Designed for development
A space that is intentionally designed for development contributes to a child’s sense of safety (I recognise this space and I can sit here quietly with a cuddly toy) and challenges them to develop further (wow, that’s a high tower, maybe I can build that too or if we hang a blanket here, the doll can sleep behind it).
At Hero we work with the Look & Feel project to inspire our inviting and educational design. It works well to have different corners for each group of children where they can really play: corners for kitchen, dolls, dress up, house, construction, trains, and for reading books, for example. We could think of so many more fun and challenging ideas, but not everything is possible, of course. The existing dimensions, budget, and sustainability – an important theme within Hero – need to be taken into consideration as well when designing a space.
Sometimes we can rearrange the kitchen or remove a stage to optimise a space, and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes it isn’t even necessary. This also applies to the furniture: sometimes furniture can still be used, or something can simply be added to the existing set-up. Hero’s educational and developmental vision is always taken into account when making these design decisions.
Giving children the opportunity to make their own choices and to be actively involved means that the toys are displayed in low open cupboards. This way children can choose what they want to play with and clean up independently. Sometimes, in groups with large age differences, it is possible to set up a large enclosed playpen. This way we can offer babies safety while still involving them in the group. Drawings or crafts of children that are displayed visibly increase the feeling of belonging in the group. A low round table, where children can play, tinker and puzzle together, offers more opportunities for children than always sitting at a high table.
It is quite a challenge to design a space optimally and efficiently to increase the possibilities for children. A sofa is comfortable, but it takes up a lot of space. Being able to sit comfortably with children is very important, but this can also be done in a ‘chill corner’. A comfy chair to bottle-feed babies is also necessary. Almost all groups have high tables with space for all children where they can eat and drink together. In most groups there are 4 to 6 children who can and want to eat independently; they like to set their own their own table and play restaurant together. When finished, they clean up independently and then sit down together to do a puzzle at the low table.
Certain design choices often also require a different approach: sitting on the floor more often, letting the children choose and act more independently, and, for example, regularly changing toys and setting up corners in an inviting and challenging way. Our education and development coach plays a supporting role in this.