SPACES FOR CHILDREN RESOURCES

Citation: Reprinted from Landscapes for Learning: Designing Group Care Environments for Infants, Toddlers and Two-Year-Olds, by Louis Torelli, M.S.Ed. & Charles Durrett, Architect. Copyright © 1995-1999

CRITERIA FOR SETTING UP EARLY HEADSTART CLASSROOMS

The following suggestions should be considered when setting-up infant and toddler classrooms. They should be utilized as a guide, not as requirements for best practices. The specific application of these suggestions will vary based on your program, facility, state licensing requirements, budget and other variables.

1. Square Footage
(please note that all figures in this section are for "usable space". The term "usable space" does not include areas dedicated for diapering, toileting, food preparation, napping and storage).

Birth-24 months: 400 square feet usable.

18-36 months: 500 - 600 square feet usable. Older toddlers require more space due to expanded play interests, specifically dramatic play (housekeeping/dress-up area) and construction (block area).

Mixed-age and Parent-child groups: 600 usable square feet recommended. Mix-age groups require both safe spaces for infants and more challenging spaces for toddlers. In addition to the 8 children and 2 caregiving staff, parent-child groups have at least 8 more adults in the classroom. (see floorplans)

2. Indoor-Outdoor Relationship
A well-designed classroom provides direct access to the playyard. This fundamental component should be seriously considered when choosing a site or remodeling a facility.

3. Cribs
Porta-crib size (24" x 38" - 27" x 40") cribs are recommended over full-size cribs. Cribs should be consolidated in one area of the classroom (1' - 3' apart), instead of spread around the classroom. This strategy will provide more functional play space. Use low wall (30 -34"h) partitions or toy shelves, risers and closed storage (base cabinets) to section off area. Note: When space is limited, parent-child groups (3 hr. or less programs) should consider reducing the number of cribs in the classroom.

4. Diapering/Toilet Area
The diapering area and children’s bathroom should be located in the classroom, separated through half-walls (42"h) or cutout window openings. This reduces the caregivers need to leave the classroom numerous times daily, while providing for full visual supervision of children in classroom.

5. Pods
A pod design is where one large room is divided into two classrooms through a combination of half and full walls. The middle area is a shared area, usually teacher support space for diapering, food prep., washer/dryer, teacher work space and storage. A pod design is less costly than two separate classrooms, which require extra plumbing and square footage. It also allows for informal visiting of children and staff between rooms and easier transitions for infants moving up into a toddler classroom (see floorplan).

6. Sinks
Each classroom should have access to a sink adjacent to the food prep area, a sink adjacent to the diapering area, and a child height sink in the classroom for older infants and toddlers (see appendix for sink heights).

age (in mos.) sink height
0 - 18 16"
12 - 24 18"
18 - 30 20"
24 - 36 22"

7. Windows
Natural light enhances the quality of the classroom. Children need to feel connected with the natural environment. While some windows (or doors) may be close to ground level, it is recommended that most windows in the classroom be at 26"h. This height allows infants who are able to pull to standing, and older children to see outside, but it also provides the ability to create an activity area against the wall. Most infant/toddler play equipment (toy shelves, housekeeping equipment, etc.) is approximately 24" - 26" high. Windows of this height provide the option of a platform area for reading or blocks, and provides enough wall space for back support of children and adults.

8. Window Sills, Protruding Walls and Cabinets
To prevent serious bumps and cuts, all counters, shelves, sills, corners, lips, ledges and edges of built-ins and equipment that are at child height must have a minimum of a 1/4" radius (rounded corner).

9. Doors
When possible, doors should swing away from the children’s play area (i.e.; swing into hallway instead of classroom). This will increase the amount of functional space and prevent accidents from doors opening into a baby. It is also useful to have windows in doors, at adult and child height (full-lite). This will increase the amount of light into the classroom, warn adults going into the classroom of children on the other side, and, provide an added space for children to observe comings and goings.

10. Flooring
Infants and toddlers spend much of their time on the floor. For safety as well as comfort, carpet the majority of the classroom, except the entrance, diapering/bathroom, eating and messy areas (water play, painting). Use low-pile neutral-colored (earth tones) anti microbial carpeting (prevents fungus growth/molds). Use only rubber transition strips(metal creates tripping hazard).

11. Creating a Landscape
Through the use of platforms, lofts, recessed areas, low walls and canopies placed along the periphery of the classroom, it is possible to sculpt your room to create a variety of age-appropriate activity areas. The walls frame the activity areas while the center of the classroom remains fairly open, to allow for circulation of children and adults as well as to provide flexible space that can change depending on the teacher’s observations of the children’s interest (see floorplan).

Low wall/platform guidelines:

Reading Platform: 5' x 5' - 6' x 6'.
Block Platform: 6' x 10' - 7' x 11' (60 - 80 sq. ft).
Low Wall: 26" high when not connected to a platform, 30" high when connected to a platform.

12. Storage
A well-designed classroom depends on an adequate amount of easily accessible storage located in the classroom. In addition to some storage rooms and base cabinet storage, wall storage should be placed adjacent to each activity area. This provides caregivers access to materials without leaving the children and classroom under supervised. In addition, storage located on the walls does not infringe on children’s play space, a critical element in most classrooms that are smaller than ideal.

13. Color
Bright primary colors can be over-stimulating in a group care environment. Walls painted an ivory-eggshell color and furniture constructed of natural wood creates a cozy, neutral colored background which allows children to visually discriminate toys and pictures on the wall. Splashes of color and texture can be incorporated flexibly into the classroom through the use of wall quilts and fabric canopies.

14. Table & Chair Height Specs


age (mos.) chr. ht. tab. ht table size
6 - 18 5.5" 12" 24" x 36"
(seats 4)
9 - 24 6.5" 14" 24" x 36"
(seats 4)
18 - 36 8" 16" 24" x 36"
(seats 4)
or 30" x 60"
(seats 6)

15. Toy Shelves
24" h x 48" l x 12" d. Use all-wood shelving, with wood or white laminate backing (more attractive, shows off materials on shelf more clearly). To prevent tipping, secure all shelves and cubbies to floor, wall and/or platform. walls (42"h) or cutout window openings. This reduces the caregivers need to leave the classroom numerous times daily, while providing for full visual supervision of children in classroom.

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McCamant & Durrett Architects