than when everything is designed for a single use. Offering open-ended materials
in a variety of areas will spark children’s imaginations and speak to their desire to
continually rearrange and combine materials for explorationand inventions.
This room has an open
space for flexible use of
materials. Children can
hollow blocks and con-
struction hats with
wooden stands, masking
tape, fabric, and tape
measures to pursue their
and current fascinations.
DESIGNING NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS
THAT ENGAGE OUR SENSES
Do you remember delighting in the smells, sounds, and textures of the world
around you when you were young? It is well known that children investigate the
world and learn through their senses, and things such as playdough, paint,
manipulatives, sensory tables, and stereo players are standard fare in most pro-
grams for young children. But many more sensory-related features can be
included in program environments, ranging from engaging textures to captivat-
ing aromas. Consider herbs, flowers, leaves, scented candles or soap, shells, rocks,
feathers, branches, and pieces of bark and wood.
Filling your environment with aspects of the natural world can further soothe
the senses and sensibilities of those present. When you contrast something as sim-
ple as a shelf of plastic baskets with a shelf containing natural fiber baskets, the
different sensory experience is immediately apparent. There are many ways to
incorporate plants, water, natural light, and fresh air into your building. Land-
scaping should get as much attention on your playground as the equipment and
toys you place there.
16 DESIGNS FOR LIVING AND LEARNING
Hilltop Children’s Center, Seattle, Washington