High Quality Preschool Furniture & Preschool Classroom Design Play a Pivotal Role in Children’s Acquisition of Knowledge
Every Early Childhood classroom has a teacher who is seen yet not heard. This teacher touches each and every child in a manner that is so simple yet so complex that the children don’t even know that they are being influenced by her. No matter how many teachers there are in the room, this teacher is always a welcome, appreciated, highly influential, yet silent extra. The teacher to whom I am referring is the walls, space, design, centers & preschool furniture found in an Early Childhood classroom. Each of the aforementioned act as learning tools for the young children in our care and each must be given a great deal of attention when setting up an Early Childhood classroom that values creativity, independent thinking and physical and emotional safety.
Well-Designed Preschool Classroom Furniture Promotes Children’s Growth
Imagine that you are a five-year-old child sitting at a work table. Your feet are firmly planted on the ground and you have plenty of room for your body, your paper and your writing materials. You are sharing the table with a few friends but you all have enough personal space to carry through with your given task. You begin enthusiastically, sometimes chatting with your peers, all the while paying close attention to what is unfolding in front of you. You love the colors you are using, you are proud of your work, and you are enchanted, if not a little surprised, at the skills you are displaying. Such a moment is repeated, day after day, in the lives of the young children that we are teaching and who are are learning new skills on a daily basis. Although the materials that we provide, and of course our interactions with the children, play a pivotal role in the children’s acquisition of knowledge, so too does the furniture that they are given to work at in our classrooms.
Classroom Furniture Provides the Room With Much Needed Structure
The furniture in a classroom provides the fundamental, underlying structure in the room. Just envision the above scenario where the table is too crowded, the chair is too small (or big) and the table wobbles. The child is in the middle of drawing a rainbow or a robot and the legs of the table shake. Picture the frustration a child, who is just learning how to draw a vertical line, would feel, if his or her hand gets pushed or the leg of the table moves and the line is no longer straight. An awareness and understanding of the details involved when ordering classroom furniture ensures that the children will be able to play, explore and grow in a thoughtfully furnished room.
Preschool tables and chairs for sitting at during large group times such as lunch, and working at during small group times, are the most important pieces of early childhood furniture in the classroom. They should be pleasing to the eye and proportionate in both size and color to the rest of the room. In each Early Childhood classroom in my school (including First Grade classrooms) there are light wood colored tables with colored borders around the edges which add both calm and color to the classroom. In my own Pre-K classroom, comprised of 4 and 5 year olds, I want the color and the vibrancy of the room to come from the children themselves; from their drawings and paintings, from their constructions and their distinct personalities. For this reason I like that our preschool tables are attractive but more muted in color. Because we give the lightest colors to the youngest children, with darker colors provided as the children move from grade to grade, yellow was given to our Nursery, red to Pre-K, teal to Kindergarten and dark blue to First Grade. The chairs match the colored edges. This allows for continuity as the children move from grade to grade but also subtly suggests to the children that they are indeed growing and changing from year to year, just as their furniture does.
Make Sure Your Preschool Chairs & Tables “Fit” the Children in Your Class
The furniture should “fit” the children. When children are sitting at a table and working or playing they need to be able to feel the floor below them so that they can feel stable and anchored while they are creating. They are learning so many new skills; when their feet dangle it makes it hard for them to sit still and assume the posture and position they need to practice their newly acquired skills. It is important to have chairs that are adjustable to allow for children of different heights and weights to feel comfortable while working. At one time there was a boy in my class who was both tall and quite overweight. Even to an untrained eye he looked awkward in the classroom and was really not very invested in doing work at the table. One of the first things I did was to have a few chairs adjusted for him. It seemed like a small thing to do but it did make him feel more comfortable when sitting at the table. And it was good for the few other children who were also somewhat taller than their peers.
When you position the chairs and tables in your classroom, pay close attention to the ease of access and space for both the children and the teachers. Many times I have made sure that there is enough room for the children but I and my Assistant just couldn't squeeze around the chairs!
Each Type of Preschool Table Is Suitable For Different Tasks
In many classrooms, including mine (which has 17 children), there are two trapezoid shaped tables as well as one round table. The trapezoid tables are usually kept separate to allow for small group work. However, they can be combined to form one hexagonal table. We usually combine the tables during times such as Birthday Parties or Thanksgiving Feasts, when we are aiming for a more communal feel in the classroom. I have found that the round table can fit 8-9 children, the trapezoid table can fit 5 and the hexagonal table 8. I often use the trapezoid tables when I need to work one on one or one on two with the children. With this type of setup, I can either sit across from or next to a child, depending on what the child needs. Sometimes a child will need very hands-on attention from me. I might have to help him/her position the scissors in their hands or even provide a reassuring touch on the arm to encourage them to keep working and sitting close enables me to do so. I find that if I try to work with only one or two children at our round table, many children will congregate at the table waiting for a turn or for my attention. If I suggest that they go play until I am ready to work with them they feel left out or rebuffed. At the smaller tables, this is not an issue as there is simply no room for them! Conversely, I will use the round table when I want many children to work together on a particular task such as a Birthday Book.
Appropriate preschool classroom furniture can equip you with a vehicle for classroom management and can give the children the ability to feel independent and secure in their space. You will see that you don’t even have to be directly present for these actions to occur. You will be amazed, day by day, how the children will know what to do, understand what is expected of them and your classroom will be one with a strong sense of purpose.