There are a number of important principles to think about when you are planning for healthy and safe environments or activities with children and young people. Most of these are common sense – just remember: everyone is an individual and may have particular needs. If you are clear about the following points it will become second nature to include safety in your planning.
•Every child is an individual – with different needs depending on their age and abilities. You must think about this when planning activities, for example when they involve physical play, or if more consideration must be given to the needs of a child who has just become mobile than to an older child, when planning room layouts.
•Some children have specific needs such as sensory impairments; for example think about the challenges to a child with limited hearing understanding explanations about safety.
•The different needs of families and carers must be considered.
•Always be clear about why you are using the environment in question, the activities a child encounters and what sorts of services are offered.
•The duty of care of a setting to children, parents and carers is a legal obligation. You should always have the child’s safety and welfare uppermost in your mind when planning.
•The desired outcomes for the child and young people are the starting point. Most activities with children and young people should have clear aims and objectives that are based around the required outcomes linked to their age; for example the EYFS for children under 5 years of age.
•Lines of responsibility and accountability: everyone employed in a setting has a responsibility for the health and safety of children and staff, but there should be clear reporting responsibilities (Tassoni et al, 2010).
All children should be given equal opportunities and this should be remembered in the learning environment. All pupils, including those with special needs, should be considered when planning and setting out materials and resources. The environment may often need to be adapted for the needs of particular children within the class. Factors to be considered include the following:
•Light – This may need to be adjusted or teaching areas changed if a visually impaired pupil’s eyes are light sensitive. •Accessibility – A pupil in a wheelchair needs to have as much access to classroom facilities as others. Furniture and resources may need to be moved to allow for this.
•Sound – Some pupils may be sensitive to sounds, for example a child on the autistic spectrum who is disturbed by loud or unusual noises. It is not always possible for such noises to be avoided, but teaching assistants need to be aware of the effect that they can have on pupils (Burnham, 2007). The Learning Environment
The emotional environment •The emotional environment is created by all the people in the setting, but adults have to ensure that it is warm and accepting of everyone. •Adults need to empathise with children and support their emotions. •When children feel confident in the environment they are willing to try things out, knowing that effort is valued. •When children know that their feelings are accepted they learn to express them, confident that adults will help them with how they are feeling. The outdoor environment
•Being outdoors has a positive impact on children’s sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children’s development. •Being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors. •It gives children first-hand contact with weather, seasons and the naturalworld. •Outdoor environments offer children freedom to explore, use their senses, and be physically active and exuberant. The indoor environment
•The indoor environment provides a safe, secure yet challenging space for children. •For some children, the indoor environment is like a second ‘home’, providing a place for activity, rest, eating and sleeping. •The indoor environment contains resources which are appropriate, well maintained and accessible for all children. •Indoor spaces are planned so that they can be used flexibly and an appropriate range of activities is provided. Effective practice
•Understand that some children may need extra support to express their feelings and come to terms with them. •Encourage children to help to plan the layout of the environment and to contribute to keeping it tidy. •Ensure that children have opportunities to be outside on a daily basis all year round. •Help children to understand how to behave outdoors and inside by talking about personal safety, risks and the safety of others. •Create an indoor environment that is reassuring and comforting for all children, while providing interest through novelty from time to time. •Where possible link the indoor and outdoor environments so that children can move freely between them. Challenges and dilemmas
•Finding ways to promote the importance and value of the outdoor environment to all those involved in the setting, for example, the senior management team, other professionals, staff and parents. •Meeting the needs of children of different ages in a shared outdoor space. •Overcoming problems in accessing and using the outdoor environment because of the design or organisation of the building. •Ensuring the indoor environment is ‘homely’ enough to feel comfortable while providing an environment suitable for learning (Child Development Guide, 2007).