This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of ASTC’s Dimensions magazine
ON DESIGNING INTERACTIVE EXHIBITS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
When you design an exhibit for young children, you should not limit yourself to just downsizing all the components and adding a wild palette of colors. You have to start thinking like a child. It may not be possible to go back in time, but this simple set of rules will help you develop your ideas:
- Rule #1: “The floor is everywhere my foot can reach.”
- An adult mind has a mental barrier that prevents one from walking on a surface located higher than a foot and a half (half a meter) above the ground. Adults will see this surface as either a seat or a decoration. Toddlers, however, do not possess this kind of constraint. Use as much durable and anti-skidding materials as possible, and watch the height.
- Rule #2: It is never too low.
- For adults, everything has to be within reach, and bending and crouching is tiring for us. It is totally the opposite with kids. For them, standing on tiptoes, lying on the floor, or reaching for something inaccessible is simply a lot of fun. Sometimes designers need to leave the rules behind to make an exhibit more enjoyable for children.
- Rule #3: Kids are omnidirectional.
- An adult focuses on a single experience, while a child participates in the entire environment with all senses. While playing in one place, the child constantly listens to sounds coming from all around and can analyze multiple strands of information. This gives us the opportunity to create complex spaces.
Karolina Perrin, designer, Karek Design, Krakow, Poland
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