It is important to consider the organisation of the learning environment and how this may impact on all areas of a child’s development. A ‘communication friendly environment’ or ‘communication friendly setting’ should be a place where children can communicate easily and effectively. There should be lots of opportunities for everyone to talk, listen, understand and take part. Taking time to discuss and make changes to the environment in your setting will also develop awareness and understanding of how important communication is for children’s development.
Consider the areas in the diagram here, and think about how these feature in your setting:
Space, Light and Layout – can you re-arrange furniture to allow opportunities for interactions and talking? is the environment chaotic or are there clearly defined spaces? do you have quiet, cosy spaces that encourage chatting e.g. dens, tents, large boxes to climb into.
Noise levels – can you section off smaller, quieter areas if you are a very large setting? can you use material/cardboard/displays to absorb some of the sound? Can you create smaller areas using material, boxes or screens.
Opportunities for communication – consider what children like to talk about. What will capture their attention and interest? Make sure you have a good range of resources and experiences. Also think about how you structure your routine activities and whether there is a chance for children to communicate e.g. making a choice during snack time, asking peers what they would like for lunch, choosing a song to sing at group time.
Use of visual support – do you use objects, photos and pictures to support language – when giving instructions and also to support learning new words and concepts? do staff use gestures, facial expressions and pointing to support communication?
Use of interactive displays – use colour, objects, photos, pictures to make displays interesting. Have them at a low level so that children can look, touch and talk about what they can see. Consider using natural resources to add interest – pasta, draped material, leave, cotton wool.
The role of the adults – be an excellent role model to children in the way that you communicate and interact. Do the adults sit down and engage with the children? do the adults know how to model and extend play and language skills? are they spending lots of time sweeping up or doing paperwork/observations?
Quiet/Cosy Spaces – its important to include a quiet/cosy space in your setting. This provides a separate area, with a different ‘feel’. Children will use this in different ways – from having intimate conversations with their peers, to just taking some time out from the busy environment. Think about how you could create one in your setting – what resources do you have lying around? Could you ask parents to donate old sheets/material? Do you have a large box or unused table? Have you got a couple of cushions or a rug you could add? It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, have a look at our photos below for some ideas.