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Simple Preschool Environments

Kristine Wendt

Imagine yourself in a crowded, chaotic room. Now imagine that this crowded room is 6-inches shorter than you are and your clothing contains itchy wool fabric that's pricking your skin. Okay, now imagine that this crowded and short room is blaring loud polka music. How would you react to the abundance of sensory stimulation?

In much the same way, preschoolers don't feel comfortable and safe in environments that are overstimulating. Furthermore, preschoolers' learning and discovery is difficult in chaotic rooms. Preschoolers need us to return to a place of simplicity within our church preschool environments. Here's how.

Define Boundaries. Developmentally, children ages 3 to 5 need to understand their environment's parameters. If you don't tell preschoolers what the boundaries are, they'll make them up. You might find them climbing on the table until told not to; talking with their mouths full of food until someone says they can't understand; and tapping, slapping, or hitting to get attention until you explain appropriate behaviors. Help preschoolers easily understand your environment's boundaries with simple phrases such as: "I want you to sit criss-cross applesauce on the blue square for three minutes"; "This is your one-minute warning; soon you'll need to stop painting"; or "Let's clasp our hands together so we don't touch other people."

Keep It Simple. When we create environments with the latest technology in video gaming, music, or lights, we often forget the overwhelming nature of this setup for preschoolers. The volume is intimidating, the colors are bright and shocking, and spastic screen images don't calm preschoolers. We struggle to keep a rein on the chaos in the room we created with such good intentions. Instead, use these ideas to plan learning environments that set up children for comfort and success.

• Noise Control-Limit music to the beginning or the end of the session as a way to stimulate enthusiasm.

• Warm Colors-Bright colors are wonderful at the entrance to stimulate excitement and enthusiasm, but use warm, earthy colors in learning spaces.

• Lighting-Use natural lighting or regular bulbs rather than fluorescent lights in areas where you'd like to see children calm and listening.

Preschoolers need simple engaging environments to grow and discover; create spaces that stimulate these values rather than chaos.


Kristine Wendt is the director of family life at Bristol Oaks School in Alpharetta, Georgia.

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