Professional Development

Day Care

Creating Space for Children

Share This Article: On Twitter On Facebook Print



Research tells us that a small child’s personal space is very important to him emotionally and developmentally. They use space the way they use food to survive – connected to space.

Research: toddlers and preschoolers make mental maps of the spaces they occupy. They make repetitious routes around furniture and objects. They are restricted by partitions, furniture, and other environmental patterns that create difficulty in knowing what is “on the  other side” of walls, etc. They use “tunnel” vision (near to far distance vision) in scanning and entering into arranged spaces.

Take a virtual “tour” of a physical space and discuss functional aspects.

Enter the way a toddler or preschool-age child might, thinking about the cognitive mental “map” that young children seem to be able to use.

A child’s visual field resembles a megaphone. He only briefly scans what is nearest to him first; then his view widens out as he looks forward and outward and concentrates on what he sees “out there”. A child uses near vision more often than far vision to gain acuity and control over objects because he sees objects close at hand as being extensions of himself – not separate from himself. Children look “out” and then “down”.

A child views space as air, light, even temperature; space includes surfaces such as rugs covering a floor, perimeters such as door openings.

A child changes position every few seconds, so the child’s gaze constantly changes; his motor movements alter his view. He’ll move forward first, then sideward, or backward.

She senses he’s the center of what she sees-she sees only her own perspective; she does not reverse her visual views of objects. For example, a child zips her coat at age 3 and cannot unzip the coat as easily or automatically as she is able to zip it.

When children meet obstacles, they automatically move back into open spaces.

Children are attracted to open shelves, visible tables, furniture that seems attached to floors and walls before they are attracted to higher level equipment.

Large objects are perceived as part of the whole: blackboards, walls, mirrors, windows, and wall hangings are part of the room, not separate from the room.

Children do not perceive what’s on “the other side”, of walls and barriers they stop in their tracks as they stand before a teacher’s desk or table, or divider.

A child engages objects in space in order to gain information that is useful and pleasant. He takes in an assimilates:


            Perceptual objects in order to:

1.     recognize signs and symbols (letters, numbers)

2.     Sense “numberness” (sets, groups of objects)

3.     Sort and classify objects that “fit”, have “parts”

4.     Organize seriation, shape, form, appreciate color

5.     Appreciate gravity, reversibility


Construction materials and objects

Shelves to create order and structure boxes for “dumping”, pouring, sorting wood, metal fabric to cut, grip, say, sew

Raw materials – sand, mud, water – to invent materials

Graded sizes of blocks, design cubes, rings, containers to test relationships – heavy, light, large, small, thin, thick, black, white, rough, smooth, etc.


Objects that facilitate coordination and social contact

Use large muscle movement – symmetrical bimanual, bipedal use equipment for climbing, sitting, standing, alternate positions in sitting, lying down, knee-walking, holding hands, bending, stretching, reversing positions.


Have two objects alike – use pairs of objects-offer one object in each hand


All children utilize both public and private spaces:


            Small private spaces, because they have:

            A protective quality
            Are out of main stream
            Are restful – relaxing – pleasure – producing such as, musical activities
             record player, tape deck,
            Are places to stay calm or to regain control
            Are functional and routine-oriented, such as bathroom- clean up -
             grooming-dictated seclusionary by door – behind closed doors trigger
             curiosity – best to leave doors open


Larger public spaces because they serve as:

A science laboratory, A resource for cooking, cleaning, and washing
windows a device for climbing up, look out, “track” movement of people
Appropriate classroom materials


Arrange space for all children, so there is sectional, constructional appeal to children; Arrange by objects use to encourage:


1.     Interactions – social and intellectual memory stressed

2.     Shifts of position – use mirrors, shelves, no boxes

3.     Self-control and self-management

4.     Set up table tasks

5.     Set up structured learning materials

6.     Set up unstructured junk areas

Specific knowledge can be taught to children by arranging objects that teach specific skills:


            Concept of containment (containers and what is contained)
            Concept of self (idea of regulation and self control)

            Concept of social contact (idea of relationships)
            Concept of simultaneous sensory thought (idea that sight, sound, touch)
             ALL THREE – are simultaneous mental images of objects.


Teachers and parents can create an “objectified” curriculum that arranges objects by their use by specific categories. Let the objects “trigger” specific learning allow objects turn into ideas as the following themes are used:




            Talk and Read

            Dolls and Animals

            To feed and eat




            Build and construct


Start with nine sets of objects and arrange into themes (sets).

Nine Sets – Master Planning – Sensory Input – Developmental Skills

Ask Dr. Susan