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Top 10 tips to de-institutionalising your living, and learning, environment.

For a long time, when visiting centres and reading their philosophies, nearly all of them stated something to the effect of “We have a welcoming, home like environment”…but, on reflection, very little within the environment was “home like”.  It certainly didn’t look like my home, and when asking educators what was meant by this statement, many of them agreed. There was nothing in the environment that reflected their homes either.

But, what they were talking about was the feel. The feeling  of their environment. The feeling  that the environment evoked in them, and their children. And digging a bit deeper, they were seeking an environment that fostered the being together of people, be they big or little. For living. And for learning in.

Because that’s what matters, right?

Relationships. First.

Create cosy nooks to provide a transition space for families and children

So, how do we transform our spaces to foster bringing people together & create ‘feeling’ in our programs?

Here, we share some easy, everyday tips that you can try:

  1. Big, comfy chairs. I know it’s stating the obvious, but do you have a comfy, adult sized chair where you can curl up with a child or two to comfort them or read a story? And another story. And still be comfortable?
  2. Gather interesting objects that spark joy (Marie Kondo that space!). Not only joy, but interest, curiosity, beauty and surprise 
  3. Buy furniture and resources that have character. Click here for an example. Consider upcycling and recycling furniture. Upcycling furniture can bring character, warmth, interest and that sense of familiarity (from home) that we talk about.
  4. Declutter. Declutter. Declutter. Clear tops of shelves (and place some of those objects of interest in small groupings). Clutter creates a visual noise and is a sensory input – so be very judicious about what you hang from ceilings, on walls and place on shelves. Clutter also creates an energy that can stop one from being comfortable in a space. And relaxing. And being together.
  5. Choose furnishings of different textures and surfaces. Cane, wicker, plants and flowers, stones, wood, natural fibres, can work to ‘soften’ spaces, both to touch and visually.
  6. Consider lighting – you don’t need to fluro’s on all the time? Buy some lamps and clean those windows (windows are for looking through, remember? See 9.)
  7. Be specific about what you hang on walls and why. If it isn’t used regularly to reflect on learning with children, then why is it there? (it’s their learning environment remember). Create specific places to display documentation, so children, and families, will know where to find it, and change it up often.
  8. You don’t really need all those identical tables do you? Use coffee tables and low floor tables (which you sit at with cushions) to create smaller spaces for more intimate learning experiences.
  9. Gaze through your windows…can you see through them, or are you dodging posters, policies and paintings? Windows are for seeing through and for supervision, so clear them up. You’ll be surprised how easily this can change your environment.
  10. And lastly, position pieces of furniture and items of interest so they naturally draw your eye – ensure they are not raising the “here I am…over here…🚩” flag.

These are just some quick tips to assist in creating spaces

where people, big and little, want to spend time.

Together. For living in, and for learning in.


 Click below and download our ‘Top Ten Tips…’ to share with your team!

Top 10 tips in deinstitutionalising your living and learning environment

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Simply Sunshine Child Care

Astute, and Mel in particular, really helped me to get my head around my position as Educational Leader at my centre.  I had been in the role for a couple of years with no real direction or clear idea of what my job involved.  Mel worked with me and gave me clear guidelines and processes to put into place to effectively fulfil my role.  I am now an important part of our leadership team and am enjoying empowering the other teachers to consistently reflect on and improve their practice. 

Gena Smith Teacher and Educational Leader at Next Steps Kindy

“Astute,” which derives from the Latin noun astus, meaning “craft, suggests cleverness, mental sharpness, and diplomatic skill”

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Teaching is not a skill one collects when you graduate and pick up your qualification; it’s so much more than formal qualifications.

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