Environments – recommended books

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Fascination Series – set of 4 books

Dr. Claire Warden

This series provides an insight into the knowledge you require to facilitate learning occurring in outdoor environments, taking the natural elements as a guide. Each book in the series acts as a practical guide to using a resource.


Design, Build, Play – Respectful Learning Spaces in Early Childhood Education

Robin Christie

This beautifully-produced book has been written specifically to empower learning communities to create change in their learning spaces. Combining over-arching design principles with technical advice, and informed by the very latest research on human development, this lavishly illustrated book is the distillation of twenty-five years of designing and building early childhood education learning spaces.

Join teacher and designer Robin Christie for an adventure through both indoor and outdoor environments that celebrate children’s agency, curiosity and creativity, and connection with the natural world.

Just Imagine! Creative Play Experiences for Children under Six

Sue Crook & Betty Farmer

The creative play experience is vital for the stimulation of children’s imagination. It offers opportunities for children to learn, express themselves and interact with others. Sue Crook and Betty Farmer offer insights into developing children’s environmental awareness as well as ideas for settings and suggestions for props.

This book is filled with ideas for making the most of play spaces, using resources that are inexpensive, recycled or probably lying around in storerooms. The emphasis is on creating natural and engaging spaces using open ended resources and moving away from plastic toys.

Designs for Living and Learning

Deb Curtis & Margie Carter

This must have book offers many fantastic and inspiring ideas and reasons for creating great spaces for living and learning in early childhood education settings. This books contains hundreds of coloured photographs and possibilities for team discussion, review and transformation of the setting environment.

Young Children and the Environment. Early Education for Sustainability

Julie M. Davis (Ed.)

Whilst this book is more of a ‘text-book’, anyone who has an interest in the environment and sustainable practices will find it invaluable. There is a wealth of practical information, case studies, reflective questions and provocations here for teachers. “Specific chapters explore ethical challenges and the use of information technology to advance learning. ‘Provocations’ are integrated throughout to inspire new ways of thinking about the environment, the wider world, young children and the transformative power of early education.”

More than just an ‘ideas’ book, this is an in-depth and thorough book about sustainability and change.

Inspiring Spaces for Young Children

Jessica Deviney, Sandra Duncan, Sara Harris, Mary Ann Rody and Lois Rosenberry

This beautiful book is what we might call a ‘coffee table book’ for early childhood setting staffroom tables. Placed on a table for flicking through or reading it will inspire and provoke our thinking and action.

This book challenges us to think past just providing ‘areas of play’ or table top activities into creating a learning and teaching space that makes us all feel valued and loved. It suports teachers in creating a learning environment that potentiates and strengthens learning muscles, such as curiosity, courage, trust and playfulness, enquiry, persisting, expressing, kindess, and empathy. Learning muscles that we treasure, foster and cherish in the spirit of the Principles and Strands of Te Whāriki.

The Outdoor Playspace Naturally: For Children Birth to Five Years

Sue Elliott

For anyone wanting to build or re-design an outdoor playspace this book is a must. Many aspects of what is important for young children when playing outdoors are investigated. Coloured photos display ideas for inclusion, access and participation and help to inspire ideas to create exciting and diverse playspaces. Ideas for art and design are also included.

Caring Spaces, Learning Places that Work

Jim Greenman

In this book, Jim Greenman inspires by sharing the stories, insights and poetry of many people as he kindly challenges and supports us in re-thinking the lives of children and teachers in our early childhood settings. He provides many good ideas and tools for changing and improving early childhood education environments in early childhood settings.

We particularly liked the discussion on institutionalised childhoods (p.64) which concludes with a list of reflective questions that would be a very useful review tool to work through as a team of teachers.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv

Richard Louv tracks the way children’s interactions with nature have decreased over generations, and discusses the impact this is having. He believes that children’s mental and physical well being is being compromised because of a lack of nature in their environments. Whilst not proposing to step back to the 1950’s Louv does believe that a focus on nature in education, neighbourhood planning and urban design can remedy the situation. For the future stewards of the earth this is an urgent matter.

This book will provoke every teacher to reminisce about their own childhood whilst considering today’s early childhood environments.

The Third Teacher. 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture & Bruce Mau Design

An up to the minute look at designing educational settings for the 21st century. Although focused on primary and secondary schooling- many of the design issues are the same for early childhood centres. This collaborative book challenges all those who create educational settings to put children at the forefront of design considerations. Very easy to read and filled with fascinating information and inspiring examples.

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do)

Gever Tulley & Julie Spiegler

This is a book for parents (and teachers). Gever is well known for his statement, “Climbing trees is good for the soul and a pocket knife is not a weapon.” This book has activities for children of all ages; activities aimed to get children actively participating in risky, adventurous and collaborative play.

Gever Tulley advocates for children’s right to play and be engaged in risk and challenge. A great book for a parent library, and for teachers to use to initiate discussion about risk and challenge in play environments.

All profits gained from books purchased via the ELP website will be donated to the ECE Leadership Trust. This Trust is set up specifically to support teachers attending conferences and any other professional development.

Stay Informed!