Type of Document Thesis Author West, Tanya URN etd-07202011-121622 Title Environments For Young Children: A Qualitative Study And Design Of Healthy And Nurturing Preschool Environments Degree Master of Fine Arts Department Interior Design, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Lisa Waxman Committee Chair Marlo Ransdell Committee Member Peter Munton Committee Member Keywords
- Children's Play
- Interior Design
- Preschool Design
- Child Care Center Design
- Early Childhood Development
- Children's Social Interactions
Date of Defense 2011-06-22 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe purpose of this research study was to evaluate the interior spaces of child care centers and the impact these spaces have on young children and the adults who care for them. A review of the existing research and the data gathered in this study were subsequently used to inform the design of a child care center that is nurturing and supportive of the activities that both young children and adults perform on a daily basis. The final design for the child care center, Tallahassee Learning Center, a facility offering preschool education and child care services for children ages three to five, was based on the data gathered from this study and the key areas of research addressing early childhood development, young children’s play, crowding, privacy, preschool classroom spatial arrangements, and green child care facility design.
The first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial to their physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development (Woodward, 1966). In the United States, with 65% of women working outside the home as of 2009, many children of this age are in a child care center, away from the comfort and familiarity of home (NACCRRA, 2009). In 2009, it was also reported that nearly 14.5 million children under the age of six needed care while their parents were at work. The design of built environments where child care takes place deserves particular attention with the increasing number of children who spend many of their days in such settings. An understanding of how young children interact with their peers and their built environment can significantly impact and inform the design and spatial arrangement of spaces regularly occupied by young children.
Three child care centers in Tallahassee, Florida, were selected as the sites for conducting the research. Three qualitative methods of data collection were utilized for this research study, including interviews, visual documentation, and observation. Interviews were conducted with the directors of each facility and the teachers of the classes that were observed. Photographs were taken of the exterior and interior of each facility as a means of visual documentation. Observations of children who were three to five years old were conducted in the form of behavioral mapping using nonparticipant observations over the course of three consecutive months.
The research findings suggest that young children’s behavior and social interactions with their peers and teachers are impacted by the spatial arrangement of their preschool classrooms. The organization and adjacencies of the activity centers influenced children’s interactions and the teacher’s ability to monitor the children. Both physical and visual proximity to the teacher was an indicator of the children’s behavior. When teachers could clearly see all the children in their care, less fighting and other inappropriate behaviors took place. Children required less adult support when toys, supplies, and fixtures were easily accessible. Children’s play behavior and social interactions were positively enhanced when the preschools were arranged in such a way where several children could play together at each activity center with enough toys or other play materials for each child to be involved in the play process. Occasionally, children would desire privacy or time to play alone. By going to a quiet corner of the room and turning his or her back to the other children, a child was able to create their own place of private retreat away from the stimulation of their surroundings.
Based on information gathered in this study, design guidelines were developed to help inform the design of child care centers that are intended to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood by creating spaces which are supportive of the activities of both young children and the adults who care for them. The final design for Tallahassee Learning Center presented in this thesis provides a developmentally appropriate setting that balances the practicality of establishing a safe, healthy, and educational environment while also ensuring that the child care center evokes a sense of wonder, delight, and meaning for the young children.
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