines, and activities that practitioners and families can intentionally alter to support each child's learning across developmental domains.

Environment Checklists
  • This checklist includes the types of environmental arrangement and adult (parent or practitioner) behavior that can be used to engage children in everyday activities and to encourage and sustain child learning while engaged in the activities.

    The checklist practices include a mix of interest-based child learning opportunities and adult contingent responsiveness to sustain child participation in the learning activities.

    The checklist can be used to develop a plan to use the practice with a child or to promote a parent's or practitioner's use of the practice. It also can be used for a self-evaluation to determine whether the different practice characteristics were part of using the practice or promoting a parent's or practitioner's use of the practice.

  • This checklist includes recommendations for encouraging child physical activity using environmental arrangements and active play opportunities as part of everyday learning. The checklist items include a number of different things adults can do to ensure indoor and outdoor spaces are arranged to maintain or improve fitness, wellness, and gross motor development as well as development in other areas.

    The checklist can be used to change or modify environmental arrangements to provide physical activities opportunities for young children. The checklist also can be used to do a self-evaluation of how well young children's everyday activities and their learning environments provide opportunities for physical activity.

  • This checklist includes recommendations for encouraging child physical activity and active play opportunities as part of everyday learning.

    The checklist items include a number of different things adults can do to ensure young children experience ample physical activity (exercise, movement, etc.) to maintain or improve fitness, wellness, and gross-motor development as, well as development in other areas.

    The checklist can be used to plan and implement activities to provide physical activity opportunities for young children. It can be used to do a self-evaluation of how well young children's everyday routines and activities provide opportunities for physical activity.

  • This checklist includes procedures for determining the types of environmental adaptations (physical, social, temporal, etc.) that can be used to promote child access to and participation in learning activities to enhance child competence.

    The checklist indicators focus on identification of barriers to participation, the types of adaptations that can be used to eliminate or reduce barriers, and the use of adaptations to increase child participation in learning activities and routines.

    The checklist can be used to plan and conduct an adaptation assessment and to develop an action plan for using specific adaptations to promote child participation in learning activities. It also can be used for a self-evaluation to determine if the necessary steps were followed to use adaptations as part of a child's individualized intervention plan.

  • This checklist includes procedures for identifying and using assistive technology (AT) to promote child participation in learning activities to enhance child competence.

    The checklist indicators focus on identification of a child's need for assistive technology, the selection of the appropriate AT for addressing a child's need, and the use of AT to promote a child's participation in learning activities.

    The checklist can be used to plan and conduct an AT assessment and develop an action plan to use AT to improve interventions to promote child participation in learning activities. The checklist can also be used for a self-evaluation to determine if the necessary steps were followed to use AT as part of a child's individualized intervention plan.

Environment Practice Guides for Practitioners
  • Everyday classroom activities provide children many different opportunities for learning. Increasing children's participation and learning in these natural learning environments involves providing children activities that are interest-based, paying attention and noticing how children participate in the activities, supporting children's use of existing abilities, and encouraging new skills.

  • Children learn best by being active participants within their everyday environment—whether it’s watching and listening to a wind chime blow in the wind, or learning the steps to handwashing. The more opportunities children have to actively participate and interact with their environment, the more opportunities they have to practice existing skills and explore new ones. Make sure that all children can access materials and activities within their daily environments.

  • Preschoolers are busy and active learners. They are learning to master large body movements such as jumping, running, and dancing. They also are exploring their environment through physical movement and play. Therefore it’s important for children’s development to provide them many opportunities to exercise and move their bodies.

  • Active toddlers are busy discovering how their bodies move and do interesting things - clapping hands, stomping feet, rolling a ball down a hill, pushing a riding toy, and more! Be sure there is plenty of space for such experiences both in and out of the classroom.

  • Activities outside the classroom are sources of many different kinds of learning experiences for young children. You can support children’s learning by providing opportunities for them to participate in community activities that match their interests, by responding to them in ways that support their participation, and by helping them do new things.

Environment Practice Guides for Families
  • Curious preschoolers actively explore their world, both indoors and outdoors. They naturally want to run, climb, tumble, and dance, trying to discover all its interesting possibilities! Be sure your home provides your young child plenty of space for active exploration and learning. Below you’ll find tips and ideas for arranging your home to promote learning.

  • The ordinary activities that make up families' everyday lives provide young children many different kinds of learning opportunities. Young children learn best when they have many chances to participate in everyday activities that are interesting and when adults respond to their children’s behavior in ways that help them practice things they can do and try doing new things.

  • Everyday community activities provide young children many different kinds of learning opportunities. You can encourage your child's participation and learning during community activities by using his or her interests to choose activities and by responding to the things he or she does while involved in the activities.

  • The more opportunities a child has to actively participate in everyday activities, the more learning will occur. Everyday activities include things such as playing with a favorite toy, eating with the family during meal time, and singing a song with a sibling. Children with disabilities sometimes need extra supports in order to participate in these activities. This support is called Assistive Technology (AT). Assistive technology can be low-tech or high-tech. Low-tech support can be something as simple as wrapping tape around a spoon to make it easier for a child to grasp the handle. High-tech support includes equipment and items such as a computer, iPad, or a power wheelchair.

  • As a parent of a toddler, you’ve probably noticed by now how much your child likes to move around. Whether your toddler is kicking his legs while sitting at the table for a meal or dancing while listening to music; he spends most of the day moving his body. Toddlers are learning to master large body movements such as walking up and down steps, running, jumping, and dancing. They also are exploring their environment through physical movement and play. Therefore it’s important for children’s development to provide them many opportunities to exercise and move their bodies.

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Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • OSEP's TA&D Network:IDEAs that Work