Learn/Play: Architecture for a Developing Human
Early childhood is a sensitive time in the growth and development of individuals; it is when the seeds of future success are planted. Research has shown that the growth and development of a child during the first six years of their life has more influence on their learning, behaviour and wellness into adulthood than at any other time.
At C&Partners, we feel a strong sense of responsibility when designing and constructing a childcare centre. We believe that traditional, single-purpose childcare centres are no longer suitable places for the learning and development of our children. Based on our research and experience, for a child to really be prepared for school and the years beyond, they need more than just supervision while they play. They need to learn while they play. How can architecture help?
Children need age-appropriate physical environments that support and promote child-directed and child-initiated play. The environment must promote and positively support the child's interaction with space, materials and people. Teachers and caregivers also need highly functional, easy-to-use environments. When the environment supports both and is working for children and adults, it is easier for adults to focus on facilitating each child's play and, thus, his/her learning.
The physical environment can either contribute to children's development or create a permanent impediment to the operation of a high quality program. Designing a high-quality, developmentally-appropriate child care facility is a highly complex task which requires specialized, in-depth understanding of the requirements. The design and layout of the physical environment (which includes the building, interior finishes, outdoor spaces, selection of equipment and room arrangement) has a profound impact on children's learning and behavior as well as on teachers' abilities to efficiently guide them in the process.
A current trend we have noticed is ‘day care centres’ morphing into ‘destination centres’. The kids at these innovative centres don’t just get toys to play with and a story at nap time. Depending on the specific facilities, their day might include learning to swim, getting a haircut, watching educational videos, or even playing tennis. Some centres are also adding small coffee shops for parents.
In our experience, the design process has a major impact in delivering a high-quality, effective childcare centre. The process needs to foster a collaboration between architects and educators in order to translate the day-to-day requirements into spatial design. It is a complex and lengthy process. By understanding the multi-faceted issues and complexities of designing children’s learning environments, we can, together, create informed and comprehensive design solutions that are required for a contemporary, future-forward child care centre.