Quality Area 3 – Physical environment


The aim of Quality Area 3 under the National Quality Standard is to ensure that the physical environment is safe, suitable and provides a rich and diverse range of experiences that promote children’s learning and development.

The way that the environment is designed, equipped and organised determines the way that the space and resources are used and has the potential to maximise children’s engagement and level of positive experience and inclusive relationships.

Physical environment

Standard 3.1 Design The design of the facilities is appropriate for the operation of a service.
Element 3.1.1 Fit for purpose Outdoor and indoor spaces, buildings, fixtures and fittings are suitable for their purpose, including supporting the access of every child.
Element 3.1.2 Upkeep Premises, furniture and equipment are safe, clean and well maintained.
Standard 3.2 Use The service environment is inclusive, promotes competence and supports exploration and play-based learning.
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.
Element 3.2.2 Resources support play-based learning Resources, materials and equipment allow for multiple uses, are sufficient in number, and enable every child to engage in play-based learning.
Element 3.2.3 Environmentally responsible The service cares for the environment and supports children to become environmentally responsible.


Ideas to actions – Environment makeover – Early Childhood Australia
Indoor and outdoor environment – Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW)
Information sheet: Quality Area 3 – Keeping pets in education and care services – ACECQA 
Natural play in your environment – Early Childhood Australia
Standards Australia
We hear you blog: Physical environment – ACECQA
We hear you blog: Supporting indoor and outdoor play – ACECQA


Bush kinders – Department of Education and Training, Victoria
Bush preschool – AITSL
Building sustainability from the start – The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne
Connecting with young children and nature – Jule Davis and Sue Elliott
Create the perfect play space: Learning environments for young children – Child Australia
Education for sustainability: Waite Campus Children’s Centre – University of Adelaide
Examining environmental education in NSW early childhood education services – Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW
Exceeding NQS: Standard 3.2 Use – Case study 1 – ACECQA
Growing from gardening: What can we learn? – Gowrie Professional Support Coordinator
Heuristic play materials: Unstructured play materials for infants and toddlers – Gowrie Professional Support Coordinator
Information sheet: Quality Area 3 – Babies and outdoor play – ACECQA 
Information sheet: Quality Area 3 – The environment as the third teacher – ACECQA 
Information sheet: Quality Area 3 – Inclusive Environments – ACECQA 
Learning through play in Pilyabilyangga: Waite Campus Children’s Centre – University of Adelaide
Little Green Steps: Sustainability Education for Childcare Centres – Little Green Steps
Meeting the NQS – Quality Area 3: Introduction – ACECQA
Natural learning spaces – Government of South Australia
New contexts for learning – AITSL
NQS PLP e-Newsletter: An environment for learning – Commonwealth of Australia
Promoting, exploring and sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures: EYLF Outcome 2 – SNAICC
Quality Area 3: Physical environment – Case Study 1 – Commonwealth of Australia
Quality Area 3: Physical environment – Case Study 2 – Commonwealth of Australia
Sustainability audit tool: Education and care services – Community Child Care
Sustainability resources – NSW Department of Education
Video: Connecting with practice: Opportunities for learning in natural spaces – Commonwealth of Australia
We hear you blog: A 'green' thumbs up to sustainable programs – ACECQA 
We hear you blog: Demystifying sustainability – ACECQA 
We hear you blog: Reflecting on and planning for inclusion – ACECQA
We hear you blog: Taking an active role in the environment and promoting a sustainable future – ACECQA 
What are the consequences of limited play? – Time Gill / VicHealth