||SPACES FOR CHILDREN RESOURCES
DESIGNING AN EARLY HEAD START FACILITY:
TIPS FOR START-UP
by Louis Torelli, M.S.Ed., Spaces for Children
Why the Environment is Important: the Relationship between Quality Facilities and Quality Programs:
- The Physical Environment affects Children’s Learning and Development: Well-designed environments enable children to engage in focused, self-directed play. It supports both exploration and a sense of control.
- The Physical Environment affects Relationships: Well-designed spaces promote a sense of security, a prequisite in the formation of a healthy identity a healthy sense of self. In developmentally designed facilities teachers are supported in their role as observers and facilitators of children’s learning and development.
- The Physical Environment affects the Program’s ability to promote Best Practice, thereby becoming a tool for both Staff Development and Program Development: Well-designed classrooms encourage active engagement, extended play, pro-social interaction and child-directed, teacher-facilitated learning. The environment, in effect, will assist in directing teachers toward more appropriate interactions with children.
Key Elements to Promote Best Practice:
- Room Size:
Environments that support best practice provide enough space to accommodate all the functional areas and are comfortable for all users of the space. Keeping this in mind, a mixed-age group option must be designed with safe, intimate spaces for young infants and the more active and expanded play of older toddlers. Older toddler groupings require more space than infant groupings due to their expanded interests. Socializations groups must provide for the child development needs of infants and toddlers and comfort needs of 10 or more adults!
Age Groupings with square footage recommendations
0 24 months: 400 450 square feet of child usable space
18 36 months: 550 650 square feet of child usable space
0 36 months: 600 - 650 square feet of child usable space
Socialization: 600 750 square feet of child usable space
* Child Usable space does not include space for diapering/toileting, food prep, adult work areas including base cabinets/floor storage and space for cribs. 8 cribs (27"x 40") spaced 3 feet apart require 200 square feet of space. In facilities with less than optimal square footage available, consider consolidating cribs when not occupied by an infant.
- Sinks and Toilets:
The following plumbing needs should be accommodated in all Early HeadStart Classrooms:
l 1 adult sink adjacent to diapering table
. (Performance Standard)
l 1 adult sink adjacent to food prep area. (Performance Standard)
*Include outlets for refrigerator and food/bottle warming
l 1 adult sink for non-food activities. (art, general handwashing)
l 1 child toilet* and 1 child handwashing sink in toilet/diapering area. *(Two child toilets are preferable because it promotes peer learning and is more efficient for caregivers).
l 1 child handwashing sink in classroom.
Recommended Sink Heights:
0- 18 months : 16" h
18 36 months : 21" h
0 36 months : 18" h
Key Performance Standards pertinent to the design of an Early HeadStart Classroom
1304.21 : Allow and enable children to independently use toilet facilities when it is developmentally appropriate and when efforts to encourage toilet training are supported by parent.
1304.53 : Toilets and handwashing facilities are adequate, clean, in good repair, and easily reached by children. Toilets and diapering areas must be separated from areas used for cooking, eating, or child activities.
1304.21 : Grantee must support social and emotional development by fostering independence.
1304.52 : Grantee must insure that no child will be left alone or undersupervised while under their care.*
*A program where a caregiver leaves the room to toilet two toddlers would therefore be out of compliance.
It is for the above reasons that all EHS classrooms should include child toilets and sinks in each classroom. There are design strategies where this can be implemented in a cost-effective way.*
- Direct Access from classroom to outdoor play area.
Every classroom should have direct access to the playyard. An appropriately designed playyard for infants and toddlers should include many natural elements such as gentle hills, grass, sand, dirt, shade trees, etc. With a thoughtful design, opportunities for gross motor play can occur through the natural landscape as well as carefully selected equipment. Every activity area/learning center available indoors has the potential to be part of the outdoor design; eating/table activities, water play, painting, dramatic play, construction, etc. The playyard should be viewed as an extension of the classroom and can help compensate for indoor environments with less than optimal square footage.
With careful planning, it is possible to design facilities, classrooms and play yards that meet the needs of all the users, as well as optimize available funds. Key aspects of the design should be addressed upfront while other, important, but not as immediately critical components can be incorporated over time by accessing quality improvement funds and local grants. The bottom line is that quality programs require quality facilities. Without careful planning and active involvement big mistakes can and do occur. It is much less expensive to do it right the first time than to do it wrong!
"HEADSTART IS A CHILD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM"
All facility design and program decisions
should be responsive to this mandate
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