How to Create a Positive Preschool Environment
As an early childhood educator, one of your main responsibilities is to create a preschool learning environment for your students that’s conducive to learning and helps foster both social and academic growth.
But, figuring out how to create a positive learning environment in preschool can be tricky.
Thankfully, at LifeCubby, we’re dedicated to making center and classroom management a breeze for childcare pros like you.
That’s why we’re sharing our top tips on how to create a positive classroom setting for preschool:
Pay attention to the physical environment.
The first step toward creating a welcoming preschool learning environment is to focus on the physical state of your classroom. Try to avoid harsh fluorescent overhead lighting and instead opt for natural and accent lighting throughout your classroom. Find a floor lamp that can provide ample light for your reading nook, and drape your playspace in whimsical string lighting. This will help the space feel warmer and create a more ideal learning environment for preschoolers.
Next, focus on what colors are dominant in your classroom. Instead of choosing bright, chaotic tones like highlighter yellow or fire engine red, choose a more soothing hue such as sky blue. Replace any busy bulletin board paper or borders with simpler, more minimalistic patterns and designs.
If you can, try and place house plants throughout your classroom. Not only will they help regulate the humidity inside your space (creating a more comfortable environment for your students), but they can also serve as a great way to teach the concept of responsibility to your kids.
Finally, if you’re planning to display student artwork or projects on the walls, be sure to hang them at your students’ eye level. This will help indicate to them that the classroom was designed with them in mind.
By paying attention to the small details, you can create an ideal learning environment for preschoolers that feels warm and inviting to students the second they walk in the door.
Start fostering your relationships early.
Help show students (and their parents) that you’re on their side by fostering relationships with them early on. If your program hosts an open house ahead of the semester, create ice-breakers to play with the students. Then, send them home on the first day with a welcome letter that shares details about you and what they can expect in your classroom’s preschool environment. For a fun addition, have students work with their parents to write letters back. This will help you get to know your students more — and it will help your students feel noticed and appreciated.
As the year goes on, make it a point to show interest in your students and their families by chatting with them about what they have going on in their personal lives. For example, if you know a family recently got back from a trip, ask the student what their favorite part was. Or, if you know a parent recently gave birth, be sure to congratulate them on the new addition to their family.
Finally, create a student birthday calendar so you can celebrate each student throughout the year. If your program breaks for the summer, don’t forget to host a year-end birthday party to celebrate any birthdays that fall over break.
Once you form these connections with your students and their families, it will be easier to create a preschool environment where they feel valued and understood.
Establish routines in your classroom.
Another easy way to build a positive preschool environment in your classroom is to establish regular routines for your students. Create a daily schedule for your class and try to stick to it as much as possible throughout the year. Be sure to introduce the schedule, along with any transition activities you’ll be doing in between tasks, on the first day of school so your kids know what to expect from the very beginning.
Once your students know what they can expect from class each day, they’ll be able to better focus on each of their tasks. This will also help ensure they better comprehend the material you’re covering throughout the day. Finally, having a consistent routine will help keep your students from getting distracted and ensure everyone is on the same page in your preschool learning environment.
Be intentional about how you communicate.
Whenever we’re asked how to create a positive learning environment in preschool, one of the first things we say is to be intentional about how you communicate with your students — starting with your nonverbal cues. Try to squat, sit or kneel when you’re talking with your students so that you can speak to them at eye level. This will help them feel more secure and at peace during your interactions. It will also help you pick up on any nonverbal cues your students are conveying so you can react appropriately.
When it comes to verbal communication, one of the most important things to pay attention to is your tone. When possible, keep a calm and peaceful tone that models the tone you’d like students to have with one another in your preschool learning environment. This is especially important anytime you feel yourself starting to get frustrated with a student or their behavior.
Finally, pay attention to the words you’re using when you’re speaking with your students. Try to use words with positive connotations and model the communication practices you want your students to follow. This will help give them an example of how they should be communicating inside of your classroom, which will in turn help create a more respectful and ideal learning environment for preschoolers.
Place a focus on emotions.
Helping your students learn to identify and control their emotions often goes hand-in-hand with creating a positive preschool learning environment. That’s because once students are able to identify and properly control their emotions, you’re able to have a classroom with less frequent tantrums and meltdowns. This then creates a more conducive learning experience for everyone.
With that in mind, we recommend regularly incorporating emotion-based activities into your lesson plans and free play. Try to set aside one circle time per week to talk about a new emotion or read a story that helps teach your kids about how to control their emotions.
There are also several things you can do in your physical classroom to help your students recognize and properly deal with their emotions. One is creating an emotions chart where students can “check-in” with their feelings throughout the day. To do this, simply create a poster with several different faces representing common emotions (such as happy, upset, angry, etc.). Then, assign each student a clothespin with their name on it. Throughout the day, set aside time for them to move their clothespin to the emotion that best represents how they are feeling.
Another thing you can do in your classroom is create a calm down corner. This should be a cozy and relaxing area where students can go if they’re feeling overwhelmed. Be sure to stock your corner with various mood relaxing activities including stress balls, kaleidoscopes and more.
Take mindfulness breaks.
Mindfulness activities are another great tool when it comes to creating a calm and positive preschool learning environment. Pre-K classrooms can often be a busy and chaotic place, but by setting aside time in the day to stop and calm down, you can show your students that it’s okay to take a break and check-in with how they are feeling.
To do this, we recommend incorporating breathing exercises and/or yoga sessions into your daily calendar. We also recommend playing calming music during times of quiet work.
Show your students that you trust them.
Our final tip on how to create a positive learning environment in preschool is to demonstrate trust with your students. To do this, you can give your kids the responsibility to make certain decisions about your classroom and their learning experience. For example, have your students help decorate one of the corners in your room. Then, institute a free play portion into your daily routine where your kids have the opportunity to select the center they’d like to play at.
By showing your students that they are trusted to regularly make decisions in the classroom, you’ll be able to create a preschool learning environment where kids feel empowered.
Want to learn more about how to create a positive learning environment in preschool? Our sister company, ChildCare Education Institute can help. They have a number of online courses that relate to building a preschool learning environment including Classroom Management and Foundations of Positive Guidance. Both courses (and over 150 others) are all available 24/7 from your smartphone, laptop or tablet.
Once you’ve learned how to create a positive learning environment in preschool, our award-winning childcare management software can help you with the implementation. Between our custom lesson planning tools and our in-app communications features, you’ll have all of the things you need to create a preschool learning environment for students to grow and thrive. Click here to learn more and schedule your free demo today!