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The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education





Infant Classes

Standard 2. Environments

Enriching environments, both indoor and outdoor (including materials and equipment) are well-maintained, safe, available, accessible, adaptable, developmentally appropriate, and offer a variety of challenging and stimulating experiences.

Component 2.1 | Component 2.2 | Component 2.3 | Component 2.4 | Component 2.5 | Component 2.6 | Component 2.7 | Component 2.8


Component 2.1 - The indoor and outdoor environment is well planned and laid out to accommodate the needs of all children and adults in the setting

Signposts for Reflection

2.1.1

How does the layout of the classroom and school meet the needs of children, teachers and other adults?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Safety
  • Privacy (e.g. staff room, parents room, etc.) See 9.5
  • Personal care needs
  • Rest facilities
  • Heating/lighting/decor
  • Organisation of learning space
  • Facilitating free movement

2.1.2

In what way is space provided for each child's belongings in the classroom? See 1.2

Think about (e.g.)

  • Coat hooks at the child's level
  • Symbols/pictures as labels
  • Cubby holes/shelving for personal belongings
  • Space for schoolbags

2.1.3

How are visitors directed into and around the setting?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Group sign outside
  • Bell/intercom
  • Welcoming notice
  • Directional signs (in English, Irish and other languages as appropriate) See 14.2
  • Class and teacher name on the door
  • Picture on the door to help child identify classroom
  • Signage at children's height
  • Signs for adults with literacy difficulties and visual impairment

2.1.4

How is the indoor and outdoor space designed to accommodate children individually, in small groups and in large groups?


2.1.5

How does the indoor environment allow for opportunities for children and teachers/adults to move around freely?


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Component 2.2 - The environment (including equipment and materials) is adaptable for, and accessible to, all children and adults within the setting.

Signposts for Reflection

2.2.1

How does the planning of the classroom/school allow for free movement within the classroom/school?


2.2.2

If applicable, how do you ensure that the school (indoors and outdoors) is accessible to all children and adults with special needs? See 14.2

Think about (e.g.)

  • Ramps
  • Wide doors
  • Handrails
  • Accessible storage areas
  • Parking
  • Outdoor/indoor play spaces
  • Signage See 2.1
  • Visual aids

2.2.3

How are the toilet facilities made accessible to all children and adults within the classroom/school?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Adequate number of toilets
  • Child-friendly toilets
  • Separate adult toilet facilities
  • Disabled access
  • Changing facilities for disabled children
  • Bathroom supplies (bins, paper towels, liquid soap dispensers, storage for supplies, toiletries)
  • Washable walls and floors
  • Space and privacy

2.2.4

Could you give an example of how the environment is appropriate to the needs of children of different abilities and cultural backgrounds? See 14.2 / 14.3

Think about (e.g.)

  • Providing opportunities for all children to be outdoors
  • Criteria when buying materials and equipment to ensure that they are adaptable and accessible to all children
  • Ensuring that all children, including babies, are able to access natural and homemade materials (e.g., cardboard boxes, pine cones, leaves, homemade play dough, etc.)?
  • Ensuring that children can use the equipment and materials independently (e.g., storage on low shelves, open shelving, labeling/pictures/symbols, etc.) See 6.2

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Component 2.3 The indoor and outdoor environment is well maintained and ensures comfortable and pleasant surroundings for children and adults.

Signposts for Reflection

2.3.1

How is the environment made comfortable and pleasant?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Bright and inviting environment for children and parents
  • Lighting appropriate to the range of activities
  • Provisions for ventilation, especially in the sanitary areas
  • Suitable seating for adults engaged in a range of activities with children (e.g., sharing books, etc.)
  • Heating is thermostatically controlled to ensure an appropriate temperature is maintained
  • Maintenance of indoor and outdoor space
  • Regular review of the environment

2.3.2

How is the cleaning of the setting organised? See 9.1 / 9.2

Think about (e.g.)

  • Cleaning checks by a designated person
  • Dressing up clothes are regularly washed
  • Sand is regularly cleaned/replaced
  • Hand washing notices are displayed in all toilets
  • Personal hygiene routines are in place for all staff and children
  • Pest control
  • Waste disposal
  • Laundry

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Component 2.4 The environment promotes the safety, both indoors and outdoors, of all children and adults.

See 9.1

Signposts for Reflection

2.4.1

What procedures/routines do you have in place to regularly ensure that the outdoor play area is clean and free from hazards?


2.4.2

How is the outside area secured and maintained to ensure children's safety and protection from harm?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Covering (e.g., ponds, pits, sheds, etc.)
  • Fencing
  • Child-proof gate for entry
  • Perimeter fence
  • Gate latches

2.4.3

How is the classroom/school kept free from health hazards?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Storage of cleaning materials/chemicals/poisons
  • Storage of waste materials
  • Storage of medication

2.4.4

In what way is the indoor environment/equipment designed to reduce risk of injury to children?

Think about (e.g.)

  • No sharp corners on furniture or fittings
  • Heaters guarded from children to ensure that they are not at risk of burns
  • Water temperature in the bathrooms maintained at a suitable temperature (below 40° Celsius)
  • Passageways are free of obstacles
  • Electrical sockets are out of reach/covered
  • Floor coverings are secured
  • Choking hazards are removed
  • Non-slip flooring
  • Safety devices on windows and doors
  • Safety glass
  • Appropriate safety symbols
  • Removal of trailing flexes from children's reach
  • Cords of blinds and curtains are inaccessible
  • Removal of broken/damaged equipment

2.4.5

Are all exits accessible and fully functioning in the case of an emergency?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Dual language signage (and other languages, as appropriate)
  • Visual aids
  • Evacuation procedures See 9.7

2.4.6

Is the water source verified to be safe for human consumption?


2.4.7

In what way does your storage of materials and equipment ensure safety within the classroom/school?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Storage areas for indoor equipment
  • Storage areas for outdoor equipment
  • Secured storage areas for children's records See 10.6 See 12.1
  • Locked cupboard for the storage of hazardous/toxic materials
  • Secure store for cleaning equipment
  • Suitably high shelving
  • Top heavy shelving is bolted or secured to the ground/wall

2.4.8

Does the school have a fully stocked first aid kit that is easily accessed and available?


2.4.9

What system is in place to ensure that smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire alarms and fire blankets are in working order and are serviced regularly?


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Component 2.5 The outdoor environment provides a range of developmentally appropriate, challenging, diverse, creative and enriching experiences for all children.

See 14.2

Signposts for Reflection

2.5.1

How does your school provide and promote opportunities for the child to experience the outdoor environment? See 6.3 / 6.5 See 7.3 / 7.4

Think about (e.g.)

  • Provision of an outdoor space
  • Regular access to this space
  • Maximising opportunities for all children to be in the outdoor space
  • Challenges and barriers you face in providing access to the outdoors
  • Strategies to overcome some/all of these challenges
  • Encouraging the use of the outdoor environment all year round
  • Variety of outdoor experiences provided
  • Opportunities for challenge and 'safe risk'
  • Arrangement of the environment to keep children in view at all times
  • Variety of surfaces to enhance the experiences of the child in the outdoor environment
  • Opportunities for all children to visit other outdoor environments beyond the immediate setting (e.g., parks, playgrounds, shops, etc.) See 16.3

2.5.2

How does the range of outdoor equipment match the needs and abilities of the children in your class?

Think about (e.g.)


2.5.3

Does each child have access to toilet facilities from theoutdoor area?


2.5.4

What range of experiences does the outdoor equipment promote?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Creativity and problem-solving
  • Running
  • Climbing
  • Balancing
  • Jumping
  • Pouring
  • Swinging
  • Dramatic play
  • Block building
  • Manipulative play
  • Art activities
  • Crawling
  • Scooting
  • Digging and planting

2.5.5

How is sufficient space provided outdoors to foster curiosity and exploration and to allow the flexibility of individual or group play? See 6.6


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Component 2.6 The indoor environment provides a range of developmentally appropriate, challenging, diverse, creative and enriching experiences for all children.

See 14.2

Signposts for Reflection

2.6.1

How do you provide for visual display?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Notice boards
  • Display areas
  • Project area
  • Child's eye-level display
  • Posters/pictures/photos
  • Real life images
  • Children's work (e.g., paintings, drawings, constructions, etc.)
  • Storing children's work until ready to be brought home
  • Rotating visual displays

2.6.2

How does the environment facilitate and support the development of social activities and interaction? See 5.1


2.6.3

What different areas/spaces within the classroom are offered to the child? See 6.4

Think about (e.g.)

  • Water area (e.g., suitable temperature, tools and equipment for water, aprons, change water daily, appropriate floor covering, etc.)
  • Sand area (e.g., different types of sand [fine sand, wet/dry sand], containers, tools and equipment for sand, dustpan and brush, aprons, sand regularly replenished and replaced, etc.)
  • Paint area (e.g., frequent painting, tables, easels, brushes, variety of colours, variety of paper [colour, shape, texture, size], equipment for group activities [rollers, sponges, finger paints], etc.)
  • Collage/junk art materials (e.g., storage unit, large selection of materials gathered by children, scissors, glue and pastes, brushes, staplers, paper clips, etc.)
  • Graphics/writing area (e.g., selection of paper, chalks, charcoals, crayons, pencils, pens, markers, examples of written materials, appropriate tables and chairs, etc.)
  • Play dough area (e.g., table and chairs, variety of colours, suitable and plentiful equipment and tools, aprons, etc.)
  • Table top toy area (e.g., child-sized tables and chairs, low level storage areas, wide range of equipment [jigsaws, threading toys, grading toys, shape sorters], etc.)
  • Floor area (e.g., carpeted section, adequate storage, equipment [road mats, cars, caravans, garage, trucks, farm animals, trains, blocks, doll's house], etc.)
  • Home corner (e.g., well-defined from other areas, inviting and appealing, low level furniture [cooker, cooking utensils, fridge, settee, dressing up clothes, books and magazines], equipment reflects children's home lives, [dolls, tea-sets] etc.)
  • Role play (e.g., hair dressers, post office, Gardaí, teacher, nurse, fire fighter, doctor, shop, restaurant, library, etc.)
  • Book area (e.g., quiet area of the room, natural light, comfortable seating, carpeted section, cushions, display units, books clean and accessible, puppets for storytelling, large books available in a variety of languages and different formats, system of borrowing, links to local library, etc.)
  • Sound and music area (e.g., wide variety of musical instruments, reflecting a variety of cultures, equipment [tape recorders, tapes], different types of music [classical, opera, pop, traditional], suitable storage, traditional nursery rhymes, etc.)
  • Other special theme/interest areas (e.g., clay, computer area, nature, science, woodwork, cooking, etc.)

2.6.4

How are these areas/spaces easily distinguished through furnishings, decoration and equipment?


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Component 2.7 There is an appropriate amount of equipment and materials within the setting (both indoors and outdoors) for use by individual children and groups of children.

See 6.4

Signposts for Reflection

2.7.1

What range of developmentally appropriate equipment and materials is available for all children within the classroom to support the child's learning and development?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Sensory materials (e.g., sand, water, play dough, paint [non-toxic], blocks, etc.)
  • Physical activities (e.g., walking on, climbing, moving through, pushing, pulling, etc.)
  • Containers of objects for exploring, emptying and refilling
  • Furniture (e.g., tables, chairs, sleeping mats, etc.)

2.7.2

How do the equipment and materials ensure that the changing learning needs of each child are met? See 7.6

Think about (e.g.)

  • Sufficient amounts of equipment and materials
  • Regularly inspected and replaced/repaired when necessary
  • Equipment and materials supporting the implementation of the curriculum
  • Provision of equipment and materials for children with special needs to ensure access to the curriculum activities
  • Use of television/video/DVDs/computers to initiate interest, develop ideas and extend learning
  • Reflecting the diversity of the wider society within the setting See 14.2

2.7.3

How do the equipment and materials appeal to multiple senses and consist of both natural and manufactured products?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Hard and soft textures
  • Objects with smell and taste
  • Objects made of wood, fabric, metal, paper, liquid, etc. See 6.5

Component 2.8 The The environment provides for the safe management of food consumption

See 9.4

Signposts for Reflection

2.8.1

How do you ensure good hygiene practice in all places where food is stored, prepared and consumed?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Surfaces are clean
  • Hygienic cloths are used
  • Floors are swept clean

2.8.2

How is food stored safely within the classroom/school?



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