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Environment is the third teacher

An important part of play for your child is their environment.

The environment where play and learning happen for a child plays an important role in their development.

Environment - as defined as time, space, materials, and participation - impacts your child learning and involvement in the community around them.

Environment is a child’s third teacher with you being the first and most important teacher in your child’s life.

The environment as a child’s third teacher considers elements of time (how much a child spends exploring/playing in it), space (how conducive it is for play/learning), materials (the variety of safe materials available to explore with), and the involvement or participation of caregivers in the space.

Setting up an interesting and engaging environment for your child helps to spark their curiosity and invokes participation. 

“The environment is not a substitute for you; rather, the environment is a reflection of who you are in relationship with the children—as mighty learners and citizens—and their families,” says Mary Ann Biermeier, in her article “Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Emergent Curriculum in Relationship-Driven Learning Environments”.

What is your child excited about and how can you incorporate it into their play?

Do they like to climb or play with water or does your child like dinosaurs? It can be going for a dinosaur hunt at the park to look for fossils or pretending to walk or fly like different dinosaurs.

What can you do to enhance your child’s play space base on their interest? It can look like moving items and furniture around, so the space encourages the child in their interest and play. For example, using cushions or chairs to make a fort for children to play in.

Creating inviting play spaces doesn’t mean buying more toys but looking around and seeing what you have or can adapt in the space to encourage your child’s interest.

Is your child’s environment meeting their different needs? Are they given enough time to explore it? If your child struggles with regulation, do you have a calm space to support them in regulating their emotions. If they like building, does the space give them enough room to build?

Read more about objects you can use to inspire creative thinking here.


Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., & Thomas, N. (2014). Flight: Alberta’s early learning and care framework. Retrieved from


At Norwood Centre our team of qualified Early Childhood Development Subject Matter Experts work to provide tools that caregivers can use to support early childhood development. We hear you! If you have a question or concern, please ask us. We have a variety of Child Development Activities available on our website, find them at For short-term one-on-one coaching, please call us at 780-471-3737.


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