Early Childhood Education and Care Spaces - Children’s Vision
EDUCAS Project aims to create Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) environments that support children’s development in a holistic way, taking into account the diverse perspectives of people involved in the process. So far, teachers and families have been asked about their experience, but what about children’s point of view? Which spaces do they prefer in ECEC environments? How do they perceive the spaces of their schools?
With these questions in mind, EDUCAS has recently carried out an investigation to find out about chidlren’s point of view. How did we do it? Through drawings! Given the age of the children, drawing is a privileged way to understand their point of view. 90 children, 3 to 6 years old from Belgium, Italy and Lithuania were asked to draw their favourite space of the school and were interviewed about their drawings, to get their perspective in depth.
Many interesting things emerged through children’s drawings. Below we are sharing the different elements the children have included in the drawings, showing how important they are for them.
- Majority of children (60%) drew playing spaces, both inside -47%- (pretend play corner, building corner…) and outside -53%- (slides, swings…), including some risky play activities (climbing the trees, biking fast, jumping on the wheels…)
Many children (15%) drew learning spaces (reading, writing, drawing…)
Some children (7%) represented spaces of transitions (corridors, entrance…)
Some children (4%) drew observation of nature (carrots growing, butterflies flying, hedgehogs walking…)
Some children (4%) drew spaces for rest and quiet (resting alone on a bench, cuddling smaller children…)
A few drawings were relating to spaces for “caring routines” (10%):
5 children represent the earing space
3 children represent the sleeping space
1 child represents the toilet space
In relation to the people represented in the drawings, 40% of the children drew one or more friends and 12% of the children drew their teachers and educators. About 10% of the children drew also families as mum, dad, brothers or sisters and grandparents, remembering moments shared with them in the schools (“the day when my daddy came at the circle time”, “the day when I ate a cake with my mum in the garden”…), showing pleasure in sharing school spaces with their family.
Concerning peer-relations, an interesting point was noticed: although 40% of the children represent friends in their drawings and talked about the pleasure of playing together, some of them expressed the need of not always being in a big group. In each of the three countries, at least one child expressed this need (drawing 1).
“I drew a day when we were only with two children in the classroom, and I could go with my teacher to the door to wait for the other children. I enjoyed that day a lot because there were few children and it was calm. There are usually too many children and it is noisy.”
Lore, 5 years old, Belgium
Children’s drawings about the Educare approach
In relation to Educare approach it was observed that educators and teachers were represented in both "Education" and "Care" attitudes. For example, for moments of “Education”, some children drew “teachers and children doing school work” or “teachers reading morning letters”, representing moments of “Education”, whereas for moments of “Care”, other children drew “teachers giving food to children” or “teacher reading fairy tales before a noon nap”.
Aspects related to “Care” also emerged when children drew themselves with the teachers. [Drawing 2] “playing together” or simply “staying together”, representing similar smiling expressions
”I drew the outdoor space, playground: slide, stairwell; fence, bird, oak, birch. There is our volunteer Ali from Turkey, he is playing outside with children.”
Julius, 6 years old, Lithuania
In some drawings explicit “Care” aspects emerged also in peer-relation, for example Bianca (5 years old, Italy) represented herself cuddling a little girl before sleeping [Drawing3].
“I drew me cuddling a little girl: this [the little white cloud] is the kiss I give her.”
Bianca, 5 years old, Italy
Observing the choice of children’s favourite spaces it is interesting to note that, even if the most represented spaces where the playrooms and the gardens/courtyards, more specific “Educational” and “Caring” spaces have been also represented: about 15% of the children drew places where they can write, draw or reading books and about 10% of the children drew eating-, sleeping- or toilet-spaces [Drawing 4].
“I drew myself in the toilet: I did pee and then I washed my hands.”
Jacopo, 4 years old, Italy
The choice of some children to represent the “Caring” spaces as their favourites indicates that these spaces could be meaningful and important for their growth. Although these spaces are often seen as less important than more specific “Educational” spaces in ECEC centers, they represent the setting for important learning experiences about oneself, the world and relationships. Therefore these spaces would deserve attention from educators and teachers of the ECEC centers.
Concluding remarks from the investigation
EDUCAS exploration of children’s point of view allows to get closer to their perception of space. Children have shown to have specific preferences about their school environment and to be able to explain their reasons.
Children also have ideas what should exist in their schools and it is missing now.
Alice (5 years old, Italy) said: “I would like a room only for resting, not for sleeping… Someone reads a book and you listen and in the meantime maybe you fall asleep a little”.
Ilian (6 years old, Belgium) asked for “A piece of land on which I can build, with a lot of children, real houses with cement and bricks”.
Rasa (5 years old, Lithuania) said she wished she had “More time to draw”… Maybe she enjoyed EDUCAS research!
All the main spaces of the ECEC centers have been represented, even if a notable preference for the garden and outdoor spaces emerged. Friends are the most represented people, indicating that ECEC centers are important spaces to experience and enjoy peer relationships. The presence of families within the ECEC centers seems to be highly appreciated by children, especially by the youngest. Educators and teachers also have a very important role and are always represented with a positive meaning in the drawings, both in "Education" and "Care" attitudes.
The EDUCAS project will continue its path taking into consideration these important inputs emerging from the exploration of the point of view of children, in order to create ECEC environments that respond to the real needs of those who live them daily.
Author: Sara Berti, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Cultural Industries, University of Parma