How Does the Physical Environment Affect Young Children?

Updated March 23, 2017

Children are susceptible to any influences they encounter. They have yet to develop the filters to prevent negative factors from influencing their behaviour. Environment is a factor that influences their behaviour and their learning ability. Since a child can't pack his bags and move to another classroom or another city, it's up to parents to be aware of how a child's surroundings affect him.


Children spend most of their day in a classroom setting. That setting may determine how well children grasp the concepts they are learning about. A bright and busy classroom may look fun, but it may be overstimulating and noisy to a child's young brain. In the report "Urban Children and the Physical Environment," Sheridan Bartlett writes, "Environments like that cause stress for children and will induce problem behaviour, such as biting and fighting." Some more aggressive children may lead the pack in bad behaviour that is inspired by the chaotic clutter of the room. However, when the classroom is bland and doesn't have the toys and equipment that can motivate a child to learn, the child may find it dull and hard to pay attention. Classrooms with fewer pupils and moderate decorations show higher performance from the children.


Noise hinders learning ability. Loud music, jet engines (especially on take-off and landing) and noisy street traffic can distract children, according to studies performed by Cornell University environmental and developmental psychologist Gary Evans. Evans' research uncovered that "Children often adapt to exposure to chronic noise by tuning out auditory input, which can also result in delayed language development." Noise doesn't have to be loud. Even adults' conversation can affect children.


Overcrowding, whether in the places where children live or learn, has shown to increase behaviour problems and cognitive development problems. It also has a negative impact on children's mental health and their motivation. In a Cornell University report, Kimberly Kopko writes that researcher Gary Evans "identifies density, or number of people per room, as the crucial variable for measuring effects of crowding on children's development." Children in less crowded classrooms and spacious suburban homes were found to perform at a higher level.


Children can't pick and choose where they live and grow up. In low-income neighbourhoods, children are often exposed to overcrowding and rundown rental properties. From major cities like Los Angeles to Third World countries in Africa, their parents live in areas far from decent-paying jobs and away from health care services. Sheridan Bartlett writes, "This can undermine the quality of care for young children and any sense of family life; for older children, it also means isolation from the opportunities and interest that the rest of the city holds."

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About the Author

Sam Williams has been a marketing specialist and ad writer since 1995. He has been published in magazines such as "Reaching Out" and "Spa Search." He served in various sales and marketing positions with major corporations such as American Express, Home Depot and Wells Fargo. Williams studied English at Morehouse College.