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There is a lot of thought that goes into designing a preschool classroom. The layout and furnishings play such an important role in the students' day-to-day educational experience. Unfortunately, many teachers make common mistakes when it comes to furniture placement. But to manage the learning environment in the most productive way, it's critical to have the right furniture in place.
Here are 9 common mistakes when it comes to classroom furniture layout & design:
Teachers spend a significant amount of time at their workstations preparing lessons, completing paperwork, and communicating with parents. Therefore, having enough room for the teacher's desk, file folders, and storage is extremely important to ensure that time spent working is productive. But if the workstation is too small, the teacher won't have enough storage space for their materials. The result? Too many papers and folders are strewn across the desk or shoved in a drawer. And this not only looks messy but it can also be dangerous if students often go to the teacher's desk.
In most preschools, children are seated at individual workstations during the day. If the tables are too close together, it can be hard to walk between them and students will have difficulty reaching across them to share materials with one another. On the other hand, if each table is spaced so far apart that there's not enough room for a whole group to sit at each table, teachers will feel like they're always running around the room trying to get materials for students.
Furniture should be designed with a small body in mind. This means that it should have sturdy surfaces, rounded edges, and no sharp corners or protruding legs. But many teachers make the mistake of equipping their classrooms with furniture that has complex design elements (i.e., tables with curving legs, drawers, or weird shapes) that are difficult for kids to manoeuvre around. This restricts the natural movement of children within the classroom and can result in many bumps, bruises, and scrapes.
Kids grow up so quickly, and at different speeds too. When it comes to furniture, this means that what's considered age-appropriate for a 4 -year-old won't be right for an 8-year old. So the furniture in a certain age in the classroom should have rounded edges and be lower in height to the ground than the furniture in a highest grade students' classroom. Likewise, any tables and chairs used should be sized for each age group too.
It's also important to take the shape and size of the classroom into consideration when purchasing furniture. For example, a school that has long rows of tables will be able to outfit its entire space with long, rectangular tables. However, schools that have smaller classrooms or multiple activities going on simultaneously may want to mix up their furniture by placing smaller tables in the centre of the room and using larger tables at the perimeter of the space.
Solutions: Purchase furniture that is specifically designed for multiple activities going on simultaneously.
Young children are dynamic learners who need to move around as they work. So it's important to have furniture that facilitates this type of movement, but also allows kids to be seated comfortably for periods of time. For example, a teacher might want to use a table with low height and a support bar for her younger students. This way, each table can be used to hold a grouping of students as they complete different activities. But if the table is placed incorrectly, it might only allow students to move from one side of the table to the other. In this case, kids will stay still and won't get much out of their movement.
Solutions: Use furniture that allows for both stationary and active movement.
Teachers often underestimate how big furniture can be. In reality, the weight of a heavy wooden table or bulky cart can add up quickly when each is moved from one side of the room to the other. Many teachers will push their tables against a wall and stack gym mats on top in order to save space when they're not in use, but this can be frustrating when it comes to moving the furniture back into place.
Solutions: Purchase furniture that is lightweight and easy to move.
Children move furniture around all day long. So it's important to choose pieces that can hold up against this type of wear and tear. For example, a teacher might want to use a multi-functional table as a work surface, then turn it into a small group table by simply adding blocks underneath the legs (see below). And this is completely fine. However, it's important that the teacher understands that while this process works well today, it might not a month from now. So a classroom table with a top made of solid plastic or natural wood is going to hold up better than a piece with more complex features on the tabletop.
Solutions: Purchase furniture that is specifically designed for children.
Inexperienced designers might not understand that there is a huge difference between designing for adults and designing for children. For example, an adult designer would never use primary colours in a corporate office, but they're often used in classrooms. And although many inexperienced teachers will be drawn to these bright colours, it's important that they take the time to truly understand how different colours and design elements work in a classroom environment.
Solutions: Hire a professional designer who has experience designing for children.
At the end of the day, new teachers shouldn't feel discouraged. Instead, they should understand that designing a classroom takes time and patience. And it starts with realising what children need from their learning space.
Once you've made this realisation, then choosing furniture that is specifically designed for a child's needs is the next logical step in the process.