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
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
• Lighting-Use natural lighting or regular bulbs rather than
fluorescent lights in areas where you'd like to see children calm
Preschoolers need simple engaging environments to grow and
discover; create spaces that stimulate these values rather than
Kristine Wendt is the director of family life at Bristol Oaks
School in Alpharetta, Georgia.