Stimulating Play and Learning: Creating Early Years Environments

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

This event is sponsored by:







09:15 Registration and Refreshments 

09:55 Welcome and Introduction from the Chair 

Tam Baillie, former Children and Young People's Commissioner in Scotland

10:00 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

10:00 Early Years Challenges

Johann Lamont MSP, Deputy Convener, Education and Skills Committee 

10:25 Sue Palmer, Independent Writer and Education Consultant; Chair, Upstart Scotland 

10:50 Making Space For Children to Play

Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive, Play Scotland

11:15 The Power of Positive People in your ELC Setting 

Jean Carwood-Edwards, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland

11:40 Q&A

11:50 Refreshments and Networking 

12:05 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

12:05 Dr Caralyn Blaisdell, University of Strathclyde

12:30 Free To Play - Inclusive Outdoor Play Spaces

Early years outdoor spaces vary enormously but, no matter the starting point, there are usually things we can do to make them more conducive to children’s play. This session will look at examples of practical design ideas, inclusive features and the benefits of participatory design. 

Theresa Casey, Independent Consultant and Writer, Theresa Casey Consultancy

12:55 Q&A

13:05 Creating Beautiful Learning Environments 

Community Playthings – event sponsor 

13:15 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 Presentation from The Yard

Danielle Campbell, Early Years Play Team Leader, The Yard
Ivan Harper, Senior Playworker and Safeguarding Lead Officer, The Yard 

14:55 Q&A

15:00 Fireside Chat – an interactive, onstage interview with Dr Lynn McNair conducted by our chair and welcoming questions from the floor

Dr Lynn McNair OBE, Head of Cowgate Under Fives Centre, Teaching Fellow, University of Edinburgh 

15:25 Closing Remarks from the Chair 

Tam Baillie, former Children and Young People's Commissioner in Scotland

*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. 



Whitespace, Norloch House, 36 King's Stables Road, Edinburgh EH1 2EU | Map


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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