Young children have a unique viewpoint of their worlds, which is greatly determined by their height. They are built low to the ground so they have a magnifying glass or close-up perspective. Conversely, adults have a binocular view. Because they are taller, they have a wide expanse viewpoint and are able to see far away. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between an adult’s binocular and a child’s magnifying glass viewpoint of an early childhood environment.
The image above on the right was taken from the adult’s height. Look closely. What do you see? Because of your height, you have a birds-eye view of the classroom. With binocular vision, you can see the various play areas around the playroom as well as the learning materials on the shelves. It is easy to see up and over to the back corners of the room—even to the door that opens to the outside world. Take special note of the book shelf that is located in the foreground of this image and marked by the white arrow.
Now closely examine the image directly above, which was taken at the same spot as the adult’s only this time, the picture was taken from a child’s height. Notice the difference. What does a child see from the magnifying glass viewpoint? The child sees the books on the bookcase and the baskets on the shelf. From this limited vantage point, the child cannot see any other play opportunities - just what is directly in front of him.
Improving children’s viewpoints
The classroom door is one of the most significant doors in a child’s life. The early childhood classroom entryway is where the notion of education and learning begins. Attitudes and ideas about school are formed by these first experiences children have away from their home environment. The classroom entryway is where motivation, encouragement, excitement, curiosity, friendships, and positive relationships begin. Because the classroom door plays such an important role in not only children’s attitudes but the process of transitioning from their outside world to your world, it is important to critically examine their view from the door. How can this be done?
Begin by standing in the middle of the entryway door. Take an adult’s wide-lens binocular view. Look straight ahead. Look to your left and then to your right. Take note of what you see. Now, crouch down to the height of the children in your classroom and assume a magnifying viewpoint. Repeat the process of looking straight ahead, to the left and then to the right. What are the differences in a binocular view compared to a magnifying view? Most likely, your viewpoint as a child is vastly different than an adult. However, the most important question in this process is: What exactly do you see at the child’s height?
If you see custodial objects such as garbage cans, cubbies, cots, changing tables, or brooms and dustpans, it’s time to change the view. If you see uninteresting objects such as table legs, chair legs, and more table legs, it’s time to improve children’s view.
Improving children’s view with a curiosity box
The bottom line is that children need a reason to want to come into the classroom. When teachers design and create enticing views from the entryway door, children are eager to enter and cross the classroom threshold. One idea for improving children’s views is to use a curiosity box.
Children love boxes and they especially enjoy lifting lids to find out what is beneath. A curiosity box is an invitation to come in, open the box, discover its contents, and actively engage with what’s inside. The goal of the curiosity box is to catch children’s attention and interest when entering the room.
Find interesting objects of beauty and wonder and place them inside a box. A simple cardboard box with flaps for closing is just clamouring to be opened. The curiosity box doesn’t have to be an ordinary cardboard box. It can be a bit more intriguing and doesn’t even have to be in the shape of a box. It can be a unique lidded basket or container.
The key to curiosity boxes (or baskets) is novelty. Objects that are novel to the children tend to consistently produce an increased interest with young children. The experience of holding and feeling a door handle, for example is a good lesson in novelty. Although most pre-school children have touched (and actually used) a door handle, few have experienced the handle without the actual door attached to it. Placing a doorknob or handle in the curiosity box for children to explore provides them with the opportunity to experience something novel.
Children are naturally curious and always enjoy surprises. Improve children’s view from the door by placing a curiosity box near the entryway to help children easily and effortlessly transition into the classroom.
About the author:
Sandra works to assure the miracle and magic of childhood through indoor and outdoor play space environments that are intentionally designed to connect young children to their early learning environments, communities, and neighbourhoods. Dr. Duncan is an international consultant, author of seven books focused on the environmental design of early childhood places, designer of two furniture collections called Sense of Place and Sense of Place for Wee Ones, and Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University. Sandra has designed and taught university courses on built early learning environments, collaborating with architects, interior designers, and educators to create extraordinary places and possibilities for children and students of all ages. Books and articles include:
- Inspiring Spaces for Young Children
- Rating Observation Scale for Inspiring Spaces
- Rethinking the Classroom Landscape: Creating Environments that Connect Young Children, Families, and Communities
- Through A Child’s Eyes: How Classroom Design Inspires Learning and Wonder
- Bringing the Outside In: Ideas for Creating Nature-Based Classroom Experiences for Young Children
- The Honeycomb Hypothesis: How Infants, Toddlers, and Two Year Olds Learn Through Nature Play (Available Spring, 2022)
- Designing Inspiring Environments for Infants, Toddlers, and Two Year Olds: Lessons from Nature (Available 2023)