Element 3.2.1: Inclusive environment

Outdoor and indoor spaces are organised and adapted to support every child’s participation and to engage every child in quality experiences in both built and natural environments.
National Law & Regulations

National Law and National Regulations underpinning Element 3.2.1

Regulation 113 Outdoor space—natural environment

What Element 3.2.1 aims to achieve

Services provide an inclusive environment when indoor and outdoor spaces are designed to support the diverse interests, preferences and learning styles of all children in the service. Educators can also enhance inclusion by identifying aspects of the environment that can be adapted to support each child’s participation. Indoor and outdoor environments offer significantly different yet complementary experiences and should be given equal focus and attention.

Flexible arrangements of furniture and equipment, together with materials that allow for multiple uses, encourage children to become flexible thinkers and investigators as they engage in play-based learning. A secure and predictable environment with adequate space and appropriate facilities and resources enables children to participate in experiences/activities of their choice, and take increasing responsibility for their own health, hygiene and personal care. This supports children to increase their self-confidence and competence, and provide them with a strong sense of self identify. Environments also support positive relationships when space is arranged for small groups of children to play and talk without undue distraction from children engaged in other activities.

School age care is characterised by opportunities to develop relationships. Some children develop social skills through quiet play, such as talking to friends. Other children socialise through physical play, requiring open spaces to develop physical and social skills, such as team building and leadership. Services should make space available for small and large groups to gather. Indoor and outdoor environments should be organised and adapted to support all aspects of children’s learning and invite conversations between children, educators, families and the broader community. Flexible environments allow for the range of activities that support the learning and development of school age children (Framework for School Age Care, p. 15).

Assessment guide for meeting Element 3.2.1 (for all services)

Environments that support participation and quality experiences


Assessors may observe:

  • clear pathways that direct children and adults around rather than through areas being used by others
  • spaces organised to ensure that routine activities (such as toileting, nappy changing, eating and sleeping) promote positive interactions and opportunities for learning
  • safe shelving and storage areas from which children can access equipment and resources that are age and capability appropriate
  • challenging elements of outdoor and indoor environments that allow for experiences that scaffold children’s learning and development and offer opportunities for appropriate risk taking and risky play
  • children:
    • actively engaged in a variety of rich, meaningful, enquiry-based experiences in both indoor and outdoor environments, with appropriate levels of challenge to support exploration and experimentation
    • initiating their own experiences using equipment and resources that they can access independently
    • exploring relationships with living things and observing, noticing and responding to change
    • being encouraged to use their senses to explore natural and built environments
    • accessing areas with natural features such as plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud and water
  • educators:
    • setting up and adapting the indoor and outdoor environments to:
  • offer both built and natural features and structures
  • meet the range of ages, interests and abilities of all children
  • facilitate the inclusion of every child and support every child to be able to participate in all daily experiences
  • promote small and large group interactions and meaningful play and leisure
  • stimulate and reflect children’s interests
  • assist children to function autonomously in distinct learning or interest areas
  • encourage a free flow of activity throughout the day
  • facilitate positive interactions between children, educators and families
  • enable small groups of children to work together on their own projects
  • support children to create their own games and experiences
    • planning, implementing, modifying or changing play materials to encourage each child’s participation and to allow them to experience success
    • planning learning environments that include a range of materials and equipment with appropriate levels of challenge where children are encouraged to explore, experiment and take appropriate risks in their learning according to their current capacities, strengths and interests
    • engaging with children in constructing and adapting their own play settings/environments
    • supporting children to move between environments
    • encouraging the use of natural materials in all learning environments
    • involving children in the arrangement of spaces to increase aesthetic appeal
    • re-organising and re-setting the environment with assistance from children to provide order and predictability for children, attract their interest to the area and stimulate learning
  • a relaxed atmosphere maintained by using positive and effective strategies to modify inappropriate noise levels in the environment
Birth to three
  • comfortable and protected areas both indoors and outdoors where children can:

    birth to three

    • rest, roll, sit, crawl and stand, alone or with others
    • experience sensory activities
    • safely explore their environment with their mouths, hands and bodies, and minimise time spent in high chairs, cots, playpens and strollers
    • be cuddled or held by an adult
School age children
  • built and natural environments that provide access to opportunities for play and leisure activities in which the children experience fun, enjoyment, challenge and success.

Assessors may discuss:


  • how educators:
    • involve children in discussions about the use of space and resources
    • set up the environments to manage the balance of active and quieter spaces for play, and responds to the individual requirements of all children throughout the day
    • adjust the environment to support each child’s participation and provide for their learning and development
  • how resources, materials and equipment are chosen to enhance children’s learning
  • strategies the service has for working collaboratively with family members, specialists and/or resource agencies to support the inclusion of individual children
  • how the indoor and outdoor spaces have been designed to invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection to nature
  • how the service implements strategies to support the development of children’s creativity, engagement and understanding of indoor and outdoor environments.



Assessors may sight:

  • documented learning programs that:
    • pay equal attention to planning outdoor and indoor environments to support children’s learning outcomes and extend on child-led learning
    • outline opportunities for children to engage in outdoor and indoor experiences, such as dramatic play, construction, music and exploration
    • incorporate opportunities for children to:
  • be active and wholly engaged for long periods of uninterrupted play
  • spend time in a quiet area away from other children if they wish
  • choose whether they wish to participate in large and small group activities
    • indicate that the outdoor and indoor spaces are re-organised to continuously engage children
  • the statement of philosophy that describes the service’s approach to inclusion
  • documented evidence that indicates the educational leader, nominated supervisors, educators and co-ordinators work collaboratively with family members, specialists and/or resource agencies to:
    • plan for the inclusion of children with additional needs
    • access adaptive equipment to support children’s requirements
    • facilitate access to support services required while the child is at the service
Family day care
  • evidence that strategies are in place to ensure that children in residences without direct access to outdoor environments—for example, high-rise units—have opportunities to access outdoor environments.