Why Open Environments Are Critical for Learning

Allowing children to openly explore their environments leads to more independence and greater creative thinking skills.

When you think about children learning, you might visualize a child reading a book or sitting patiently in a classroom while a teacher goes through a daily lesson plan. Structured learning is an important part of the learning process, especially as a child goes through elementary and middle school, but in the earliest stages of learning, and open model of exploration is just as important.

Our brains are wired for spontaneous, environment-driven learning; that is to say, we’re better suited for learning from natural experiences than we are for learning from force-fed texts or conveyed lessons from person to person. In a free-to-explore environment, children become masters of their own learning, and are capable of acquiring much more information about the world around them than they could in a strict classroom setting.

For example:

  • Independence. Children who are allowed to explore on their own and figure things out tend to develop a greater sense of confidence and a greater sense of independence, which leads to greater capabilities down the road.
  • Social Skills. In an open environment, children have more time and more opportunities to communicate and engage with their peers on a regular basis. These interactions set the standard for social and emotional development in the future.
  • Natural Curiosity. When given lots of interesting and engaging materials in their learning environment, children develop a natural curiosity, and a natural desire to learn more.
  • Enjoyment. Children who actively enjoy what they’re doing have a greater likelihood of retaining information than those who are bored or resentful of their environments. Creating an open, enjoyable experience is conducive to this.
  • Creative Thinking. Since children will be dealing with new objects and new situations in new ways, they’ll start developing critical and creative thinking skills that will be useful throughout their learning careers.

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