The Environment as the Third Teacher

The environment, also known as the third teacher, plays such a vital role in children’s learning and development. What and how we choose to set up the environment will set the tone, inspiration and creation for a child’s day.

When setting up the environment it’s important to think about
– what are the current interests?
– what open ended resources could I put out to foster imagination and creation? (no set purpose to the resources)
– is this an environment that I would want to play in? (I encourage you to sit on the floor, pretending to be a child’s level. What can you see? Is it inviting and beautiful?)
– are there enough resources for all children (resources don’t have to cost anything.. think natural)


“The physical environment is not a backdrop to the curriculum but rather is a part of the curriculum” – Anne Stonehouse. With this quote being said, the environment needs to be attractive to literally attract children to engage. Setting up should be a thoughtful process and one that can involve children. Ask them to help you set up for the day, or what they would like out. They will always tell you or show you.

When we set up environments that are purposely created we are telling children that we value their learning. We can do this on a more semi-permanent way by simply hanging their art work. This can be such an easy, simple task which is so empowering for children. Setting up twine and natural pegs is a really easy and inexpensive way to display art and keep pieces current.
It is also important that children are given choices in their play, including whether they want to play on their own or within a group. Space is key to children’s learning and development. They need space to explore resources and be creative – who knows where their imaginations will take them.

Keep your environment well stocked, clean and ‘fresh’. Once you begin working up a collection of resources you can create a rotating system. Rotate out a basket of resources for something stored in the cupboard. This keeps your resources ‘fresh’ and exciting, in saying this, if the interest and passion for something is still very much alive, then leave the resources for as long as possible.

Get parents and your community involved, invite their thoughts and suggestions.
Have a go at setting up something new, exciting and different, stand back and watch what learning takes place. Stand by ready to support where needed but ultimately let the children do what children do best, learn through play!

Written By Kaya BrophyRockmybaby Visiting Teacher

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