Early childhood educators know that one of the best ways for children to learn is through play. This is why the physical environment—the space in which children play—is often called “the third teacher” (with the parent and classroom teacher as the first and second teachers). A high-quality child care program provides a physical environment aimed to foster learning and development. This is accomplished in a number of ways.
A healthy environment includes plenty of opportunities for choice. One choice children can make is whether to play with others or independently, and there should be room available for both scenarios. Providing young children opportunities to interact with others as well as time and space to learn how to take a break from others when needed encourages the development of strong social and emotional skills, which lay the foundation for success in life.