Last Updated: Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Effective environments to promote learning for children aged zero to five

What is this?

This learning resource includes case studies from two different settings in different areas of Scotland.

The Seedling Room at Hailesland Early Years Centre and Wellgreen Nursery.

Each setting evaluated their learning environments to better meet the needs of the children. In the Seedling Room, practitioners change the space and materials, and at Wellgreen, the setting moved doors and partitions to create a free-flow area for two to five year olds.

In each setting, practitioners worked collaboratively to develop their learning environments. Careful observations of the children, and reflection on current practice and research led to changes in the organisation of the spaces and the resources available to the children. Practitioners in both settings had a clear image of the child as a competent and curious learner. They valued the voice of the child and this influenced the development of the learning environment.

Who is this for?

This resource is aimed at practitioners interested in early years practice, including headteachers responsible for a nursery class, Early Years managers, practitioners and workers.

It will support practitioners working with our youngest children, and also where settings are starting to include two year olds. The case studies will support practitioners to think about the types of experiences they might offer, including open-plan free-flow environments.

How to use this Learning and assessment resource to improve practice?

These case studies can be used separately or together.
In pairs or small groups, use the statements and questions below to help you reflect on your practice. If you are in a large staff team, you could discuss one or two questions per group, and then feedback at the end of the session.

Reflective questions: Hailesland Case Study

In Hailesland, practitioners wanted parents to feel welcomed and included, and have a sense of ownership of the space. They gathered parent feedback as part of their self-evaluation processes as they changed the space. Does your environment help parents and carers to feel welcomed and included? How do you gather the views of parents and how does their feedback change your practice?

In the Seedlings Room, practitioners researched theorists and visited other settings as part of their whole staff team approach. How does your setting maximise opportunities for practitioners to work and learn together? How have you developed a shared understanding of pedagogy and practice? What impact does this have on the quality of provision that you offer?

Reflective questions: Wellgreen Case Study

Wellgreen Nursery places great importance on valuing the child as a unique individual, and practitioners think carefully how they support children to be given a ‘voice’. This informed their self-evaluation and led to opening the playrooms up to all ages of children. Reflect on your own setting. How well do you consult with children and support them to communicate about the things that are important to them? How does this inform your self-evaluation and lead to changes that improve children’s experiences?

Practitioners at Wellgreen looked carefully at their environment, so that the learning areas across the space and the materials within each area accommodated the stages of development of children aged two to five. Reflect on your own learning environments. How well does the organisation of the space meet the needs of the two to five age group and how well do you differentiate resources so that they support children at all stages of development?

Reflective questions for both case studies

Staff at Wellgreen Nursery and Hailesland Early Years Centre, placed great importance on careful observation to enable them to plan environments and learning that meet children’s developmental stages and interests. This led to changes in the organisation of spaces and the materials offered, including introducing more natural materials. Think about the observations that you gather. How well do these help you to develop your learning environment and plan for next steps?


PDF file: Hailesland Early Years Centre case study (53 KB)

PDF file: Wellgreen Nursery case study (68 KB)

Explore this Learning and assessment resource

Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).

This video shows the Head and Depute Head of Wellgreen Nursery. They discuss the staff journey of reflecting on and developing the open-plan free-flow learning environment, to meet the needs and interests of children aged two to five years.

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Follow the link to Community Playthings for a short article on Fredrich Froebel.