Kaplan NAEYC 2013 Handout

How Do Children Understand their Environment? Young children strive to make sense of their world. They organize the visual images and concrete objects in their environment into meaningful systems. Children want to determine the way the space works and what can happen in this place. They come to understand how their world works through the unique experiences that occur, as they interact within the environment.

An Environment that Matches Young Children The first step in creating an appropriate environment for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and primary age children is to examine how young children learn and develop. Each age has unique characteristics that relate to their stage of development. Young Children’s Way of Knowing Young children are active learners continuing to examine materials, while beginning to use objects in combinations that are more complex. They are developing symbolic representation, as they take on roles and participate in socio-dramatic play. Their language will explode during this period, as they try to find “labels” for all the objects and people in their world. Language gives young children new power to question and find answers. These labels and symbols provide a basis for language and literacy development.

Their abilities emerge, as they become interested in books, print, and “writing.” Young children move into cooperative play, as they adjust roles and include sequence in their activities. In centers and play areas, materials are housed to support these developing abilities. Traditional centers, as well as unique centers, encourage language interactions, socio-dramatic play, and constructing experiences based on their level of understanding.

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