Reflections of an Atelier Environment

Creating workable Atelier environments can be very challenging...


The successful placement of tables, shelves, and materials, can be achieved through the observation and reflection of children exploring a working space.


Moving Freely from Table to Table, Jeannette Prince 2005

The children can add layers and layers of multimedia to a project while working in a movable space. That is an Atelier environment where the children can move freely from table to table.  Each area has a distinct purpose: drawing/planning, available color/paint, ceramics, and a collage/construction working space.

The drawing table may have a shelf close by that contains a variety of drawing materials.  The warm and cool colors categorize each drawing tool.  The children learn to determine the difference between the warm and cool as they use and return materials.  The black, gray, brown, and white drawing and writing tools are mixed together and placed in sturdy glass jars around the room, making available tools for added line and texture for projects or the children to write with. 

Paint mixed by the children, water, and brushes, are always available on a table close by.  An outside location works well, with a dry rack and shelves for drying.  Extra paint and an assortment of found objects used for printing are at hand on a shelf close by.

An empty table works well located by shelves containing collage, natural collage, and collected recycled materials.  The shelves can be used as a sort of mini resource center.  Different glue adhesives and tape, are close by and reachable.  Available cut cardboard, drywall, and wood scraps are a perfect solution for projects needing a sturdy base.  (A designated area for clay work and ceramic tools can also be offered as an open table when not in use.)

An open working Atelier for the children to explore truly creates an environment that they can claim as their own, therefore introducing respect and creating value for the Atelier as a community shared space within the school.   -JP

We are all inspired to create our own identity while practicing the Reggio Emilia Approach by our mentors in Reggio Emilia, Italy.  I have found "a way, not the way" to create a workable space for the children.  Their love for the atelier environment is my confirmation that I'm on the right track to inspire their creativity.  The children, most often...can be our best teachers.

-Jeannette Prince 2018


The image above is an example of a project that was created in an Atelier environment with moveable space.  This work was first inspired by a found piece of cardboard stored on a shelf and was carried around the Atelier with a purpose in mind, to add layers of flour dough (used here as an adhesive) and natural collage materials.  The finished work was brought outside to be painted by colors mixed by the children. 

A small group gathering before entering the Atelier creates a moment the children can collaborate and have conversation about their ideas or to reflect and continue focusing on an existing project.

I find that it is essential to have a balance between open choice and focused small group work initiated by the children's ideas.  Open-ended projects always seem to be their favorite pick and find that children most often preplan their ideas before their time in the Atelier. 

-Jeannette Prince 2018


Adult size chair sends message of welcome in an Atelier.

Why Introduce an Adult Sized Chair?

I have found through the years spending time in an Early Childhood Atelier, Art Studio, or classroom environment that the presence of an adult chair relays an inviting message to parents, teachers or visitors that they are welcome in the working space.

There happens to be several thrift stores close by my house that I visit off and on to keep a look out for any treasures that may pass through.  This inexpensive chair was a perfect fit for what was needed.  It was decided that the children would paint it to create an open heartfelt connection to all who would but take a moment to sit.