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 communication rich, high-quality play and first-hand experiences supports their learning and language development 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 early years setting stresses the importance of supportive adults who are responsive to all attempts at communication and are 'tuned in' to when it is most appropriate to join in the child’s play, to extend their ideas, new skills or concepts.
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