Kids are an excitable bunch. Check on them randomly and you’re likely to find them obsessing over their latest plaything or area of interest. In their daily lives, children look at everything with wonder and bring an amazing perspective to the mundane that we desperately lack. In fact, if you have a growing child at home, you have probably felt that they have a completely different way of looking at things.
Which is absolutely justified, because they do.
As they grow out of infancy and step into childhood, children increasingly come to terms with their senses, including the sense of movement and positioning. During this time, every experience they have in their environment contributes to their comprehension of the world. This enables them to have a unique perspective on everyday situations.
For example, take the playground. Where you see a simple jungle gym, the child sees a massive mountain to be climbed, one rung of the ladder at a time. Or consider the car ride - a simple mode of conveyance to you, but a full-scale adventure for a kid every single time.
However, these differences in perception go beyond the surface level. For example, you look at that jungle gym and see a fun source of adventure for your child, which they feel too. At the same time, your child could be developing their motor skills, learning how the metal in the structure is cold and strong, understanding the importance of queueing up and even the importance of playing safely.
These learnings are constantly happening in the life of a child through their sensory experiences. However, it may not be possible for you to control every aspect of this process to ensure the best outcome for your child. No amount of parenting tips can help you change the color of the jungle gym in the public park.
Thankfully, due to the amount of time they spend at home in the early years of life, most of these learnings come from their immediate indoor surroundings - from areas that you have a say in designing and building.
Make spaces that nurture
Try this - when your child is asleep or out, turn on the video recording function on your phone and hold it next to you at roughly your child’s height. Walk around the house like this, especially in areas that your child frequents. When you watch this recording, you’ll see how different the entire house looks - how big the stove and cabinets feel. If you went to sleep and woke up to a house with those proportions, you’ll probably feel that you live in a giant’s house - inevitably making you want a different way to move around, to store, to do anything you usually do in your living space.
And all of that is based on the difference in just how one of your senses - vision - is tuned as compared to the same in your child. Add that to the difference in perception in the other primary senses, and you’ll see why there’s a need to fundamentally change how we design spaces for our children. When you’re picking the bed room color or decide whether to get bunk beds for your teenager’s space, more mindfulness is the need of the hour. Whether it is room décor for teens or for your child, pay attention to things like furniture color.
You don’t need to think about a complex plan or strategy to make this change happen in your home. Think about some basic positive experiences you remember from your childhood - the color scheme of your favorite cartoon character, the taste of your favorite snack, the texture of your favorite soft toy. You retained these memories and can still derive positivity from them due to the sensory play that built neural connections in your brain.
To give your child the ability to build similar experiences, pay attention to the sensory experiences they go through. Texture plays an important role as it has a simultaneous visual and tactile impact. Contrary to popular belief, overtly bold patterns and highly contrasting colors can be over-stimulating and distracting for most young children. Color psychology shows that pastels and milder shades of blue are received better by younger minds.
Find ways to add gentle sensory play in the environment that has a calming effect on children with smart furniture choices. It could be as simple as letting them jump on the mattress at the end of a long day, or building them a safe climbing wall in their room. Such experiences can help them manage their inner uneasiness that could have arised from boredom, restlessness, or some other source.
As a parent, noticing these opportunities and making these changes can go a long way in enabling your child to grow up to their true potential. Together with them, you can build a happier place in your home for your entire family.