Creating Early Years Environments For Stimulating Play and Learning

This event brings together outstanding experts from across the third sector, politics, and higher education to examine how we create spaces that encourage babies and young children to learn through play because they feel relaxed, comfortable, safe, and ‘at home’.

Environments promoting early independence

The Curriculum for Excellence states that 'All early years settings need to provide flexible and stimulating environments to fully engage children in their learning'. Carefully planned spaces can promote high engagement and quality learning opportunities. This is your opportunity to reflect on the opportunities in your setting for children to explore and discover for themselves and to consider what you can do to offer an environment where this can happen. You will leave with tangible solutions to put into practice in your early years' setting. 

It is recognised that children learn and develop best in caring, supportive environments that respond to their individual needs, allowing them to play and explore. In addition to the physical environment there are many ‘invisible’ influences, such as the way children are welcomed, are encouraged to learn within the setting, and the nature of the relationships between their peers and other adults.

Join us as we help you explore the opportunities for shaping your setting around the needs of the children you work with and encouraging learning through play.

Why come to this event?

  • Learn from outstanding experts involved in the delivery of ELC, higher education research, and senior parliamentarians 
  • Your chance to question all of these great people
  • Join the conversation in an interactive roundtable discussion 
  • Meet other people involved in ELC and share best practice 

Who should attend? 

  • Nursery managers/providers
  • Local authority children and young people professionals
  • Elected representatives with an interest in education
  • Academics interested in early years
  • Other professionals interested in early learning and childcare


9.45 Registration and Refreshments 

10.30 Welcome and Introduction from the Chair 

Angela Haggerty, journalist 

10.35 Session 1: Space For Play in Context 

  • Examine the key priorities of the current early years' policy context
  • The challenges and opportunities for creating stimulating early years' environments 
  • The impact of environment on children’s play and learning
  • Understanding the ‘invisible’ influences on early years environments

10.35 Johann Lamont MSP, Deputy Convener, Education and Skills Committee 

10.55 Sue Palmer, Independent Writer and Education Consultant; Chair, Upstart Scotland 

11.15 Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive, Play Scotland

11.35 Q&A

11.45 Refreshments and Networking 

12.00 Session 2: How to Create Inclusive Environments

  • Environments for children with learning and/or developmental needs
  • Physical environments that promote independence for all children
  • Inclusive communication: stimulating problem solving and creative thinking by listening to young children

12.00 Dr Caralyn Blaisdell, University of Strathclyde

12.20 Speaker to be confirmed, Scottish Childminding Association 

12.40 Speaker to be confirmed, The Yard

13.00 Q&A

13.10 Lunch and Networking 

14.00 Session 3: Innovative Approaches

  • Bringing loose parts play into your setting
  • Exploration through heuristic play
  • Froebel: children using their environment to make connections between human life and life in nature

14.00 Interactive Roundtable Discussion 

Delegates will lead the discussion to identify key challenges for creating stimulating early years' environments and discuss best practice. The questions that come out of these discussions will be put to Dr Lynn McNair in the Q&A.  

14.30 A fireside chat with Dr Lynn McNair OBE, Head of Cowgate Under Fives Centre, Teaching Fellow, University of Edinburgh 

Dr Lynn McNair will be interviewed by our chair, Angela Haggerty, in a two-way conversational style to draw out brilliant insights in a dynamic and engaging way. 

15.00 Q&A

15.15 Closing Remarks from the Chair 

Angela Haggerty, journalist 

15.30 Close of Event 

*The agenda is subject to change 


Our events are CPD certified. This event is equivalent to 3 CPD points.
A certificate is available on request post-event to all attendees. 



Central Edinburgh, to be confirmed in due course.


Delegate rates (excluding VAT):

  • Reduced rate: 1 place £145 + VATpp (Voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income of less than £1m)
  • Standard rate: 1 place £245 + VAT | 2+ places £195 + VAT per place (Central government departments and agencies, local authorities, universities, colleges, NHS, police, professional associations and voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income over £1m)
  • Private Sector rate: 1 place £295 + VAT | 2+ places £245 + VAT per place (Commercial organisations e.g. plc, Ltd, LLP)

For more information please email or phone 0131 285 1635

14 March 2019

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