The Right Physical Environment for Children

The Right Physical Environment for Children

A child’s development is influenced by a wide range of factors that are governed by both nature and nurture. Understanding some of these factors can help parents address their child’s needs. The environment your child grows up in, attention, affection given by parents, acceptance by parents in daily life, overall diet can be a major influence on his/her life.

One of the most important influencing factors on your child’s development is the physical environment they grow and learn in. The effect of the physical environment on a child’s development cannot be neglected. If your living environment is overcrowded, noisy and filled with aggression and harsh words, your child’s personality will definitely be affected in some way or the other. If you have too many people living at home and if the attention towards him is divided, he may seek out alternative forms of attention, which can lead to an emotional disturbance between him/her and you. Similarly, unpleasant surroundings often cause children to block out or bury negativity, making them more introverted and further leading to vulnerability.

To understand the right physical environment, we first must understand the importance of the environment in the eyes of children and adults. Some people may see the environment as insignificant, but for teachers, parents, and educators it is something that needs to be considered a top-notch priority. Effects of the physical environment are as significant for children’s development as psychosocial characteristics such as relationships with parents and peers.

Physical Environment at home plays a vital role

The Early Years of a child is an important part of their life keeping in mind how much time he/she spends their every day, so parents should design the environment by organizing its spaces, furnishings, and materials to maximize the learning opportunities and the engagement of every child.

To effectively do so, parents can apply a concept known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), that stresses the environment and its materials in it should be accessible to everyone. Creating this accessibility might involve providing books at different reading levels, placing materials within easy reach on a shelf, or creating ample space. Taking care of all these aspects in a playroom ensures a positive physical environment where children can concentrate on play through learning, without falling for any kind of distraction.

When you set out to design an effective physical environment, parents should consider that entire environment’s various aspects. Once they have selected child-sized, age-appropriate furnishings, parents should then think about each of the following:

  • Arrangement of Furnishings and Floor Coverings
  • Selection and Placement of Materials
  • Design and Display of Visual Materials
  • Offering all the needful right at hand for them
  • Lighting and Sound

When the children get a physical environment that does not take their focus away but rather encourages their involvement in learning, it naturally increases their participation and engagement in the playroom. Learning space is something that must be inviting and comfortable, along with being conducive for expression and exploration of knowledge among the tiny tots.


By Tooba Mirza (Primary School Teacher/ Psychology Major)



The Importance of a Childs Physical Environment from a Psychological Perspective



A child’s physical environment can play a key part in their development. A range of physical and social factors are connected to their home life and environment around them. A few factors could include parenting styles, housing individualities and frequency of different media types in daily life. Broader factors of physical environment can include family dynamic, the surrounding neighbourhood or the country the child is raised in. According to research done at Cornell University by developmental psychologist Gary Evans in 2006, key effects were seen in factors such as noise levels, overcrowding and housing/neighbourhood quality. These factors had vital influences cognitive, social and emotional development.


We can focus on the factor of noise and how it can affect a child’s reading abilities, cognitive development and motivation. Evans (2006) found that more exposure to common noises such as cars, airplanes etc. led to a significant delay in reading abilities. Evans and his colleagues also discovered that consistent exposure to acute noise affected cognitive development, particularly on long-term memory. The way a child usually adapts to consistent noise exposure is by tuning it out. This means if a child is trying to complete a task, they are usually tuning out the auditory aspect of it. Consequently, not only are a child’s reading skills affected, but also their abilities at tasks that require speech perception. So, what can we do to combat this?


-As a caregiver or teacher try to tune in instead of tuning out. When we are in high noise exposure situations, we can be less responsive and talk less to our children as we don’t want to compete with the noise. This kind of coping strategy is harmful as it affects reading and cognitive abilities of a child. Stay alert as much as you can by engaging in discussion, reading to them and actively listening.


-Avoid chronic or consistent noise within a household. Those who live in noisy environment usually get used to it and tune out the ability to perceive speech and other sounds. Aim to reduce existing noise levels instead of adding to it.


-Keep your child engaged. Most children tend to tune out speech or sounds as a coping mechanism when the environment they are in becomes too overstimulated. Look out for signs of your child not paying attention or tuning out and see what might be causing it. Taking your child to quiet environments such as a local library or a quiet park. This is especially key at ages of 3 to 6 when your child is learning to read. 


-Check the volume on your child’s device. If they are watching a YouTube video at full volume make sure to adjust it accordingly. Also monitoring the sounds of other devices within the household such as a Google Home, televisions or phone alarms.



By Musfirah Khalil 



Evans, G.W. (2006). Child development and the physical environment. “Annual Review of Psychology, 57,” 423-451.


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