Create a Developmentally Appropriate Learning Space for a Daycare

Creating a Developmentally Appropriate Learning Space

Deciding to create a developmentally appropriate learning space for your home daycare will enhance the quality of care you provide beyond the minimum state licensing standard. The most effective way to improve the quality of care is to ensure that each age group\’s experience in your childcare program directly impacts their development. The best way to achieve this is to (1) promote acceptance of diversity, (2) actively facilitate free play indoors and outdoors throughout the day (3) consider how much space the children will be allowed to use while in your home (4) Make sure it\’s enough space for play materials and children\’s furniture (5) provide age-appropriate items for each age group to meet their different abilities and needs. Last, explore the recommended daycare materials for learning through play provided below.

Promote Diversity

You must have an awareness of diversity in your own culture to see and understand how the cultures of children and their families influence children\’s behavior. It builds children\’s self-confidence and increases children\’s awareness, appreciation, and inclusion of diverse beliefs and cultures. Some recommendations include:


Arrange children\’s furniture in a way that permits easy supervision of children, and it should not be in a high-traffic area. Ensure there are enough tables and chairs for each child and adult to eat, do activities and interact with one another. Each child should have a separate space to sleep and store belongings, such as sleeping mats or a cubicle. Some recommendation include:

Relaxation & Comfort

It is important to provide relaxation and comfort within your childcare program. To meet this standard, you should provide a minimum of 10 soft toys, and there should always be two soft toys for each child to play with in your childcare program. For example, if you only have one child enrolled in your program, you should have ten soft toys, but if you have six children enrolled in your program, you should have 12 soft toys. Soft toys include hand puppets, and stuffed animals. Other items to provide relaxation include area rugs, pillows, and soft foam blocks. Some recommendations include:


Books help children develop basic language skills and build a bond between the provider and child. Be sure to include twelve age-appropriate books for children enrolled in your childcare program. Your program should have a wide selection that includes different cultures, ages, genders, abilities, animals, familiar experiences, fiction, and non-fiction. Some recommendations include:

Fine Motor

Include fine motor items in your childcare program to promote growth and development. Fine motor skills involve the use of the small muscles that control the hand, fingers, and thumb. They help children perform important tasks like writing, holding a crayon, drawing, feeding themselves, grasping toys, buttoning and zipping clothes. Items you can include in your program daily include:

  • Art such as different drawing materials, paints, 3-D, collages and tools (crayons, paper, markers and pencils) to helps foster a positive culture in a group setting. Art is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. It can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. Create an area where children can participant in art activities such as painting. Display children’s artwork to make children feel welcomed.
  • Small building toys such as puzzles, blocks, legos, pegboards, and Mr. Potatoe Head. Provide two different sets of 6 or more blocks for toddlers. These blocks should be cardboard blocks or wooden blocks. It would help if you also had two different sets of 30 or more blocks for preschool and older children. These blocks should be plastic and wooden.
  • Sand and water play offers children many opportunities to use and develop their fine motor skills and provides important opportunities for children to practice cooperative play and sharing.
Music and Movement

Music and movement help the body and the mind work together. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words, and dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. Include music and movement into your daily schedule in your childcare program. Provide a minimum of 10 music materials, and ensure you have 3 for each age group enrolled in your childcare program. Some recommendations include:

Dramatic Play

Dramatic play allows you to support children and encourage their ideas, teaches conflict resolution, gives children an emotional outlet, and teaches self-regulation. When children engage in pretend (or dramatic) play, they are actively experimenting with life\’s social and emotional roles. Be sure to include materials such as dolls (different races and genders), dress-up clothes, child-size house furniture, cooking/eating props, toy telephones, diverse food menus, etc. Some recommendations include:

Math & Numbers

Math is an important part of learning for children in the early years because it provides vital life skills. It will help children problem solve and develop their mathematical thinking. Include numbers and counting activities in your program to encourage this skill. Provide a variety of math materials that represent numbers and shapes, such as toy clocks, shape sorters, number puzzles, etc. Make sure you have a minimum of 5 for each age group. Some recommendations include:

Nature & Science

Nature and science provide children with discovery, creativity, problem-solving, and STEM education opportunities. Interacting with natural environments allows children to learn by doing, experiment with ideas, ask questions, and make hypotheses. Be sure to include STEM in your childcare program. Provide daily experiences with living plants or animals indoor and outdoor. Have a representation of collections of natural things, living things, nature/science tools, pictures, games, toys, etc. Some recommendations include:

Active and Physical Play

Physical play encourages health and well-being. It helps to develop good habits and an active lifestyle. In addition, it helps build motor skills with larger muscles such as the legs and arms. Make sure all play items are age appropriate. Some recommendations include:

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