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Designing User-Friendly Day-Care Centers

December 12, 1993|BARBARA MAYER | ASSOCIATED PRESS

There's more to day-care center design than child safety. Color and scale play a major role in how youngsters relate to the space, how they behave, how they learn.

Give them bright colors, furniture that fits, art at their eye level, a nook for hiding--and watch them thrive, Antonio Torrice says.

Torrice, of Burlingame, Calif., co-author of "In My Room" (Fawcett-Columbine, 1989, $22.95) and a specialist in designing spaces for children, was co-chairman of the National Task Force on Day Care Interior Design.

The group studied the design of 155 centers over a two-year period and interviewed about 100 day-care providers, educators, pediatricians and psychologists on worthwhile interior elements for young children. It also set up a controlled experiment at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. There, observers studied how children respond to different environments.

They found, among other things, that little ones enjoy retreating to an enclosed space from time to time during the day to read or play quietly. The space can be a room apart, a table draped with a cloth or bedsheet or a large cardboard box upended on the floor with cutouts as windows and doors.

"Physically, a child's world starts at an adult's waist and goes down," Torrice says. "Just because a room is full of child-related artwork doesn't mean it's a child-sensitive room."

One center with child-sensitive decor is in Terre Haute, Ind. The Rose Southside Child Care Center, designed by local resident Carolyn Lockman, was selected by a professional jury, including Torrice, for a $5,000 building grant from the Du Pont Co.

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