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Creating Playspaces that evoke a sense of belonging

A learning environment that is warm and welcoming with age-appropriate activities and resources makes it easier for children to observe the cues of how to play and become engaged within their community of learners.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

By its very nature, the concept of belonging is made visible through the connections that are made when children interact with other people. With an emphasis on how they are feeling, it will support the growing experience of safety and belonging. 

A learning environment that is warm and welcoming with age-appropriate activities and resources makes it easier for children to observe the cues of how to play and become engaged within their community of learners. 

Entering a play space that is personalised with storage for children’s personal items can give them an immediate sense of comfort. Unpacking personal items in a dedicated area where children can store their bags and other promotes a feeling of belonging. Adding a name tag or photo provides a special touch in recognition of each individual child who is learning to share in a collaborative environment. 

Putting a bag away in a locker that has an individualised image, such as a photo or symbol is meaningful to children and helps to give them  a ‘home base.’

Child-size resources, including chairs and tables, are the ideal places to demonstrate their purpose and how children may use them safely and comfortably. Sitting at the correct height to support their posture will also add to the opportunity to engage with resources for longer and more sustained periods of time with peers and educators. 

Including a set of adjustable high chairs affords children the opportunity to grow with the items they use each day. As they gain confidence in their personal skills, it invites them to feel a sense of excitement for their next stage of development, such as sitting up in a chair at a table to eat, drink and play. 

Setting up items that encourage children to self-serve their food and feed themselves offers regular opportunities to develop their confidence and skills which promotes healthy self-esteem. 


Supporting children’s relationships through Play

Adding realistic-looking furniture to create a look and feel like pieces that children may use at home can encourage children in their role play, such as in a reading or pretend play area. Having observed how their families interact, they may choose to relay favourite memories whilst creating new connections with other children. 

Setting up large group activities that are both planned and incidental provides opportunities for children to come together and share in the community of learners. Completing a large floor puzzle, cooking, playing a game, or creating a large community art mural are all ways that inspire connections.

Activities such as these can often provide time and space to consider the needs and interests of all members of a group and how children can work together to feel included. This can be an ideal starting point to help children to choose who they would like to spend time with during independent play. 


The Importance of continuity between home and the ECEC setting 

Many life skills are being developed during the time that children spend in their education and care setting as well as in the home environment. To support these changes and provide consistency, families and educators can work together in providing the time and resources they need to support them. 

The start of each new day can be set up to include a routine that focuses on welcoming parents and children. Having something to look forward to supports positive transitions from home to the education and care setting. 

Including an Activity Gym for a doll can support a child who is learning how to care for a younger sibling at home, or for children who do not have siblings, it is a chance to learn more about an infant’s needs through a hands-on activity.  This can help a child to understand their own needs too, and how they differ between children in a safe and practical way. 

For more ideas to support children and develop their sense of belonging through play, please visit 


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