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Responsive Learning Environments
March 9, 2023
Spaces do more than speak – they load our bodies and minds with sensory information.
-Jim Greenman, Caring Spaces, Learning Places

In Caring Spaces, Learning Places, Jim Greenman reminds us, “The physical and social environment plays a major role in our social and psychological lives, influencing the stress we experience in accomplishing personal and group goals, the form and nature of our social contacts, and our feelings of identity and self-worth.”

Head Start’s Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center offers a helpful, reflective brief on responsive learning environments, “the nurturing spaces that support children’s development…childcare centers, the home, outdoor spaces, classrooms, and other areas a child visits each day [and] the schedules and materials in these spaces.”

The brief offers research, descriptions and these valuable suggestions:

  • Ask families how to make your learning spaces feel welcoming, calm, and soothing to their child. What do their children need to feel engaged and ready to learn?
  • Respect and incorporate families’ cultures into the systems and services provided. Learning from families is a great place to start! One way to learn about a family’s culture and values is to focus on their caregiving routines such as mealtimes and sleep.
  • Cruise around at the eye level of the children you work with. Take stock of what they see: are there any adjustments you’d like to make?
  • Create an “environment of yes” where everything children can access is safe and acceptable for them to explore. Work with families to do the same.
  • Encourage physical movement throughout the day…Home visitors can help families create safe physical challenges in their home.
  • Think like a scientist! Continue to observe children in your learning spaces. Make adjustments as children grow and change over time.


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