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FACILITATING EARLY LEARNING THROUGH DESIGN

Designing a creative childcare facility that facilitates early learning presents a challenge for all interior designers. One that not only requires deep insight into the matter but also imaginative and artistic design skills that appeal to both toddlers and pre-school infants.

Quality daycares also provide an environment where staff engage in childcare activities therefore the design needs to reflect this.



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CREATIVE DESIGN ATTRIBUTES

Nowadays, with daycares extending their program to accommodate before and after elementary school care, attention must be paid to creating spaces suited for a wide range of children’s activities. Comfortable with a homey look and feel is what most facilities are shifting to, while underlining toddlers’ needs for more sensory and early learning development, and crafting quiet play and reading areas better suited to older children.

With more women joining the workforce, the demand for multifunctional childcare facilities for children continues to rise (and the spaces designed are expected to cater to children’s diverse needs). 

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Which is where the idea of creating spaces within a space came from. Forming niche spaces for sleeping, playing, reading, painting etc. are all part of a new engaging design trend which places children’s comfort at the centre of the design. With quieter and calmer areas to nap for younger children and separate, colorful libraries with tiny furniture for toddlers and after school students to allow for reading and arts and crafts.

Outdoor playgrounds are also deemed important in order to provide daily exposure to fresh air and natural light, which studies have proven are necessary for cognitive and physical development.

Nurturing social skills in toddlers is a top priority for childcare providers and has led to the introduction of technology and activities that encourage teamwork and collaborative effort. The technology that designers have incorporated into their designs to support this varies from interactive wallcoverings to screens positioned in strategic locations.

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SAY HELLO TO SUSTAINABLE AND SAFE DESIGN

The world of childcare design is comprised of many bespoke interior materials and finishes creating a virtually new industry for interiors suppliers. Using softer and more playfully designed rubber floors, interactive wall coverings and mobile (and often mini) furniture are some of the most sought after items.

Avoiding sharp edges and making spaces look, ‘as organic and fluid’ as possible is what most interior design briefs ask for.

Roar’s nursey in Dubai is a great example of using biomorphic shapes and elements of futuristic design to engage and stimulate diminutive users. The rise of more hygienic laminate surfaces and reconstituted stones increases operational efficiency and flexibility with children’s creative activities and reduces focus on longevity and spatial maintenance. The rise of smaller sized furniture allows designers to be more spontaneous when laying out these spaces.

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With mini beanbags, play tents and teepees and all sorts of educational and play facilities to promote the children’s social and intellectual development.

The flooring and wall coverings available in the market makes it easier to adapt and transform different spaces to different age group demographics. A few commonly incorporated elements include colorful rubber floor tiles in play areas, vinyl’s in classrooms and cozier carpet/rug finishes in sleeping pods. Ultimately the aim is to create a home-away-from-home environment through the use of innovative materials and finishes that will make children (especially the youngest ones) feel as comfortable as possible.

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CHEERFULLY BRIGHT

Even though the first step in successful design is to create a cohesive theme, without the right lighting creating the right mood/ambience can be quite a challenge. Natural light has been proven to increase children’s learning abilities during the earliest years of their development.

To capitalize on this, many childcare facilities use large spatial openings to create interior/exterior connections in order to bring in softer daylight. This includes large sized window openings which serve a dual purpose (bring outdoor elements, like greenery, indoors as well as allow natural light to enter the building).

Large spatial openings also create seamless entry/exist to children’s play areas and compliment the brighter more cheerful colors in play areas and calmer tones in relaxation and high focused rooms. It’s more than just aesthetic though, according to a recent study published in the Optic Express

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journal, the right ambient lighting coupled with a comprehensive understanding of color psychology can improve a child’s ability to learn and retain information as well as boost concentration levels.

OPEN SPATIAL LAYOUTS

There has been an increased demand for floorplans that allow educators to connect and manage children in a more collaborative working environment. This is why the majority of modern day facilities have open spatial layouts. The barrier free approach is meant to encourage children to engage more effectively with each other which facilitates the development of their social and learning skills.

Such spaces tend to incorporate smaller corners dedicated to specific activities for children to explore their independence while coexisting in a social environment. This movement has drastically changed, and formed the basis for the inspiration behind, the way designers approach childcare design.

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A DESIGNER’S ROLE

Spatial interior design that stimulates children’s senses is crucial for their cognitive and creative development. We as designers have a responsibility to create a safe environment that will allow them to flourish and develop socially. We play an important role in the evolution of childcare services that foster children’s confidence and prepares them for life in the, ‘real world’ when they’re older.


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