Last week, ICRI Executive Director Ken Jaffe had the chance to return to New Zealand after many years to plan for an international conference on the design of children’s spaces. Among the reasons for holding the conference in New Zealand is the remarkable growth in innovation, curriculum, and design values of early childhood education in the country.
The international planning team for the conference, with many who have had extensive experience designing and developing outstanding spaces for children around the world, were thrilled to visit buildings and outdoor areas for children that were thoughtful, playful, showed a deep understanding of the neuroscience of children’s growth in their first eight years, and a wonderful engagement between teachers and children in these outstanding environments.
As the photos above show, the use of nature, both inside and out, is pervasive within the New Zealand quality early childhood model. The programs also show innovative water-play, sliding, child-controlled environments, and focus on child initiated activities in a wonderland of new ideas. Since ICRI is constantly looking for the best and the brightest work around the world on behalf of children, we can now point to New Zealand as perhaps the best, if not in the top three, of all countries seeking to nurture the creativity, curiosity, abstract reasoning, and lifelong learning of young children in their country.