An enabling environment is one which provides a rich, varied and safe space in a setting in which children can play, explore and learn. This can contribute greatly to children's learning and development in the early years.
Enabling environments encourage babies and young children to play because they feel relaxed, comfortable and 'at home' in them. When children feel emotionally safe and secure they are able to explore and find out about the place they are in and the things they can see, touch, manoeuvre or manipulate.
Children having access to high-quality play and first-hand experiences supports their learning in a number of ways. It is not just through the adult-lead or formal group activities, but also includes children’s natural encounter with the world and the spaces they play in.
For this reason, when looking at core experiences the nursery stresses the importance of supportive adults who are tuned in as to when it is most appropriate to join in, the child’s play to extend their ideas, new skills or concepts. As part of this consideration also the needs of more outgoing children who may find questioning, communicative and stimulating adults as interfering, rather than an aid to learning is examined.
Baby room practitioners have a uniquely significant role, because they influence sensitive human beings during the most formative period of life. This is a tremendous responsibility and privilege.
A baby's whole being is reaching out to connect, to learn and you can help them.
Living in that childish wonder is a most beautiful feeling – I can so well remember it. There was always something more – behind and beyond everything – to me, the golden spectacles were very, very big.
— Kate Greenaway, Victorian author
First impressions count, so making sure your early years setting encourages new families and carers to feel welcomed and confident in leaving their children with you is really important.
When families visit settings to choose childcare they will often be thinking and asking similar questions around the quality of provision, access to outdoors, routines, quality of diet/nutrition, staffing, trying to work out how this setting meets the specific needs of their child and if their child will be happy here.
A few tips to help make sure your setting is welcoming to new families:
Many parents will decide whether to attend your nursery or not based on the first impression, often minds are made up from the initial contact with the nursery. Being polite, friendly and professional counts.
All staff have a shared responsibility to make parents feel welcome and valued, especially if it is a first visit. Managers need to ensure their staff have had training to work with families so they are well informed, confident and capable of answering questions’ parents may ask.
First impressions are a decision maker when choosing a setting. Parents need to leave the nursery knowing that they can trust and build mutual respect for the practitioners who are friendly and have a genuine interest of the child at heart.