The following information and personal opinions regardingphysical environments and community development are provided by:Gloria Chui, Lauri Paul and Brenda Tilk

Physical Environments

Getting Started
Everything you need to know about Childcare Facility Licensing.
On this site there are updates, newsletters, forms, safety checklists, regulations, resources and related links regarding child care operations in British Columbia. A seasonal newsletter covers health and wellness related issues and concerns as well as providing ideas for creating spaces that that are healthy, safe and fun. Checkout this spring 2009 newletter for inpiration on setting up an outdoor environment that inspire children's sense of wonder.

Child Care Licensing Regulation
All early childhood educators should be familiar with the Community Care and Assisted Living Act Child Care Licensing Regulation as it pertains to the requirements for both indoor and outdoor spaces at child care facilities.

Quality by Design: Child care centre physical environments.
An article and research project by the Childcare Resource and Research Unit of the University of Toronto. In this article, Beach and Friendly discuss the different physical environment requirement of the different provinces/territories in Canada. Some provinces/territories have detailed regulations and requirements while others have fewer specifications. The authors also suggest that while the environment should be suitable, accessible, and appropriate to children, it should also be sensible for the educators who work in the classroom. Beach and Friendly pointed out that most provinces/territories with the exception of the City of Vancouver, provide in their requirement and procedures little or no information about good design considerations. What I like most about this article is that Beach and Friendly break down the different requirements, such as outdoor space, indoor space, fencing and closure, resting requirements etc. and created tables and compared the specifications and requirements from the different provinces/territories.

Beach, J. & Friendly, M. (2005). Child care centre physical environments. Retrieved from:

Preparing to Plan for Outdoor Areas
Via Teacher Tom
Director of Licensing Standards of Practice Safe Play Space – is a detail list of standards for administrators to follow when planning and designing a play space (mainly outdoors) for the children. These standards include play space design, education and injury prevention for both teachers and children, supervision of play spaces, materials and equipment, ground surfacing, maintenance of equipment, shared spaces and additional equipment.

“A safe and well-planned play space creates an appropriate balance between safety and meeting children’s developmental needs. It should offer activities to encourage the development of perception and physical skills and include opportunities for social, physical, and cognitive forms of play” (BC Ministry of Health).

Outdoor Play Area Standards Manual for Centre-based Child Care in Newfoundland and Labrador – is a manual of theNewfoundland andLabrador provincial requirement and standard of the design, equipment and maintenance of child care outdoor play area. These standards are intended to guide child care provider to create a safe, secure and appropriate outdoor space for children that would provide opportunities for social, cognitive, physical and emotional development. This document focus solely on the outdoor space of a child care centre and it provide a wide range and detail requirements of the outdoor area of a child care centre. The manual also provides information to child care provider about designing and equipping an outdoor space (pg. 19), planning outdoor play program (pg. 22), the role of the ECE during outdoor play (pg. 23), and what can children do on your playground (pg. 24) and also health and safety information (pg. 27) about outdoor play. It also has tables of tested materials that could be used for the outdoor area and a list of forms for providers to use as a check list for maintenance and repairs.

BC Ministry of Health. (2007). Director of Licensing Standards of Practice Safe Play Space.Victoria: Ministry of Health.

N.L. Department of Health and Community Services. (2006). Outdoor Play Area Standard Manuel for Centre-Based Child Care.St. John's: Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Understanding the Value of the Outdoors
Children & Nature Network*
Nancy Rosenow, in a 2011 article in Child Care Exchange, entitled Planning Intentionally for Children's Outdoor Environments: The Gift of Change, discusses the importance of the outdoor environment for young children. In it she references Richard Louv's book Last child in the woods: Saving our children from naturedeficit disorder (2005) which has been a book choice in course EDUC350 and according to many students is well worth reading.

Also referenced is Rosenow's collaborative work entitled
Learning with nature idea book: Creating nurturing outdoor spaces for children (2007) which was produced with the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation (DERF) and provides educators with guiding principles and ideas to add nature exploration to both our indoor and outdoor play spaces. The corresponding DVD may be a uesful resource when trying to elicit funds from board run centres and/or fund raising initiatives to support the development of an outdoor classroom. A key program of ADF and DERF is Nature Explore which is based on extensive, research-based initiatives and whose goal is "to help children and families develop a profound engagement with the natural world, where nature is an integral, joyful part of children’s daily learning". Also available through Nature Explore are a number of workshops to help "reconnect young children with nature" and although they are currently offered only in the United States there is one in Tacoma, Washington on April 28, 2012 for those interested; additionally the website is updated regularly with ongoing workshop opportunities regarding the importance of outdoor play for young children.

Rosenow reminds the reader that in this electronic age we need to “encourage educators to embrace the idea of the outdoor classroom as a place for daily learning and discovery” (Rosenow, 2011, p.47) and recognize that “the most wonderfully designed natural outdoor classroom will only be as effective for children as the adults who explore it with them. . . . Educators and families who encourage children to master new challenges, develop increasingly complex skills, and closely observe and appreciate the natural world will give children gifts that will last for a lifetime” (Wike, 2007 as cited in Rosenow, 2011).

Here are a few steps, from Rosenow's 2011 article of what educators can do to enhance children’s learning from and with the outdoors.
  • work to ensure that every outdoor environment used by children will become a nature-filled, joyful space.
  • help children truly notice and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.
  • create and use outdoor spaces in ways that are right for each unique setting.
  • encourage children to experience managed risk and challenge.
  • spread the word that children learn in valuable ways in nature-filled outdoor spaces just as much as they do indoors.

Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation (n.d.). What is the nature explore program? Retrieved from:

Nature Explore (n.d.) Learning with nature idea book and DVD. Retrieved from:

Rosenow, N. (2011). Planning intentionally for children’s outdoor environments: the gift of change. Child Care Exchange, 4, 46-49

Designing Indoor and Outdoor Environments
The White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group – a design and development company in the United States that provides design and development services for children’s learning and play environments and facilities. The website contains articles, tips, plans etc. about childcare learning environments and designs. Some of these articles include, “Green Child Care Design”, “Top 10 Mistakes Made in Design of Child Care Centers”, “Creating Playground Kids Love”, and “Gardening with Children: My Summers at Beanstalk Children’s Garden”.

from the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group

“Designing a high quality, developmentally and culturally appropriate environment for children, whether for learning or for play, is a highly complex, specialized and unique skill. The physical environment, including its ambiance, layout, acoustics, lighting, equipment and furnishings has a profound impact on children's learning and behavior. We understand the importance of having the design of the entire environment, including the building, equipment and outdoors, assist and support, rather than impede, both children's development and learning and staff's abilities to meet children's needs” (White HutchinsonLeisure & Learning Group).
Retrieved from:

Exploring the Outdoors

Nancy Rosenow has also written an excellent free article suitable for both parents and educators entitled Teaching and Learning about the Natural World which discusses the impact of outdoor play on children’s development. She makes a thought provoking statement that “young children are growing up more familiar with wireless BlackBerrys than wild blackberries” which, as educators who are still considering the benefits of technology for young children, is a frightening concept. Further in the article Rosenow references the World Forum Foundation which hosted a wonderful initiative, World Mud Day on June 29, 2011. I encourage you to view the video posted below and then consider starting your own ‘Mud Day’ at your centre – just let the families know in advance! The article ends reminding the reader that enjoying the environment is common to everyone worldwide, but that stewardship is necessary to preserve all that nature has to offer. A fantastic list of easy-to-do outdoor explorations rounds out the article which includes starting a flower or vegetable planter, an 'up close and personal' exploration of the weather and instilling in children a love of the earth through hands-on experiences. This would be a fabulous article to add to your parent board, copy and distribute to families or attach a link to your child care centre's website.

Rosenow, N. (January 2008). Teaching and learning about the natural world: Learning to love the earth . . . and each other. NAEYC Beyond the Journal - Young Children on the Web. Retrieved from:

World Forum Foundation (June 13, 2011). It’s okay to get dirty. Retrieved from:

Environments Build Relationships
"the importance of 'place' as more than a location - 'place' is where relationships between people and things coalesce
to produce new possibilities and new meanings" (Duhn, 2010, p.55)

Within early childhood education frequently articles, textbooks and instructors teach about the importance of the environment for both children and educators; but what about families? What impression does your child care centre convey to families? How many child care centres have music playing as children and families enter the centre at the beginning of the day? We all know that music can set a specific mood but do we also realize the extent to which it can strengthen a relationship and provide comfort to parents who are anxious about leaving their child? Margie Carter, in her Child Care Exchange article, Creating environments for relationships, reminds the reader of Tom Hunter's song "We Been Waiting for You"and how the lyrics help relationships to grow. If you don't know the artist or the song, I have included a link so that you can preview this specific song but then encourage all educators to purchase a copy of the CD, pictured below, by the same name. It will put a smile of your face and will soon become a centre favourite!


"We've been waiting for you" song sample.

In her article, Carter reiterates how “[we] must create environments for relationships to grow. When there are respectful, caring relationships between all the parties — teachers, the children and their families, and among the children themselves — everyone has a sense of belonging and a foundation to be a confident learner” (Carter, 2009, p.32). She also provides useful information on how administrators and educators can re-think the paperwork currently required and offer familes "a ‘welcome kit’ with items that suggest we want you to feel at home here”. Possiblilities might include:
  • a center t-shirt, mug, or backpack
  • a homemade book with favorite center songs or recipes
  • a center calendar with photos of seasonal center activities and important dates to remember
  • a directory of center families and staff with photos and brief statements of special interests
  • perhaps blank labels to personalize for the child’s cubby, nap cots, and other personal items.
(Carter, 2011, pp.32-33)

Carter goes on to outline the benefits of home visits, suggestions on making the sign-in area a space that signifies caring to families, the various uses of technology to support relationship building, using photo stories to connect families with children and vice versa. This article is definately worth the time to read as the message is clear; the environment that we create tells families how we will respect, care for and educate their child while they are away.

Carter, M. (2009). Creating environments for relationships. Child Care Exchange, 4, 32-35.

Duhn, I. (2010). The centre is my business’: neo-liberal politics, privatisation and discourses of professionalism in New Zealand. Contemporary Issue in Early Childhood, 11(1), 49-60. Retrieved from:

Hunter, T., Leeman, M., & Bos, B. (2008). “We’ve Been Waiting For You” CD. Available from Song Growing Company:

Community Development

Building Trust Between Educators and Families

Encourage families to make the Vancouver Coastal Health website a favourite on their computer. The site offers links to Community Care & Licensing Officers, Health Nurses, Vision Screening programs, Nutritionists, Speech and Language Pathologists and more. Information is easily accessable and ready to offer helpful advise, resources and referrals that support the health and well being of infants and children. By suggesting this website families will quickly realize that you are devoted to transparency in your chid care facilitiy which will further enhance the bonds of trust and respect.

Supporting our Local Communities
WonderWheels - full of imagination and adventure

New Initiatives impress the education minister

This article was in the local Coast Reporter outlining two of the new StrongStart early learning initiatives on the Sunshine Coast which includes:
Tiny Town- a child sized town built inside of a classroom. There is a house, barn, restaurant, grocery store, post office and even part of a ferry with the backdrop photo of Howe Sound. Sure to be a favourite for dramatic play time with friends!

WonderWheels- this bus that has been converted into a fun play space, including a comfortable area for stories and songs. The bus makes its way up and down the coast reaching families in more isolated areas.

A third program housed in the Sechelt Learning Centre is SPARK which supports parents and families in raising their children by providing an opportunity to attend an informative class three times a year, beginning at birth until their child enters Kindergarten.

Relationships within the Community
Intergenerational connectionsis a great website that provides ideas and opportunities for connections across the generations. This non-profit society began in 2008 and has the research and resources to help educators implement intergenerational progams and learning opportunties in your community. Activities typically involve the sharing of skills, knowledge, or experience between young and old.

Intergenerational projects have considerable benefits that include:
• strengthening communities to become more age-friendly by breaking down barriers between ages and stereotypes by one age group toward another
• promoting understanding, respect, and sharing of ideas, knowledge, and experience
• teaching the young about aging while teaching the aged about youth
• establishing relationships to help protect older people from the damaging mental and physical health effects of aging and stressful life events
• nurturing careers in health care and a lifelong commitment to volunteerism among youth
• improving health outcomes and quality-of-life for the elderly
• building self-esteem and satisfaction for both age groups through the learning of new skills

I suggest that you check out the program Toolkit to get you started.

Consider trying the memory box project idea, from George Derby Centre in Burnaby, in your facility which creates a visual collage for each resident with help from their family and friends. The collage is then placed inside a handcrafted box outside the residents' room and acts as an intergenerational conversation piece for residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends. This could certainly work at a child care centre to encourage communication and foster a sense of community.

BC Care Providers Association. (February 2009). Creating caring communities - A guide to establishing intergenerational programs for schools, care facilities and community groups. Retrieved from:

Bringing the Community In and Taking Child Care Out
Intergenerational Playgroups,
Connect with local libraries
and invite your local children's librarian to come out and have storytime or combine with the library to do special literacy events. Consider a collaboration between your local library and your childcare center to create a Storywalk to celebrate literacy while exploring the outdoors. Wouldn't the children in your centre be thrilled to take a walk through the forest or park following the pages of a children's story along the path?


Community Service Clubs, such as Rotary or Lions Club may be able to provide funding to support projects, renovations or other capital ventures.
The following is an example of a community partnership:School District no. 46 and the Lions Club bring the Imagination Library to Children. A program that delivers free books monthly to children under five.

HUB Model
In considering the various aspects of the HUB model, as it relates to early childhood care and education, there is no exact definition or criteria despite the numerous references researched. However, HUB typically refers to a coordinated comprehensive range of child development services including early childhood education, child care services and parenting/caregiver services where programs are housed under one roof and/or are in multiple locations and are linked together. These services and programs are usually in response to local needs and visions. The child care HUB model has been deemed as highly effective for communities, both urban and rural, since it provides a wide variety of child care options throughout the community and contributes to the need for diversity and flexibility required by families, all while supporting a child’s healthy development. Ideally the HUB model encompasses not only child care services, but also family support programs and recreation services. Within this model child care services may include licensed group and family child care, licensed preschool, parenting programs, supports to informal child care providers and stay at home parents, including drop-in programs, play groups and child minding. The HUB model would provide one point of contact for families from birth through school age unlike the current scrambleto find and secure adequate, appropriate and affordable child care. For a visual representation of the HUB model we can examine the concept of Early Years Centres (EYC) Networks as discussed in The Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning. Two visual models of EYC Networks are located below from pages 16 - 17 of the Plan for your consideration.
In recent years the BC Ministry of Education has identified sites throughout the Province to be developed as neighbourhood learning centres, however, in spite of the current decline in the economy these sites have yet to receive the funding necessary to complete these projects. Alternatively, a current successful example of the HUB model ideology is the vision screening program which is now available for all three year olds enrolled in facilities despite the disjointed child care system in British Columbia.

B.C. Ministry of Education. (2009). Expanding early learning in British Columbia for children age three to five. Victoria: Early Childhood Learning Agency. Retrieved from:

B.C. Ministry of Education. (2010). 2010/11 – 2012/13 Service plan. Victoria: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from:

Carlson, C. (2005). Models of child development hubs outside of Vancouver. Vancouver: Social planning department. Retrieved from:

Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC & Early Childhood Educators of BC. (2011). Community plan for a public system of integrated early care and learning. (2nd ed.). Retrieved from:

Spannier, T. (2011, November). Revelstroke early childhood development strategic plan. Revelstoke: Revelstoke early childhood development committee. Retrieved from: