What is a Communication Friendly Environment?
A Communication Friendly Environment is a space that encourages and promotes good communication. This approach focuses on the role of the environment in supporting speaking and listening skills, emotional well-being, physical development and general engagement. The environment in which a child learns can be an important factor in supporting their communication and language development.
Here are ten top tips in creating a Communication Friendly Environment
It is important to consider the layout of the area when creating a Communication Friendly space. The area should offer the opportunity for individual play and group play. Does it offer small cosy areas that children can use to escape others and think alone?
Lighting is another important factor, as it can affect a child’s mood and behaviour. Brightly lit rooms can be distracting for children and does not allow the child to feel cosy and calm, compared to allowing natural light in. Can your space offer darker areas of the room? Fairy lights inside dens or tents are a great way to alter lighting and create a soft lighting area for children to relax and reflect.
Children need space to be able to communicate effectively with others. If they are too cramped or not given adequate space they can become frustrated and feel overwhelmed. It is similar for adults, we tend to feel much more comfortable communicating with a person if we are given some personal space. Does the environment offer children enough space?
Ensuring children are given choices to make independently fuels their communication skills. They feel in control of their play and are more likely to comment on what they are doing. Limiting the choices can support children further, as too many options may cause the children to get confused, overwhelmed and lose interest quickly. Resources should be offered in small quantities, but with lots of opportunity for choice. Offering two or three shells rather than a large box makes them look more appealing and manageable.
Noise is a very important factor in creating a communication friendly environment. Children need to acquire sound attention and listening skills in order to communicate effectively. Environments where sound travels or creates an echo can be disrupting to a child’s communication. Creating spaces where sound can be absorbed or children can access some quiet time is vital in supporting their communication development. Can you create a quiet area within your space?
Visual aids for a child who is finding communication difficult are vital. Communication in Print cards or widgets can allow a child who has limited communication skills to share their thoughts and feelings with others. These should be accessible to the child at all times and used in the routine to ensure the child fully understands what is happening. Is the child able to use these to communicate effectively with staff and children?
Children can be easily distracted and lots of visual distraction can impact on their communication skills. Displays should be minimalistic with plain or neutral coloured backgrounds as this allows the children to focus on the work that is displayed. Hanging things from the ceiling should only be done in specific areas and there should be areas free from clutter. Children who are distracted by their surrounding will be unable to keep their attention or use their listening skills effectively.
Clear and Consistent Routines
Routines are a big part of offering a communication friendly environment as it allows the children to feel calm and in control.Visual routines are a great way to ensure the children are aware what will be happening next, enabling them to communicate freely and not be distracted by unannounced changes.
The adults plays a vital role in providing communication friendly spaces. The practitioners should offer the opportunity for communication but also know when to stand back and observe. Children need the chance to approach situations without the pressure of communication, they may wish to observe play before getting involved. Giving the child space to observe and think is just as important as communicating and using language.
The environment should create opportunities for communication. Interactive areas are a great way for children to extend their play and use problem solving skills and work as a team to come to a solution. Children should also have the opportunity to direct their own play and create scenarios that they have experienced before. This type of play encourages good communication and language building skills.