EYFS blog 4: Emotional environments

An enabling environment is more than simply a physical space, it is also made up of the emotions of the people in the environment – the children, the people who work in the setting and the parents of the children who attend.

Emotional environments reflect the relationships of those within them, and how those in the setting talk to each other, how they behave, how they treat others and how inclusive it feels.

The emotional environment of your early years setting is contributed to by all the people in the setting and it is important to make sure that the atmosphere created is one that is warm and accepting. Adults in the setting should support children to express and cope with their different emotions safely by being empathetic and understanding – children will find that emotions expressed in a safe and accepting environment are easier to deal with and understand than those that are left unresolved. Children should be able to feel accepted, confident and valued.

  • It is important for early years professionals to understand that some children might need extra support with their emotions – how to express them and how to come to terms with them.
  • You could create an ‘about me’ sheet for each child that includes more than the basic information; ensure all staff that come into contact with the child have access to this information.
  • Make sure your setting is inclusive and valuing all children by embracing all cultures, languages, ethnicity, religions and special needs and disabilities.
  • Make sure children are welcomed into the setting using their name and with warmth and familiarity – always with a smile! 
  • Encourage parents to stay and play a while to aid the transition from home to the early years setting (this can also help to reassure children when they observe the relationship between a parent and their key worker).
  • Offer open days and allow parents to visit the setting with their child/children – in particular before the child starts and/or moves from one room/group to another, but also at intervals throughout their stay.
  • Make sure all staff and practitioners within the setting understand that their approach needs to be a positive one where they show empathy, display and encourage consideration of their own feelings and of those around them.
  • Ensure your setting has a clear behavior policy and that all staff understand the policy – try to focus more on the behaviors, attitudes and values that are important rather than extensive lists of rules.

A good emotional environment will help children create more positive relationships with staff and other children.