The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education


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 - General


How have you arranged the layout of the indoor environment to meet the needs of children and adults in your home?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Safety
  • Privacy See 9.5
  • Personal care needs
  • Sleep and rest facilities
  • Heating/lighting/decor
  • Organisation of learning space
  • Facilitating free movement


Have you provided space for each child's belongings? See 1.2

Think about (e.g.)

  • Changing bags
  • Buggies
  • Toiletries
  • Coat hooks at the child's level
  • Symbols/pictures as labels
  • Cubby holes/shelving for personal belongings

Birth - 18 months


What facilities are available for nappy-changing?


What facilities do you have available for feeding young babies?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Privacy for breastfeeding mothers

12 - 36 months


Same as 2.1.3 - 2.1.4


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


How does the indoor environment allow for opportunities for children to move around freely?

2 1/2 - 6 years


Same as 2.1.6 - 2.1.7

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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 - General


How do you provide for the free movement of children from one area to another, whilst maintaining the privacy of family members' rooms and possessions?


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

Think about (e.g.)

  • Ramps
  • Wide doors
  • Handrails
  • Changing facilities for all children
  • Accessible storage areas
  • Parking
  • Outdoor/indoor play spaces


How are the toilet/changing facilities made accessible to all children and adults within the home?

Think about (e.g.)

  • 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


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.)?

12 - 36 months


How do you ensure that children can use the equipment and materials independently? See 6.2

Think about (e.g.)

  • Storage on low shelves
  • Open Shelving
  • Labelling (e.g. pictures, symbols etc.)

2 and a half - 6 years


Same as 2.2.5

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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


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., bottle feeding, 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


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

Think about (e.g.)

  • Dressing up clothes are regularly washed
  • Sand is regularly cleaned/replaced
  • Hand washing notices are displayed in the toilets/nappychanging area
  • Personal hygiene routines are in place for all children
  • Pest control
  • Waste disposal
  • Laundry

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

See 9.1

Signposts for Reflection - General


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


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


How do you ensure that your setting remains free from health hazards?

Think about (e.g.)

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


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
  • Stair gate is used where necessary
  • Choking hazards are removed
  • Finger guards on doors and cupboards
  • 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


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


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


In what way does your storage of materials and equipment ensure safety within the setting?

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


Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit that is easily accessed and available in your home?


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?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Cooking safely
  • Fire guards

Birth - 18 months


How do you ensure that there are safe areas for babies outdoors?

12 - 36 months


How do you ensure that there are safe areas for toddlers outdoors?

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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 - General


How does your home 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

How does the range of outdoor equipment match the needs and abilities of the developing child

Think about (e.g.)

Birth - 18 months


What range of experiences does he outdoor equipment promote for babies?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Sensory stimulation
  • Crawling
  • Climbing

12 - 36 months


Same as 2.5.3


Does each child have access to toilet facilities from the outdoor area?


What range of experiences does the outdoor equipment promote?

Think about (e.g.)

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

How do you ensure that the child has sufficient space outdoors to foster curiosity and exploration and to allow the flexibility of individual or group play? See 6.6

2 1/2 - 6 years


Same as 2.5.5 - 2.5.7

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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 - General


Do you allow space, at a child friendly height, for children to display their work?


What facilities are there to store children's work until it is completed and brought home?


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

Birth - 18 months


What different experiences within your home are offered to the child? See 6.4

Think about (e.g.)

  • Floor area (e.g., carpeted section, adequate storage for equipment [e.g., soft toys, baby toys, ball pool, trucks, farm animals, trains, blocks, etc.])
  • Books (e.g., quiet area of the room, natural light, comfortable seating, carpeted, cushions, display units, puppets for story-telling, large books available in a variety of languages, links to local library, etc.)
  • Sensory stimulation (e.g., wide variety of musical instruments, reflecting a variety of cultures, equipment [tape recorders, tapes], different types of music [classical, opera, pop, traditional], wall-mounted mirrors, treasure basket, scented materials, suitable storage, traditional nursery rhymes, etc.)

12 - 36 months


What different areas/spaces within the setting are offered to the child?

Think about (e.g.)

  • 2.6.4
  • Water (e.g., suitable temperature, tools and equipment for water, aprons, change water daily, appropriate floor covering, etc.)
  • Sand (e.g., different types of sand [fine sand, wet/dry sand], containers, tools and equipment for sand, dustpan and brush, aprons and caps, sand regularly replenished and replaced, etc.)
  • Paint (e.g., daily free 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 (e.g., table and chairs, variety of colours, suitable and plentiful equipment and tools, aprons, etc.)
  • Table top toys (e.g., child-sized tables and chairs, low level storage areas, wide range of equipment [jigsaws, threading toys, grading toys, shape sorters], etc.)
  • Home corner (e.g., well-defined from other areas, inviting and appealing, low level furniture [cooker, cooking utensils, fridge, table and chairs, dressing up clothes, books and magazines], equipment reflects children's home lives [dolls, tea-sets], etc.)
  • Role play (e.g., hairdressers, post office, Gardaí, teacher, nurse, fire fighter, doctor, shop, restaurant, library, etc.)
  • Other special theme/interest areas (e.g., clay, computer area, nature, science, woodwork, cooking, etc.)
  • Play house (e.g., pots, pans, dress up, books, magazines, dolls, tea-set, etc.)

2 1/2 - 6 years


Same as 2.6.5

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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


What range of developmentally appropriate equipment and materials is available for all children within your home 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, cots, etc.)

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
  • How the equipment and materials support the implementation of the curriculum or programme of activities
  • Provision of equipment and materials for children with special needs to ensure access to the curriculum/programme of activities
  • Use of television/video/DVDs/computers to initiate interest, develop ideas and extend learning
  • Reflecting the diversity of the wider society within your home See 14.2


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

Signposts for Reflection


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


How do you safely store food?

Think about (e.g.)

  • Expressed breast milk
  • Bottles
  • Baby formula and food
  • Fridge is clean and well maintained
  • Food and storage cupboards are cool, ventilated, clean and hygienic
  • Food is carefully labelled
  • Utensils are washed and stored hygienically
  • Fridge temperature is correct
  • Refuse is stored in containers with closefitting lids

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