Standard 3.2: Use

The service environment is inclusive, promotes competence and supports exploration and play-based learning.

How Standard 3.2 contributes to quality education and care

A service environment that is inclusive, promotes competence in children and supports exploration and play-based learning creates the context for children to learn and build relationships with others. Welcoming, home-like, inclusive, vibrant and flexible environments support children’s exploration, creativity and learning, and are responsive to the individual requirements of each child. A quality physical environment caters for different learning capacities and learning styles, and encourages children and families to contribute ideas, interests and questions (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 15; Framework for School Age Care, p. 15). It also supports the holistic way that children learn.

Exploration of the natural environment helps to build children’s competence and play-based learning. It also encourages children to develop an appreciation of the natural world, an awareness of the impact of human activity on the environment, and ways in which they can contribute to a sustainable future.

Resources should reflect the breadth of age groups and interests and capabilities of children that are sharing the environment. Resources need to be accessible to children so they can choose and be responsible for their actions (Framework for School Age Care, p. 15).

Questions to guide reflection on practice for Standard 3.2 (for all services)

Inclusive environment

  • Is the environment welcoming, home-like and inviting for children and families (within the constraints of our setting)?
  • What opportunities do we provide for children to be involved in planning, setting up and modifying the environment?
  • How is the environment equipped and organised to cater for all ages and levels of capabilities?
  • How are the backgrounds and cultures of families and the broader community reflected in the environment?
  • How can the physical environment be adapted to include all children and provide for their needs and interests?
  • How can we create a physical environment that welcomes and respects all children and families, and encourages their participation in learning experiences?

Promoting competence, supporting exploration and play-based learning

  • How can we organise environments and spaces to provide children with opportunities to:
    • play independently as well as promote small and large group interactions?
    • engage in unstructured play?
  • How do we plan to use the physical space to support children in building relationships?
  • How do we support children’s interaction between the indoor and outdoor environments?
  • How does the organisation of the indoor and outdoor environment allow for a variety of uses by children and educators?
  • How do we arrange indoor and outdoor spaces that support children’s access to materials and equipment?
  • What adaptions can be made to the environment or additional resources introduced to provoke interest, creativity, sustained shared thinking and collaborative learning?
  • How do we provide spaces that promote safe exploration, learning through play and interaction with the environment for children of all ages?
  • What equipment do we provide that allows for multiple uses?
  • How does the physical environment contribute positively to children’s developing autonomy and independence?
  • What features in the physical environment encourage open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature?
  • How do we regularly evaluate the effectiveness of learning environments and draw links to the intended learning outcomes?
  • What messages are given to children about how the service cares for the environment?
  • What strategies can we implement to support educators to model environmentally responsible practices, and foster children’s capacity to value and respect the broader environment?
  • How can we access additional information, ideas and strategies to support children to take an active role in caring for the environment and contribute to a sustainable future?
  • How do we foster children’s capacity to understand, care for and respect the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land? (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 14; Framework for School Age Care, p. 13)
School age children
  • What strategies are in place to provide appropriate levels of challenge to children while ensuring that younger children are safe?
Family day care
  • How do we ensure the environment provides a diverse range of meaningful learning experiences while maintaining a warm, homely environment for children?