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6 Factors to Consider When Designing for Children

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6 Design Principles to keep in Mind for Designing for Children

“The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children” - Nelson Mandela 

Children are filled with energy and wonder. They constantly seek to explore and learn from their surroundings. Designing for them is not the same as designing for adults. Along with variations in anthropometry, the emotional and psychological needs of children are different and they need to be factored in while designing spaces for them. The architecture surrounding them influences them as they grow and so it becomes important to create meaningful spaces. 

Here are 6 factors that need to be considered when designing for children 

  1. Safety
  2. Comfort and Accessibility
  3. Socialization
  4. Stimulation
  5. Learning
  6. Inclusivity


Co-op Housing in Vancouver by the Millenium Development Group

Passive surveillance for children’s safety in the athletic village co-op housing in Vancouver by the Millennium Development Group.

  • This is the most important element to consider when designing for children.
  • Playing areas should ensure that they are designed in such a way that they cause minimum damage to a child when they inevitably hurt themselves. Use of suitable materials helps achieve this.
  • Care should also be taken to ensure that the play areas are not too safe, as risk is also an important part of learning, making mistakes and growing up.
  • The place should make a child feel protected and sheltered. This can be achieved by good lighting and easily accessible places.
  • Road safety is one of the prime concerns in an urban setting.
  • Protection from diseases can be achieved through good maintenance and ventilation. 

2. Comfort and Accessibility

Senegal by architect TR Radhakrishnan

School with goofy gestures in Senegal by architect TR Radhakrishnan has corridors that encourage play and movement

  • Children are energetic by nature and have a tendency to run or skip and hence require more space.
  • Public walkways and other places specific for children should make sure to have enough room to facilitate the childrens’ movements and permit strollers, wheelchairs or walking aids.
  • Outdoor seating and public toilets are some elements that would make children comfortable outside their homes.

3. Socialization

  • Human interaction plays an important role in the development of children and defines their interpersonal relationships.
  • The spaces should be designed in such a way that the children feel free to interact and exercise their independence.
  • In public spaces, this is carried out through gathering areas, seating spaces and good lighting

4. Stimulation

Kallaskolan School in Kungskacka by Kamisnky Arkitecktur
Kallaskolan School in Kungskacka by Kamisnky Arkitecktur

Harmonious and peaceful colors as seen in Kallaskolan school in Kungsbacka by Kamisnky Arkitektur

  • Spaces for children should make sure they provide visual, aural and psychological comfort.
  • The right use of colors can be used to provide a calming or energizing effect and used to evoke emotions in children.
  • The use of too many colors and textures can be jarring and over stimulating for them.
  • For young ones with heightened senses due to autism or ADHD, minimal and quiet places are important. Similarly, for children who might be impaired in a certain sense, the design should help them explore the place using their other senses. 

5. Learning

Sanmen Dafu Kidergarten by Think Logic Designs
Sanmen Dafu Kidergarten by Think Logic Designs

Greenery included in the school’s design in Sanmen Dafu Kindergarten by Think Logic designs

  • Important information can be passed onto children by the design of public spaces.
  • Physical activities can be inculcated into spaces for children to promote a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Making green spaces accessible helps them connect with nature and learn from it.
  • Involving children in the designing process will encourage them to voice out their opinions and also make the designed spaces personalized. 

6. Inclusivity  

  • Children develop at different rates and the designs should aim to cater to the wide spectrum of little ones.
  • Special needs in children may vary from adhd to learning disabilities. Factoring the particular needs of each child, spaces can be appropriately designed.
  • For children with disabilities, anthropometry should be appropriately considered to accommodate wheelchairs and walking aids.

Here is a look at a building that incorporates all these features effectively-

The Yellow Train School

The Yellow Train School
The Yellow Train School
  • The school is located in Coimbatore and is built by architect Chitra Vishwanath. 
  • It follows the Waldorf education principles, which is child centric and emphasises on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing along with academics.
  • As an embodiment of Waldorf principles, the classrooms are built as an extension of homes. 
  • The use of CSEB blocks provides a warm, earthy tone to the facade and keeps the children connected to the earth. A terrace garden is used to grow fruits and vegetables and extends their relationship with nature. 
  • A classroom is divided into three zones to enable different methods of learning. The teaching zone used by the teacher, the group activity zone for children to interact, work and display their works and the personal nooks are for individual works.
  • Along with traditional classrooms, interior play spaces that are accessible all year have been provided for the students. Some play spaces are only accessible by children. This encourages them to be independent and responsible while playing.
  • The school also features a garden with water elements to help the teachers unwind and is one of the few schools to consider the mental wellbeing of teachers.
  • The school has slides connecting the first and second floors. Other circulation paths include ramps, bordered by jali walls to bring in ventilation and lighting. The corridors are also designed in a way that encourages children to move freely and have fun. 
  • By giving priority to circulation, comfort and curiosity of the children, this school is able to focus on the mental and emotional well being of the students and teachers besides academics. 
Interior of the school 
Interior of the school 
Facade of the school, made of CSEB block with jali pattern
Facade of the school, made of CSEB block with jali pattern
Alternative circulation methods for children
Alternative circulation methods for children

Meta desc: how to design for children, children design principles, children architecture, effective spaces for children. 


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