How to Design the Ideal Early Childhood Center

What would you do if you could design the ideal early childhood center?

At WONDER, we just got that opportunity — but we need your help.

Historically, the way people think about a problem like this is by taking the total number of square feet (30,000-40,000), and then dividing by the total number of kids (300) to figure out how many classrooms you need (15).

This is the wrong formula for any school — but it’s especially wrong for a school that intends to base its educational program on the Reggio model — a form of education that originated in Italy around the notion that the physical environment is the “third teacher” (after parents and peers), and that seeks a much fuller integration of all spaces (and senses) than the traditional primary school.

Consequently, we’re beginning the design process with this question: Knowing that all children learn best through play, collaboration, curiosity and wonder, how might we design this learning environment differently?

Better yet, what if we took those same 15 spaces and, instead of designing a really cool template and then and just repeating it 15 times, we created 15 amplified, thematic experiences that offered their own special source of exploration and wonder?

Imagine, for example . . .

The Puddle Room — A space where we play and learn about water.

Einstein’s Dream — A space where we play and learn about the nature of light.

The Echo Chamber — A place where we play and learn about the nature of sound.

There are so many possibilities! We have room for fifteen.

What would YOU want to see?

Categories: Design & SpaceBookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Jessica Bynoe
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Such a great question Sam! So many ideas, but a few off the top of my head:
    The “When I grow up . . .” room where you can explore different futures and industries through images, dress up, play and improvisation.
    The “Blank Canvas” combining color, art, language, expression and the ability to co-create space by actually writing and drawing on the walls, floor, furniture, etc.
    The “Mindfulness Room” for meditation, yoga, safe conversations, etc.
    The “Greenhouse” to grow and care for plants and small animals, and learn about their contributions to the environment.
    The “Global Transporter” as a place to learn about and become immersed in other cultures, traditions and experiences from around the world.

    What a fun mental break from the day to dream up these ideas! Thanks!

  2. Ned Murray
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink


  3. Matthew Henry
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Gardening room with live grass on the floor
    A Design Room, stocked with wall bins full of art supplies, craft supplies, legos, etc.
    A Healthy Body room filled with obstacles and bikes and trampolines and balls, etc.
    A music room filled with listening stations, instruments, etc.

  4. Jan Somers
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    The mistake fridge : where we learn to grow on mistakes.
    The grow chamber: where trying the unknown is primordial (fixed vs grow mindset of prof Carol Dweck – a must read for school designers )
    The waiting room : where children learn to pause their expectations on rewards and immediate results

    Jan Somers – Photographer, Poet, Let the magic return facilitator – Belgium email

  • Read Sam’s Books