If you keep your eyes on Early Years boards on Facebook you will be no stranger to the approach of having your classroom decorated largely in neutral colours. There are many, many (many) fans of this approach. Display boards decorated in hessian or brown parcel paper, twigs, branches, and leaves festooning the room, all furniture, baskets and storage in natural colours and fabrics. Bringing the outside in, if you will. When this first became a big trend in the UK I instinctively rebelled (as I am prone to do) and instead embraced bright colours and plastic. While the My Little Pony loving 5 year old inside me still stands strong on the benefits of keeping plastic in the classroom, particularly items that are bought second hand and pre-loved, I am coming round to having a more natural classroom. You see I love shells and pebbles and blocks of wood and found objects. I realised that it was not natural resources themselves that turned me off but rather the lack of colour many classrooms seemed to have if they embraced the beige trend a bit too obsessively (and of course the ‘plastic shaming’ for anyone daring to let a spot of Duplo, a Peppa Pig toy or the odd Polly Pocket through the door). Now don't get me wrong. I love my wicker baskets instead of hideous bright plastic ones, my den making outdoors themed building area with sticks, logs and hessian is the best I have ever had and I do sometimes remove all of our manufactured toys and equipment and replace them with found or natural equipment just to see how it changes play but all things in moderation people!
So, in brave rebellion of those who buy too completely into making the indoor classroom mirror the outdoors here are my reasons why colour crept (then bounded unashamedly and with whoops of eccentric celebratory joy) back into my classroom. 1. It made me happy! Yep. That simple. Having a variety of colour in our classroom brought joy to me and to the people who came into our classroom, be they adult or child. Colour cheers my mood and inspires me. It does the same for the children. Ok so they aren't encouraged to become calm, contemplative, meditative learners and my classroom isn't a haven of peace but do you know what? They are 3 and 4 years old! Let children be children. I would much rather have a slightly nutty, slightly louder, exciting and energised room to explore and create in. 2. Nature has colour. Nature celebrates colour. All colour comes from nature so why run away from that with too much neutrality? When we like a beautiful photo of nature on the internet how often is it in black and white? Sometimes maybe but more often than not what draws us to these photos is the wonder at the amazing colour palettes that Mother Nature creates and blends. I have greatly reduced the amount of plastic in my classroom and have largely natural materials or wooden toys however I now include all of the colours from nature, not just the neutral and green colours of the forest. 3. Colour is proven by science and studies to influence moods and enhance learning so why not tap into that. Studies have shown that cooler colours increase calm and focus and are particularly useful to focus learners on more academic subjects like science and maths, while warmer colours such as reds and oranges help to encourage creativity. So there it is dear reader. Please don't judge me as a sub-intellect poor excuse of an Early Years Practitioner but the dreadful and shameful truth is that I love nature and outdoor learning but an equal part of my heart does and always will belong to the 1980s child within me who gleefully celebrates garish colour and fantastic plastic.
For some beautiful wooden toys (see – nature!) with a pop of colour check a few of these sensory delights out…..
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