How to create the perfect learning environment for your child

As a team, we took away some great ideas that we have already put into practice at a number of our nurseries:

Fact 1: All children need at least 180 minutes of physical activity per day as soon as they are walking. This means we’ve started putting the chairs to one side in our playrooms and encourage children to be more mobile during the day, both inside and outside. We encourage walking, standing and kneeling while playing.

Fact 2: Environment affects behaviour. Children can only learn effectively when they are calm and happy. This means we screen off smaller areas, to give children cosy, comfortable and flexible areas to suit them. We avoid running tracks down the middle of rooms, and we keep the colours of our rooms neutral and relaxing, using textures in our activities and with our flooring. These support emotional intelligence and brain development.


Fact 3: The more toys do, the less the child does. The more the child does, and plays and engages, the more their brain develops and the more potential they will have as they grow up. This means ensuring we have open ended resources available all the time, such as natural objects, tubes, rolls, bricks, planks, textured materials, wheels, water, sand, mud, sticks, shells, gourds, stones, flowers, pestles and mortars, bowls, funnels, logs, blocks, boxes, crates…

Fact 4: There will be places where children naturally gather. Watch where children gather and where they avoid. We do this, and we look out for the ‘dead’ spaces. We look at the area from low down to see them from a child’s perspective, and to see what can be done to improve the areas for them. We define and protect areas for our children to focus on their activities without interruptions.

Fact 5: Children’s possessions are really important to them. We understand and take care of them and help the children to take care of their possessions themselves. This teaches them about status and value and helps them with transitions. We also allow for solitary and parallel play as well as group play.

Fact 6: Children can’t choose books from their spines So we present books with their fronts facing the children, and on de-cluttered shelves, and ensure they are relevant or could be of interest to the individual children in each group.

Fact 7: Children learn with their whole bodies We plan activities with this in mind, such as letting them go bare foot, letting them explore in the mud kitchen, and having an outside tap.

Fact 8: Children are more able to focus and are calmer after spending time in nature. So we bring nature inside too, and encourage children to be outside amongst nature as much as possible, even in the rain. We wanted to share this with you so you can benefit from this research at home, and so you can understand what we are trying to do at nursery. There are fundamental reasons why it’s good for our children to get muddy, wet and explore with sticks and stones, and why it’s good for children to play under tables and stand while they paint. It’s also the reason why we are getting rid of our bright plastic toys and furniture and reducing clutter. We hope you found this an interesting read, and if you have any further questions please speak to the staff at your nursery. Research shows this is the best way to help brain development, not just for under 5s, but for all children.

Tops Day Nurseries is a family of day nurseries across the south of England. We offer happy, nurturing care for the hours you need. For more details or to contact us please visit

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