The Classroom Environment – Riot of colour vs Peace and Neutrality
Just before you reach for yet another brightly coloured roll of paper or border to cover your classroom walls and display boards, stop. Let’s just pause and think for a minute. By beginning displays in this way, what is it that we are adding, what’s the purpose behind our choices? Somewhere along the line, we’ve slipped in to assuming that brightly coloured paper should be used in early years settings because it’s eye catching, cheery and fun and this is what young children need. Like brightly coloured sweets, party balloons and games apps, it’s what children are used to and we have to compete for our children’s attention in a race to be bigger, brighter and more colourful.
A large body of research suggests that too much colour can provide a sensory overload for our children, creating an environment where they are less likely to be highly involved and more likely to be distracted. In the worst cases, an overstimulating brightly coloured classroom can lead to unsettled children and issues around behaviour.
So, what’s the answer? Well, if you really want to show that you value and celebrate what the children in your setting do then think about using natural, muted colours and materials as part of the environment and displays. Use neutrally coloured backing paper or fabric. Exploring the use of neutral colours and natural materials as part of storage for resources can have a similarly powerful impact. Resources such as construction materials can often seem lost amongst a mix of brightly coloured, gleaming plastic storage. It may be that you use coloured containers to support the maintaining of the environment for younger children; blue plastic trays in the water area, for example. If so, aim for a single colour in a given area and be consistent. Neutral, pale coloured containers alongside wood or woven baskets mean that the resources become the most eye catching and, therefore, seem more valued. Alongside this, the different shades, shapes, sizes, textures and patterns provided by basket storage create a depth of learning opportunities that uniformly sized coloured boxes can’t compete with.
Think about the sources of light within your setting too. How much variety and interest do the light sources in your setting provide? I’m constantly amazed by the lack of natural light let in to our learning environments. I’ve seen blinds that are constantly closed and even windows that have been painted over by practitioners. It’s very difficult to ignite fascination and curiosity under a strip light! Ever changing natural light, casting shadows and creating shimmering reflections on the wall near the water tray is very difficult to beat. Alongside this, consider how the use of light sources such as light trays, lamps and overhead projectors can add value, enhance experiences and offer new perspectives.
In order for all of this to work, you’ll need a consistent approach across your classroom or setting: one neutral area amidst the bright colours will just seem plain. You’ll have to trust me, as, at first, it might look plain and drab compared to the riot of colour that’s previously been in place. Stick with it though, and you’ll find that the children’s drawings, paintings and experiences will seem more full of life and vibrant than ever. What better way to celebrate what the children in your class do.
Find out more
Over the coming months we will be hosting webinars and releasing a series of free planning guides, blogs and podcasts as well as our National Briefing and Online Training Programme to update you on the latest updates and practical guidance on supporting your youngest children and those working with them. If you would like to stay informed please register your interest HERE
Our Northern Centre will be re-open from 24th August, where you will find a highly informative interactive environment to look around with ideas for your classroom, lots of display ideas and an exhibition of children’s work to inspire you – and an amazing Resource Shop with high quality, books, play resources and educational artefacts to buy. Due to the limited number of people allowed in the environments at once, we are taking bookings to enable us to adhere to covid guidance.
To arrange a visit to the Northern Centre please contact our team:
Phone: 44 (0) 1422 311314
Discover our Get Equipped Indoors 2019/20 brochure.