Built environments have always had the responsibility to create spaces that enhance the experience of the user of the space regardless of the building typology and other limitations. Spaces for children are of utmost importance as the smallest of design considerations can have the largest of impacts. Children under the age of 15 make up 26% of the world’s population as of 2020 and unarguably, they are the future of humankind and we should prioritize enhancing the environments where children can grow.
Nursery design needs to be thoughtful and responsible as it is the immediate environments that stimulate our senses and observation skills, attributes that are highly required for children to experience. The quality of the space affects its inhabitants physically as well as psychologically.
Today, psychologists recognize that the psychology of a child is very complex and can produce different perspectives when exposed to different development approaches. Early childhood experiences are arguably more formative than experiences in later years and the psychology, sociology, and education of a child, all go hand-in-hand in overall development.
Growing and developing their mindsets through nursery design can set a healthy base for the child to grow into a smart and stable adult. To promote safe and healthy learning environments, designers must consider spaces that encourage learning, the spatial design that will enhance creativity, and how to use design as a means for interaction.
While much focus is on creating visually appealing spaces, safety is the most important aspect of nursery design. Safety not only in terms of materials used or equipment but also in the way spatial layouts are designed. Separation of spaces for different age groups needs to be planned to avoid ignorant design as children of different ages differ in size and abilities. Well-designed playgrounds can reduce the chances of accidents and can help children with physical and social development.
In materiality, softer surfaces can help with fearless and undisturbed playtime that encourages confidence to both children, and their parents.
Children are often sensitive to spaces as they have different perspectives from adults. Furniture scale, ceiling heights, and floor levels can impact child behavior in an interior environment. Ceiling heights have been proven to have a direct relation with cooperation in children.
While higher ceilings make the space more intimidating, lower ceiling heights make the nursery design far more intimate and comfortable. This detail can be used in schools, classrooms, and playrooms as well. For spaces with larger spatial height, design elements such as mobiles, canopies, eaves, or skylights can be incorporated to enhance interactive sensory surfaces.
The incorporation of natural daylight is an effective way to improve the quality of a child’s space or nursery design. Windows and skylights provide a visual release for children and can help with regulating the circadian rhythm of the body. The daylight not only brightens the mood and keeps children engaged, but it also leads to better performance by children.
Nursery design can greatly benefit from smart natural lighting methods, especially in learning environments such as classrooms, libraries, and other reading spaces.
Shapes and spatial layouts of spaces impact children’s behavior. While linear and long corridors have a different psychological effect than radially planned out spatial strategies, linear spaces bring attention and focus to the end and radial spaces encourage movement and the sense of exploration.
Aside from layouts, exploring textures and three-dimensional shapes develop an ability to coordinate movements and alignment in children. Children must be given ample opportunity to explore their immediate environment to gain finer motor control and navigation skills.
Sensory design is crucial in nursery design, especially for children with special educational needs and disabilities. A sensory room allows children to react to external stimuli by regulating their brain’s reactions and hence developing coping strategies. Sensory design is essential for providing a safe and impactful learning environment. Environmental psychology plays a key role in sensory design to enhance and improve individual well-being within a spatial context.
The five basic senses – visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory, are how everyone engages with the world. The sensory design offers active or passive solutions that enhance and prioritize how children will perceive this sensory information from their learning spaces.
Liberation and Adaptability
Child-centric architecture is inclusive and enabling them to interact with the built space in their own ways is essential to the idea of play. Children are encouraged to be independent and self-supporting through the nature of the design. Multilevel spaces juxtaposed into a fun structure can develop imagination and exploration in children.
The universality of nursery design is that no child is the same, hence no space will be perceived the same way. Spaces for children must be malleable and multi-functional which will adapt to any situation the child sees fit. Openness and access to nature give a sense of freedom, independence, and liberation which is highly essential in mental development.
Conversations about nursery design and children’s participation need to be supported by everyday practices as children are the most important clients in our society as they make up our entire future. The power of good design and practice at an early start would lead to a successful transformation of the world.