Take some time to make sure your activity areas are designed to offer children and youth valuable learning experiences. Keep in mind that in some smaller school-age environments you might find two of the activity areas combined. For example, the library area may contain writing materials. Your school-age environment may have additional activity areas that are not included on this list, such as woodworking, construction (block) area, cooking or sewing. Make note of what you see in them as well.
Toys and Games
- Are toys and games stored next to the space (table, carpet) where children will use them?
- Are toys and games stored so children and youth can get them on their own?
- Are there some toys and games that are designed for two or more children to play together?
- Is there enough space for children to play without distractions or without having to move?
- Are toys and games rotated based on children’s interests and learning goals?
- Are a variety of toys and games available at different difficulty levels?
- Is the art area near water, so children can clean up easily?
- Are art supplies (smocks, brushes, etc.) stored where children can get them?
- Are art supplies stored near where they will be used?
- Are a variety of materials available so children can use their creativity?
- Are materials available for painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, etc.?
- Are literacy materials available?
- Is the writing area away from loud or distracting areas like music and movement?
- Are there a variety of writing materials (e.g., pens, markers, colored pencils, crayons) available?
- Are there a variety of writing surfaces available (e.g., large-lined and thin-lined paper, color construction paper, Post-it notes, dry-erase boards?)
- Are there reference books or materials to support children’s work (e.g., picture dictionaries, thesauruses, common words on the wall, children’s names)?
- Are there materials that encourage children’s writing (e.g., mailboxes for the children to communicate with one another, journals)?
- Is this a space where children can comfortably complete their homework (or do you have another such space available)?
- Is the library area away from loud areas like music and movement?
- Are there clear boundaries for the library area?
- Are there comfortable seats or cushions for reading?
- Are there a variety of print materials (fiction, nonfiction, picture books, comics, magazines, joke books) at different reading levels?
- Are books rotated based on children’s interests and learning goals?
- Are there accessories like a listening station or other literacy activities?
Discovery and Science
- Are there clear boundaries on all sides of the area?
- Are materials stored on open shelves, so children can get materials themselves?
- Is the discovery area near water, a window, or a door to the outside?
- Are materials rotated based on learning goals and changes in the environment (e.g., seasons, investigations)?
- Are the tools available that children need for exploration: magnifying glasses, writing materials, measuring tools, reference books, etc.?
- Does this space support exploration for older children as well, by offering more sophisticated science experiences (e.g., simple machines or mini-experiments)?
Dramatic Play - if applicable
- Is the space away from quiet areas like the library, computer, or writing?
- Is the space clearly defined on all sides by shelves or other barriers?
- Are there enough materials for several children to play together?
- Is there appropriate furniture for children to use in play (table, kitchen, etc.)?
- Are materials rotated based on children’s interests?
- Are there literacy and writing materials for children to make grocery lists, write notes, read menus, etc.?
- Are dress-up clothes free of gender or cultural stereotypes and available to all children?
- Are their copies of plays or other materials to encourage exploration of theater?
Music and Movement
- Is the music and movement area near an electrical outlet (for CD player, etc.)?
- Is the music and movement area separate from quiet areas like the library or writing space?
- Are musical instruments available and represent different cultures, sounds, and experiences?
- Are materials available for rhythm or dance (streamers, scarves, etc.)?
- Can this space be used for exploration of other movement or dramatic arts, like theater? Are relevant props or materials available for this?
- Are computers stored away from water?
- Are all electrical cords secured properly so children do not trip or pull them?
- Are software or programs available for children to use on their own?
- Can adults help children use the Internet as a reference and resource?
- Are headphones or other materials stored with the computers?
- Can adults easily see each child’s computer use? (In the Safe Environments course, see the lesson on internet safety for more information)
Other areas? Construction/Bloacks? Cooking? Woodworking? Sewing? Questions to consider:
- Are these areas placed next to resources children might need (e.g., sinks, outlets)?
- Are they placed appropriately next to other loud or quiet activity areas as appropriate?
- Do the materials in each space represent and support children and adults of different gender, cultural background, and experiences, and with varying ability?