Every day at Step Ahead we set up our environment with purpose and thought. We think about current interests and ways in which we can support and extend on these interests, while at the same time create new and thoughtful provocations for our tamariki to explore.
As well as the actual resources, we also set up the environment that includes protected and enclosed spaces for children, sanctuaries where children can just ‘be’. Away from all of the business an early childhood centre can hold.
A child sanctuary is a small, semi enclosed space with room for only one or two children. The space should be visually isolated from other children but easily supervised.
According to Curtis and Carter (2003) nooks, crawl spaces and seating areas should be available for individual children to get away from the fray of the large group, indoors and outside … A private place to get away is especially important for children in full-day programmes.
Children enjoy being in spaces where they can ‘shut’ others out. Pennie Brownlee (2010) acknowledges this when she says that children love to secret themselves into small spaces and watch the world from there. This urge to be in small spaces is valid and empowering for children. It allows for the child (or children) to take control of a space and make it their own through their imaginative play.
The spaces we create give children the sense of feeling that no adult is actually watching or listening to their play. This belief then allows the child a more open and free range to verbally express themselves through their imaginary play.
“Being able to relax and feel protected from intrusion or competition, as children play along or with a friend, helps them regain their inner peacefulness.” – (Cryer, Harms, & Riley. 2003)
The effort and thought that goes into creating beautiful spaces for children reflects the belief that children deserve the very best, and that their aesthetic senses need to be nurtured in the early years.
“Protected retreat spaces need not be huge, in fact smaller spaces are a vital part of the recipe. Soft inviting areas like this also act as “sanctuary spaces for children to be able to have somewhere to withdraw to when they feel overwhelmed, aiding in developing self-regulation.” – (Childspace)
As teachers, we enjoy watching how our children interact and work with the spaces that we create. We often say that while we set up the environment as an invitation, what becomes and happens is 100% driven by the children and they never cease to amaze.