Having designed numerous nurseries and children’s clubs around the world, we have some tried and tested techniques we use to come up with the best possible design for each space.
Today, we’re sharing the 5 questions we ask when we first begin designing a nursery environment:
1 - What’s not working and why?
The first thing we do is look at the entire nursery space to find out how different areas are used. We look at how the rooms and spaces flow, paying attention to what the children are showing us. Their behaviour and social interaction are both big signs as to whether an area is working or not. For example, we often find spaces that are underused simply because it’s not been made appealing to children. Changing the layout of a setting can often make a massive difference to how children relate to a space.
2 - Is the space welcoming?
It is essential that a nurturing nursery environment feels welcoming on arrival. Children are often leaving their parents for the first time, so a large part of our job is to ease the transition from home to nursery, helping children and parents feel comfortable and secure.
To do this, we put ourselves in the mind of a child and look at the room from their perspective. A large open space with high ceilings can feel particularly alienating to a little one. Try playing with scale, bringing things down to their level. Try building smaller rooms within the space to use as multifunctional zones. Creating smaller spaces, cosy nooks and play corners lets children engage in smaller groups which helps in the development of social and emotional skills.
We all know that children aren’t necessarily known for being quiet, so be sure to think about how noise travels in your space. High volumes of noise can be stressful to children (not to mention adults) and will lower motivation and concentration levels. Always make sure there are plenty of soft furnishings to absorb noise and ensure windows and doors are sufficient to minimize any outside noise.
Credit - Youji No Shiro architects
3 - What are the gems that are already there?
We absolutely love walking around a space and looking for those hidden gems that will help give a nursery a new lease of life. Whether pulling out architectural features that have been covered up or finding a piece of furniture crying out for a makeover, we absolutely love to repurpose old items in ways they weren’t originally designed for. It can even spark nostalgia for the adults. Designing nursery spaces is not just about children. Adults have to feel equally comfortable leaving their little ones with you, and it's particularly great if they can make a connection to their own childhood.
Credit - Pierre Yovanovitch
4 - How can we inject playfulness whilst promoting learning?
This is one of the best parts of our job; taking the time to come up with how to make a space playful for children whilst supporting learning. This doesn’t mean simply filling a room with toys and colour. Less is most definitely more with this, and you want to create an impact with various ‘moments’ around your rooms that inspire and involve the children. There is no point in having a perfectly curated display board full of art work at adult height if the children can’t see it and feel proud to show it off.
We highly recommend investing your effort, time and money in one or two larger moments rather than lots of little ones, which will end up getting lost. For impact, always create a ‘wow’ moment that everyone can see as soon as they enter your setting. First impressions really do count.
Flexible design is also key here. Having the ability to reconfigure and refresh your space will be sure to keep children engaged and motivated, therefore supporting learning.
Credit - Mulders vandenBerk architects
5 - What is the mood of the room?
Light and colour play such a vital role on mood and overall well being. Designing a space that feels nurturing, safe, calming and inspiring relies on getting the perfect balance of these.
It is important to have fresh and bright areas for activities such as writing and art, as natural light plays a great influence on the creative process. If daylight is in low supply, add light by bouncing it off reflective surfaces such as mirrors and metallic finishes which can become beautifully engaging room features. However, it is equally important to create darker, cosy corners that feel safe and calm for quiet time and to spark little imaginations.
When it comes to colour, we suggest painting walls in neutral tones and adding pops of colour using childrens art work, toys, furniture and soft furnishings. We love to use colour on walls and ceilings to define areas, such as an eating area or reading space.
Children can easily become over-stimulated with too much visual input and neutral toned colours help to create calmer spaces, having a positive impact on children's behavior and concentration.
Credit - Archivision Hirotani Studio
Hopefully this helps you understand how to make any changes to your nursery environment and make it work better for children, parents and staff. If you have any questions, or want to discuss how to make your nursery space the best that it can be, please get in touch.