We all have them. They can brighten up the room, but is that the only purpose they serve? We spend a lot of time putting them up but do we ever reflect on their purpose? A good display not only engages, it also informs. We need to look again at our environments through the eyes of our stakeholders and ask ourselves what they are really getting out of it and who this display is really for. Remember, colour helps set mood and feelings.
So here are a few key pointers for you to reflect on when using your valuable time and resources to develop displays:
Location, location, location!
- the chosen area should be easily viewed by its intended audience. The height of displays is crucial. It needs to be at the recipient’s eye level if it is to be noticed and have an impact
- children largely ignore displays above their heads so displays for children should be no higher than their eye level. This will then encourage children to engage with them, the display acting as a talking point, thus supporting their communication and language development
- displays for parents should be easy for them to read without having to crouch down or strain to read items that are above their heads, perhaps located in a place where they wait to collect children
- displays for staff should be at eye level and not hidden behind shelves or stored resources. If there is use of a staff room, some items may be displayed lower so they can be easily seen from a sitting position. Some staff displays will need to be in the ‘classroom’ for staff to easily refer to. Some displayed literature will need to be out of sight of the public as it may contain sensitive information
And remember, displays can be distracting. For example, a large, busy, colourful display in the story telling space and behind the story teller is very distracting for children when trying to look at the pictures in the book. It can be hard for them to focus and those not sitting in the front may well not pay attention to the story as the colours and images on the wall engage their attention.
Types of display:
- use wall space for two-dimensional work and shelf tops for three-dimensional work
- display art work, mark making and other two-dimensional work on wall spaces or portable boards
- keep the tops of low shelves clear to display all types of models the children have made
- remember height – children need to be able to see their work to appreciate it is valued, and to feel pride in their contribution to the learning environment
Content of displays:
Less is more – too much clutter can be overwhelming. Effective displays are typically well set out, clutter-free and surrounded by space to allow visual focus on the items being displayed. Displays need to be relevant, linked to children’s current learning or experiences. They should be refreshed regularly and reflect the contribution of all children. They should reflect the purpose you have in mind
- you do not need to display every piece of work children do, but before you display anything, be clear about why you’re displaying it and how long you intend to leave it up
- include examples from all children to show that everyone’s efforts are valued. Do not just choose the ‘best’ ones. Give the children a voice by asking them if they want their pictures on display. Make sure you put their names on their art work and that the names are spelt correctly. Add the date too so that you have a reference point for change
- displays in early years rooms should mainly consist of children’s own individualised art work, photographs of the children engaged in activities or of their families and real images celebrating their unique contributions
- display materials can include information that is a reference point for young children to practise and rehearse prior learning, or to help scaffold the learning of new skills and concepts, such as numbers, visual time lines, phonemes or story structures
- consider the backing for displays. Keep in light and neutral, consider material to soften the room. You want the items displayed to stand out and not be overwhelmed or dominated by colours behind them
- your display should be informative, yet easy to understand
- a display with clean lines and clearly defined information allows the intended recipient to easily view information
- use a clear, easy-to-read font on all information. Avoid crowding too many words onto a page
- putting too much information on one page or in the same space can result in the display being overwhelming and, consequently, the information being ignored - Consider using clear headings or borders to separate key pieces of information
- try to use varying heights, positions and colours to help each part of the display stand out
- be sure to make new and/or more important information have priority and think about how this stands out from other more long-standing information
- and above all, staff time is precious, and putting up displays can be very time-consuming – They do need to be eye catching and inviting to look at but importantly they need to have a value and serve a purpose. Otherwise, what is the point?