Daycare supplies and furniture are needed to maintain a physical environment essential for infant and toddler learning. The physical environment can either be your greatest friend or work against you throughout your workday.
When considering the space and furnishings in an infant or toddler environment, it is important to ensure that the space is not too crowded or too open. There should be adequate space for large motor activities, such as building with blocks, jumping and dancing. Infants need ample floor space to build their movements from rolling over to crawling and walking. Without this space and floor time, their physical development can be impeded. Remember that younger infants need protected areas, and cannot safely be in a large space with mobile or walking children. Daycare supplies and furniture that exist in a completely open environment can send the wrong message to children. For example, if all furniture is pushed up against the walls and the space is left entirely open, then various types of play get intermingled, and there is no distinction between quiet play and loud play. A completely open floor plan also encourages running and rough play. When the space is broken up into centers, the expectation of each area becomes clear. If there is a space that is conducive to running, children will find it. Be sure to examine the placement of your furniture in an environment with mobile children, to ensure that you have not created an indoor space that encourages running.
When looking at the furniture in your room, it is also important that you have everything necessary to take care of the basic needs of the children. Please look at your environment to ensure that the following are in place:
a. A proper area for diapering and toileting with wipes, diapers, and a trashcan,
b. Appropriate furniture for snacks and mealtimes, including high chairs for infants and toddler-sized tables and chairs,
c. Individual cribs or mats for each child, used by the same child each time to avoid contamination. Remember that children who are not walking need to be in cribs, and children who are walking need to use mats,
d. Proper ventilation and, depending on your regional location, air conditioning and heat,
e. Natural lighting whenever possible,
f. Furniture that promotes self-help skills, including low sinks or sinks with step-stools and child-sized toilets,
g. Toys, organized and easily accessible to children, and h. Storage that can be used for supplies and extra toys.
Your daycare supplies and furniture come together to create an environment that is tailored to meet the needs of very young children. Some caregivers make the mistake of expecting an infant or toddler to fit into an adult-sized space that has undergone only a few modifications. Infants and toddlers are naturally curious, and are motivated to use all of their senses to explore their environments, whether these environments are child-friendly or not. While the initial set-up of an adult-sized facility may be easier on the caregiver, the actual day-to-day interactions between the caregiver, the child, and the environment will be filled with chaos. Adult-sized chairs around the room become instant climbing units for toddlers, and books not specifically created for infants become teething rings and possible choking hazards. By child-sizing your infant or toddler room, you will not only create a safe, welcoming environment for the children in your care, but you will spend far less time lifting and redirecting children, bending over and picking up knocked over items, and reaching for toys and books on high shelves…." -Excerpt from Extension Online Child Care Course, Developing Appropriate Learning Environments for Infants and Toddlers
View this full course, Developing Appropriate Learning Environments for Infants and Toddlers, at Extension Online.
You may also want to consider taking the course on Routine and Environments that Support Social Emotional Development in Infants and Toddlers.
Many other child care courses are available at Extension Online.