Flexible early years settings

Flexible room layout

I don’t believe there is a perfect set-up for a room. Each group of children is different and room use or the age of children using a space may change. The key to laying out furniture is to allow for flexibility. Carpeted areas, however, can severely restrict the possibilities for rearranging interest areas as the room’s use changes. Let me illustrate the point. In May 2010 my colleague Suzanne and I toured eight council nurseries in the Midlands. We spoke with the manager and practitioners at each nursery trying to understand the dynamics of the rooms – what was working and what were the problems.

One problem surfaced immediately – flooring. Many of the rooms had flooring installed at the basic ratio of one third vinyl sheet goods to two thirds carpet. Even where the ratio was closer to half and half, the problem was the same. Inevitably some or all of the carpet was in the wrong place for where they wanted to locate the activity areas. Some rooms had carpet right where the children entered from the outside play area. Others had a narrow strip of sheet goods by the sinks, not wide enough to incorporate the wet/messy play that then flowed over onto the carpet. With its sound-deadening properties, carpet can certainly help the acoustic balance in a centre. But how do we decide where it should be placed when the room is being designed or refurbished?

The simplest solution is to put sheet flooring throughout the centre and use area rugs. This gives future flexibility and also lets you replace a specific rug without having a new carpet installed. It lets you use a softer, more tactile carpet in the book area which wouldn’t work in other areas. By area rugs I don’t mean the “educational” rugs that fill many catalogues. Just choose something functional that fits your décor from the local carpet store and have them edge-bind a piece the size you want.

For more information about room layout download our free booklet Spaces: Room layout for 0–5 year olds

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