Design child-friendly spaces at home for online learning
Three architects suggest simple ideas to transform a child’s room into a clutter-free, multifunctional space for learning and for recreation
With the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, children are now confined indoors. The home has now transformed into their space of learning as well as of recreation. Needless to say, the existing spaces in the house may not be designed to suit this new development in the child’s life. Parents, having realised this, are now redesigning the child’s room, which can help his or her growth while staying indoors. “Most urban families, comprising working parents and kids, would earlier be out of the house for at least eight hours everyday. The children would come back from school and head downstairs to play. The sleep cycle would be for 9-10 hours. So typically, the active hours at home were around six hours. But now all of that has changed, and hence the design of the spaces should change too," says Ekta Parekh, partner, reD Architects.
Payal Karumbiah of The Baby Atelier concurs and adds that it is only now that people are really beginning to focus on the kids’ room. “Earlier people would put in only one or two kiddy elements as they were worried that the children would outgrow them very soon," says the Bengaluru-based architect. But now, parents are focusing on meaningful elements such as ergonomic seating, fun-shaped boards and special lighting.
Earlier, when architects would work on a child’s room—particularly younger ones— they would not put in a television or a computer. But the last four months have changed it all. Parekh has got an endless number of calls during the lockdown to get the house “overwired". Technology has become critical to the way we live and wi-fi networks and bandwidth are now important tools to make our lives multifunctional.
While making all these changes, Karumbiah suggests that the design and accessories be chosen in a way that the children’s room remains clutter-free and allows them to function easily. For instance, instead of having fixed furniture, try going for foldable desks, which can be put away after use. “You could include a junk drawer. Have nicely placed display boards, on which they can put up their paintings and craft work, instead of pasting on the walls. And most importantly, all of these need to be accessible at the child’s height," elaborates Karumbiah. You could even experiment with various surfaces as display boards, such as mirrors, which aid a child’s discovery, and can be updated later to suit age-appropriate needs.
It’s important to take care of the minutest details—instead of having sharp pin board tacks, get creative and use cloth line clips on the display boards. There shouldn’t be any glass tops in the room. Instead, opt for textured tops, which makes it easier to get the grime out. “Utility is most important. I have seen plush carpets in a child’s room. These collect dust mites. Have a soft flooring instead," she says.
While designing a child’s room, it’s easy to get carried away with colours, adding pops of bright reds and yellows on the walls. But experts suggest opting for muted, soft pastels for the room so that they are easy on the children’s eyes, and don’t distract them from their activities. In fact, neutral hues can act as a blank canvas for their imagination. “And most importantly, the room and its design should be based on longevity. It should adapt to the needs of a growing child," adds Karumbiah.
Perhaps, instead of just focusing on the child’s room, it might be better to look at creating small nooks and spaces across the house where the family could function through the day. Parekh, based in Mumbai, suggests this from personal experience. One of her daughters plays an instrument and the other one does ballet. “Have a common multifunctional space where these activities can happen through the day," she says.
Parekh recommends creating a combination of dynamic areas, which can be converted into a gym in the morning or where the kids can have their physical education classes, and personal spaces that you can retreat to, away from all sights and sounds of the frenetic activity taking place elsewhere in the house. After all, the strains of the child practicing cello, which used to be a sweet background sound earlier, can grate on the nerves when heard the entire day. “It’s better to have a class area that is organised, without toys and distractions. For the older kids, keep all other gadgets away other than the one they are learning on. The atmosphere needs to be disciplined," says Farah Ahmed of FADD Studio. Just like in school, when they keep moving from one class to another, it might be better to keep the learning space mobile. “Already online learning comes with its unique set of challenges. We can ease this process with efficient design solutions," she adds.
FIRST PUBLISHED13.08.2020 | 12:00 PM IST