The indoor and outdoor spaces will provide safe physical environments that are conducive to learning and reflective of the different stages of development of each child. Appropriate space and materials will be provided to conduct a variety of activities that promote development in each developmental domain. Functional areas allow for individual activities and social interactions. The physical environment supports positive behaviors. The environment also reflects acceptance that supports and respects gender, culture, language,ethnicity and family composition.


  1. Conduct a safety inspection to ensure that indoor, outdoor spaces and other physical arrangements are consistent with the health, safety and developmental needs of children. (see Health and Safety checklist and Classroom Safety policy)
  2. Adapt and modify space to meet the needs of all children. Consider the needs of children with physical and sensory disabilities. Consult Early Childhood Education and Disabilities Consultant for materials and equipment to accommodate special needs.
  3. Consult the following resources:
    1. Creative Curriculum- volumes 1 & 2
    2. Early Childhood Education and Disabilities Consultant site visit checklist

Indoor Classroom

  1. Establish traffic patterns for entering the room, moving to and from activity areas, bathroom, cubbies.
  2. Minimize large open spaces and obstacles.
  3. Organize the room so you can see as much as possible from every location to ensure children’s safety.
  4. Provide individual spaces for children to hang their clothing and store their personal belongings. Label spaces with their names and a photo.
  5. Make every effort to include the children’s home language in the signs and labels around the classroom.
  6. Display visual reminders of behavior expectations/ classroom rules at children’s eye level.
  7. Display a classroom picture schedule at children’s eye level.
  8. Display schedule and curriculum plan (typed or legibly written) for adults
  9. Set up activity areas:
    1. Establish at least the following activity areas:
      1. Blocks/ Building (may be in Circle area)
      2. Dramatic Play
      3. Table Top Activities (Toys and Games)
      4. Sensory Table
      5. Creative Arts
      6. Literacy (Writing Table, Library, Listening, Computer)
      7. Discovery (Science and Math)
      8. Circle (Music and Movement)
      9. Quiet area
  10. Clearly define areas by using room dividers or furniture. Consider floor covering, lighting, and location of resources (e.g. electric outlet, water source, etc.) when setting up areas.
  11. Arrange the space to allow children to work individually, in small groups, or in a large group.
    1. Place signs in each area or in the in-kind binder to help volunteers know what the children are learning and how to facilitate the activity.
    2. Have a system in place for entering and exiting areas.
  12. Equip activity areas
    1. Choose and/ or adapt materials that meet the interests (attractive and relevant to children’s experiences and culture) and needs (challenging but not frustrating) of the children.
    2. Ensure that all equipment and materials in classroom are in good condition.
    3. Put out duplicates of basic materials to minimize sharing problems.
    4. Change the materials in the learning centers regularly to maintain children’s interest, extend their experiences and reflect new interests. (E.g. Dramatic play area can be housekeeping, store, flower shop, farm. Etc.)
  13. Organize materials.
    1. Display materials on low, open shelves to promote accessibility and independent use by children.
    2. Use containers to hold materials and toys with small pieces (e.g. shoe boxes, plastic containers, baskets, etc.)
    3. Have a designated place for everything in the classroom.
    4. Label storage places for items that are not rotated out of the room (e.g. blocks, paper, pens).
  14. Plan classroom display
    1. Reserve most of display space for children’s learning and work. Keep displays simple.
    2. Display children’s work prominently, at eye level. Change displays regularly.
    3. When displaying store bought pictures and materials, ensure that imagines are non-stereotypical and authentic depictions of children and families.

Outdoor Area

  1. Ensure safety. (see Playground Safety policy)
  2. Ensure that teachers have an unobstructed view of the children at all times.
  3. Show visual reminders of behavior expectations. Displayed at children’s eye level or with the teacher (key ring, rule strip)
  4. Define each space (e.g. large group planned activity sand and water play, wheeled toys, garden, playing games, pretend play)
  5. Create easy to follow traffic pattern (to and from classroom, trikes, around play structures)
  6. Equip areas (e.g. buckets, shovels for sand play, bring instruments/ radio, large art area, dramatic play props like firefighter hats, books)

This policy complies with Head Start Performance Standard 45CFR Section 1304.21.(a), (c), 1304.53It was approved by Policy Council on April 8,1997.Updated July 6, 1999. November 15, 2000. July 16, 2002. July 2008.  September 2009

Updated August 2013.

©1995-2013. Head Start of Lane County. All rights reserved.