Designing Preschool Classrooms to Support Development

Research and Reflection
  • Carol Simon Weinstein


Many fields of study are concerned with children’s development or with the built environment. Only early childhood education, however, has focused attention on both of these topics. The concern with development was recently impressed upon me when I searched for a preschool for my 3-year-old daughter, Laura. Each school I visited thrust into my hands a written statement of its philosophy and objectives. Consider a small sample:
  • Our goal is to offer a well-balanced program for preschool-age children, which will enrich the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of each child.... We try to meet the individual needs of each child, while helping the child to develop self-confidence, self-esteem, a constructive approach toward learning, and a sense of curiosity and independence.

  • Our objectives—joy in learning, concentration, self-confidence, respect for others and the equipment, self-control and courtesy, coordination, intellectual growth.

  • Why your child should attend our school—

  • It helps him to mature emotionally: he is helped to overcome his shyness; he loses some of the fears and anxieties common to little people; he enjoys working and playing with other children; he acquires pleasure in his own accomplishments.

  • It helps him to mature socially: he learns to show consideration and respect for others, to give and to accept help from others, to participate and to lead in group activities, to accept responsibility.

  • It helps him to mature intellectually: he learns to express himself, to create in many ways, to use his initiative and imagination, to be alert to the world around him.

  • It helps him to mature physically: he develops better control of his large muscles; he improves his posture; he develops good health habits.


Preschool Child Early Childhood Education Free Play Social Play Nursery School 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acredolo, L. P. Frames of reference used by children for orientation in unfamiliar places. In G. Moore and R. Golledge (Eds.), Environmental knowing. Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson, and Ross, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. Arbuthnot, M. H., and Sutherland, Z. Children and books ( 5th ed. ). Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1977.Google Scholar
  3. Bem, S. L. The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1974, 42, 155–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bender, J. Large hollow blocks: Relationship of quantity to block building behaviors. Young Children, 1978, 33 (6), 17–23.Google Scholar
  5. Bereiter, C., and Engelmann, S. Teaching disadvantaged children in the preschool. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966.Google Scholar
  6. Berk, L. E. Effects of variations in the nursery school setting on environmental constraints and children’s modes of adaptation. Child Development, 1971, 42, 839–869.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bianchi, B. D., and Bakeman, R. Sex-typed affiliation preferences observed in preschoolers: Traditional and open school differences. Child Development, 1978, 49 (3), 910–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Briggs, D. Your child’s self-esteem. New York: Doubleday (Dolphin ), 1975.Google Scholar
  9. Busse, T. V., Ree, M., and Gutride, M. Environmentally enriched classrooms and the play behavior of Negro preschool children. Urban Education, 1970, 5 (2), 128–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Charlesworth, R., and Hartup, W. W. Positive social reinforcement in the nursery school peer group. Child Development, 1967, 38, 973–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christie, J. F., and Johnsen, E. P. The role of play in social-intellectual development, Review of Educational Research, 1983, 53 (1), 93–115.Google Scholar
  12. Cohen, D. J. Serving Preschool Children #3. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Human Development, Publication 74–1057, 1974.Google Scholar
  13. Coody, B. Using literature with young children. Dubuque, IA: Brown, 1973.Google Scholar
  14. Cowe, E. G. A study of kindergarten activities for language development. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1967.Google Scholar
  15. Cullinan, B. E. Books in the life of the young child. In B. E. Cullinan and C. Carmichael (Eds.), Literature and young children. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1977.Google Scholar
  16. Curtis, P., and Smith, R. A child’s exploration of space. School Review, 1974, 82 (4), 671–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dansky, J. L. Make-believe: A mediator of the relationship between play and associative fluency. Child Development, 1980, 51, 576–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dansky, J. L., and Silverman, I. W. Play: A general facilitator of associative fluency. Developmental Psychology, 1975, 11, 104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dawe, H. C. An analysis of 200 quarrels of preschool children. Child Development, 1934, 5, 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Day, D. E. Early childhood education: A human ecological approach. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1983.Google Scholar
  21. Day, D. E., and Sheehan, R. Elements of a better preschool. Young Children,1974, 30(1),4–14.Google Scholar
  22. DiLeo, J. C., Moely, B. E., and Sulzer, J. L. Frequency and modifiability of children’s preferences for sex-typed toys, games, and occupations. Child Study Journal, 1979, 9 (2), 141–160Google Scholar
  23. Doyle, P. H. The efficacy of the ecological model: A study of the impact of activity setting on the social behavior of preschool children. Doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University (DAI, Vol. 36, 2710-A), 1975.Google Scholar
  24. Eisenberg, N., Murray, E., and Hite, T. Children’s reasoning regarding sex-typed toy choices. Child Development, 1982, 53 (1), 81–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Elder, J. L., and Pederson, D. R. Preschool children’s use of objects in symbolic play. Child Development, 1978, 49 (2), 500–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Elias, H. (1981). Personal communication. Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey, 1981. Evans, E. D. Contemporary influences in early childhood education. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975.Google Scholar
  27. Evans, E. B., Shub, B., and Weinstein, M. Day care: How to plan, develop, and operate a day care center. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  28. Feeney, S., Christensen, D., and Moravcik, E. Who am I in the lives of children? Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill, 1983.Google Scholar
  29. Fein, G., and Clarke-Stewart, A. Day care in context. New York: John Wiley, 1973.Google Scholar
  30. Field, T. M. Preschool play: Effects of teacher/child ratios and organization of classroom space. Child Study Journal, 1980, 10 (3), 191–205.Google Scholar
  31. Fox, E. Assisting children’s language development. Reading Teacher, 1976, 29 (7), 666–670.Google Scholar
  32. Frasher, R. S., Nurss, J. R., and Brogan, D. R. Children’s toy preferences revisisted: Implications for early childhood education. Child Care Quarterly, 1980, 9 (1), 26–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Garvey, C. Some properties of social play. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1974, 20, 163–180.Google Scholar
  34. Garvey, C. Communicational controls in social play. In B. Sutton-Smith (Ed.), Play and learning. New York: Gardner Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  35. Golbeck, S. L. Spatial cognition as a function of environmental characteristics. In R. Cohen (Ed.), The development of spatial cognition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1985.Google Scholar
  36. Golbeck, S. L., Rand, M., and Soundy, C. Constructing a model of a large-scale space with the space in view: Effects of guidance and cognitive restructuring in preschoolers. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1986, 32, 187–203.Google Scholar
  37. Golomb, C., and Cornelius, C. B. Symbolic play and its cognitive significance. Developmental Psychology, 1977, 13 (3), 246–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Green, E. H. Group play and quarreling among preschool children. Child Development, 1933, 4, 302–307.Google Scholar
  39. Gump, P. V. School environments. In I. Altman and J. F. Wohlwill (Eds.), Children and the environment. New York: Plenum Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  40. Guthrie, K., and Hudson, L. M. Training conservation through symbolic play: A second look. Child Development, 1979, 50, 1269–1271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Halverson, L. E. The significance of motor development. In G. Engstrom (Ed.), The significance of the young child’s motor development. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1971.Google Scholar
  42. Halverson, L. E., Roberton, M. A., and Harper, C. J. Current research in motor development. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 1973, 6 (3), 56–69.Google Scholar
  43. Hartley, R. E., Frank, L. K., and Goldenson, R. M. Understanding children’s play. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952.Google Scholar
  44. Hendrickson, J. M., Strain, P. S., Tremblay, A., and Shores, R. E. Relationship between toy and material use and the occurrence of social interaction behaviors by normally developing preschool children. Psychology in the Schools, 1981, 18 (4), 500–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Herkowitz, J. The design and evaluation of playspaces for children. In M. V. Ridenour (Ed.), Motor development: Issues and applications (pp. 115–37 ). Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book Company, 1978.Google Scholar
  46. Hoffman, M. Nursery school rooms and their effect on children’s involvement. Graduate Research in Education and Related Disciplines, 1976, 8 (2), 54–87.Google Scholar
  47. Hohmann, M., Banet, B., Weikart, D. Young children in action—A manual for preschool educators. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  48. Houseman, J. An ecological study of interpersonal conflict among preschool children. Un-published doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University (DAI, 33, 6175-A), 1972.Google Scholar
  49. Huck, C. S. Children’s literature in the elementary school ( 3rd ed. ). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.Google Scholar
  50. Johnson, H. Children in the nursery school. New York: John Day, 1928.Google Scholar
  51. Johnson, M. W. The effect on behavior of variations in amount of play equipment. Child Development, 1935, 6, 56–68.Google Scholar
  52. Jones, E., and Prescott, E. Dimensions of teaching learning environments. II: Focus on day care. Pasadena, CA: Pacific Oaks College, 1978.Google Scholar
  53. Kamii, C. Evaluation of pupil learning in preschool education: Socioemotional, perceptual motor, and cognitive development. In B. S. Bloom, J. T. Hastings, and G. Madaus (Eds.), Handbook on formative and summative evaluation of student learning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.Google Scholar
  54. Kamii, C., and DeVries, R. Piaget for early education. In M. C. Day and R. K. Parker (Eds.), The preschool in action: Exploring early childhood programs. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1977.Google Scholar
  55. Karlsson, K. A., and Ellis, M. J. Height preferences of young children at play. Journal of Leisure Research, 1972, 4 (1), 33–42.Google Scholar
  56. Kinsman, C. A., and Berk, L. E. Joining the block and housekeeping areas: Changes in play and social behavior. Young Children, 1979, 35(1),66–75.Google Scholar
  57. Kohlberg, L. Early education: A cognitive development view. Child Development, 1968, 39, 1013–1062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kohlberg, L. Stage and sequence: The cognitive development approach to socialization. In D. A. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research (pp. 347–480 ). Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969.Google Scholar
  59. Kounin, J. S., and Sherman, L. W. School environments as behavior settings. Theory into Practice,1979, 18(3),145–151.Google Scholar
  60. Kritchevsky, S., and Prescott, E., with Walling, L. Planning environments for young children: Physical space. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1969. Marion, M. Guidance of young children, St. Louis: C. V. Mosby, 1981.Google Scholar
  61. Marshall, H. R. Relations between home experience and children’s use of language in play interactions with peers. Psychological Monographs, 1961, 75, 509.Google Scholar
  62. McCune-Nicolich, L., and Carroll, S. Development of symbolic play: Implications for the language specialist. Topics in Language Disorders, 1981, 2 (1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. McDowell, M. S. Frequency of choice of play materials by preschool children. Child Development, 1937, 8, 305–310.Google Scholar
  64. Montessori, M. The Montessori method. New York: Schocken, 1964.Google Scholar
  65. Moore, G. T., Cohen, U., Oertel, J., and van Ryzin, L. Designing environments for handicapped children. New York: Educational Facilities Laboratories, 1979.Google Scholar
  66. Moore, G. T., Lane, C. G., Hill, A. B., Cohen, U., and McGinty, T. Recommendations for child care centers. Milwaukee, WI: Center for Architecture and Urban Planning Research, University of Wisconsin, 1979.Google Scholar
  67. Morrow, L. M. Relationship between literature programs, library corner designs, and children’s use of literature. Journal of Educational Research, 1982, 83, 339–344.Google Scholar
  68. Morrow, L. M., and Weinstein, C. S. Increasing children’s literature through program and physical design changes. Elementary School Journal, 1982, 83(2),131–137.Google Scholar
  69. Morrow, L. M., and Weinstein, C. S. Encouraging voluntary reading: The impact of a literature program on children’s use of library centers. Reading Research Quarterly,1986, 21(3),330–346.Google Scholar
  70. Moyer, K. E., and Gilmer, B. H. Attention span for experimentally designed toys. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1955, 87, 187–201.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Murphy, L. B. Social behavior and child personality. New York: Columbia University Press, 1937.Google Scholar
  72. Murphy, G., Murphy, L. B., and Newcomb, T. M. Experimental social psychology (rev. ed.). New York: Harper, 1937.Google Scholar
  73. Nadelman, L. Sex identity in American children: Memory, knowledge and preference tests. Developmental Psychology, 1974, 10, 413–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nash, B. C. The effects of classroom spatial organization on four-and five-year old children’s learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology,1981, 51(2),144–155.Google Scholar
  75. Neill, S. R. St. J., and Denham, E. J. M. The effects of pre-school building design. Educational Research,1982, 24(2),107–111.Google Scholar
  76. Olds, A. R. Designing developmentally optimal classrooms for children with special needs. In. S. J. Meisels (Ed.), Special education and development: Perspectives on young children with special needs. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  77. Olszewski, P., and Fuson, K. C. Verbally expressed fantasy play of preschoolers as a function of toy structure. Developmental Psychology, 1982, 18 (1), 57–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Omwake, E. B. We know so much—we know so little. In G. Engstrom (Ed.), The significance of the young child’s motor development, Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1971.Google Scholar
  79. Osmon, F. L. Patterns for designing children’s centers. New York: Educational Facilities Laboratories, 1971.Google Scholar
  80. Parten, M. B. Social participation among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1932, 27, 243–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Pepler, D. J., and Ross, H. S. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 1981, 52 (4), 1202–1210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Pfluger, L. W., and Zola, J. M. A room planned by children. In G. J. Coates (Ed.), Alternative Learning Environments (pp. 75–79 ). Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, 1974.Google Scholar
  83. Phyfe-Perkins, E. Children’s behavior in preschool settings: A review of research concerning the influence of the physical environment. In L. G. Katz (Ed.), Current topics in early childhood education, Vol. 3. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Company, 1980.Google Scholar
  84. Phyfe-Perkins, E. The pre-school setting and children’s behavior: An environmental intervention. Journal of Man-Environment Relations, 1982, 1 (3), 10–29.Google Scholar
  85. Piaget, J. The language and thought of the child. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1926. Piaget, J. Play, dreams, and imitation, New York: W. W. Norton, 1962.Google Scholar
  86. Prescott, E., Jones, E., and Kritchevsky, S. Group day care as a child rearing environment: An observational study of day care programs. Pasadena, CA: Pacific Oaks College, 1967.Google Scholar
  87. Pulaski, M. A. S. Play as a function of toy structure and fantasy predisposition. Child Development, 1970, 41, 531–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Quilitch, H. R., and Risley, T. R. The effects of play materials on social play. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1973, 6 (4), 573–578.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Rohe, W. M., and Nuffer, E. L. The effects of density and partitioning on children’s behavior. Paper presented at the 85th meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA, 1977.Google Scholar
  90. Rosen, C. E. The effects of socio-dramatic play on problem-solving behavior among culturally disadvantaged preschool children. Child Development, 1974, 45, 920–927.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Rosenthal, B A L An ecological study of free play in the nursery school. Doctoral dissertation, Wayne State University, 1973.Google Scholar
  92. Rubin, K. H. The relationship of social play preference to role-taking skill in preschool children. Psychological Reports, 1976, 39, 823–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Rubin, K. H. The social and cognitive value of preschool toys and activities. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 1977, 9 (4), 382–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Rubin, K. H., and Maioni, T. L. Play preference and its relationship to egocentrism, popularity, and classification skills in preschoolers. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1975, 21, 171–179.Google Scholar
  95. Rubin, K. H., Maioni, T. L., and Hornung, M. Free play behaviors in middle-and lower-class preschoolers: Parten and Piaget revisited. Child Development, 1976, 47, 414–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Rubin, K. H., Watson, K. S., and Jambor, T. W. Free play behaviors in preschool and kindergarten children. Unpublished manuscript, University of Waterloo, 1976.Google Scholar
  97. Schickedanz, J. A. Structure and the learning limits in preschool classrooms. Paper presented at the National Conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children ( NAEYC ), Anaheim, CA, 1976.Google Scholar
  98. Scholtz, G. J., and Ellis, M. J. Repeated exposure to objects and peers in a play setting. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,1975, 19(3),448–455.Google Scholar
  99. Seefeldt, C. Teaching young children. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.Google Scholar
  100. Shapiro, E., and Biber, B. The education of young children: A developmental interaction approach. Teacher’s College Record, 1972, 74 (1), 55–79.Google Scholar
  101. Sheehan, A., and Abbott, M. S. A descriptive study of day care characteristics. Child Care Quarterly, 1979, 8 (3), 206–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Shure, M. B. Psychological ecology of a nursery school. Child Development, 1963, 34, 979–992.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  103. Smith, P. K., and Connolly, K. J. Social and aggressive behaviour in preschool children as a factor of crowding. Social Science Information, 1977, 16 (5), 601–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Smith, P. K., and Dutton, S. Play and training on direct and innovative problem-solving. Child Development, 1979, 50, 830–836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Smith, P. K., and Green, M. Aggressive behavior in English nurseries and play groups: Sex differences and response of adults. Child Development, 1975, 46, 211–214.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Stewig, J. W., and Sebesta, S. (Eds.). Using literature in the elementary classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1978.Google Scholar
  107. Sutfin, H. D. The effect on children’s behavior of a change in the physical design of a kindergarten classroom. Journal of Man—Environment Relations, 1982, 1 (3), 30–41.Google Scholar
  108. Teets, S. S. Play behaviors of preschool children in low-and high-quality space arrangements. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin (Dissertation Abstracts International, 1980, 40 (7-A), 3878 ).Google Scholar
  109. Van Alstyne, D. Play behavior and choice of play materials of preschool children. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932.Google Scholar
  110. Wallach, M. A., and Kogan, N. Modes of thinking in young children: A study of the creativity—intelligence distinction. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965.Google Scholar
  111. Weinstein, C. S. Modifying children’s behavior in an open classroom through changes in the physical design. American Educational Research Journal, 1977, 14, 242–262.Google Scholar
  112. Weinstein, C. S. Privacy-seeking behavior in an elementary classroom. Journal of Environmen-tal Psychology, 1982, 2, 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol Simon Weinstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationRutgers—The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations