Furnishings and Equipment

Head Start Design Guide

Interior spaces including entry and circulation areas, staff rooms, class rooms, common areas, and service areas are addressed as specific elements within the center design process. All of these components are considered in this chapter from the Head Start Design Guide. This resource can be used by program directors and members of the agency’s facilities planning team.

The following is an excerpt from the Head Start Design Guide.

7.1 General Information
     7.1.1 Entry and Circulation
     7.1.2 Staff Areas
     7.1.3 Classrooms
     7.1.4 Common Areas
     7.1.5 Service Areas
     7.1.6 Entrance and Circulation
     7.1.7 Exterior Transition Spaces
     7.1.8 Vestibule
     7.1.9 Reception
     7.1.10 Main Circulation
     7.1.11 Staff Spaces
     7.1.12 Director’s Office
     7.1.13 Parent/Teacher Conference Room
     7.1.14 Staff Lounge
     7.1.15 Staff Lavatory
     7.1.16 Central Resource Storage
7.2 General Concepts for Classroom Design
     7.2.1 Classroom Areas
     7.2.2 Classroom Location
     7.2.3 Classroom Size
     7.2.4 Separation of Spaces
7.3 Scale
     Table 7.3 - Physical Dimensions of Children
7.4 Architectural Form
7.5 Classroom Component Areas
     7.5.1 Classroom Entrances
     7.5.2 Cubby Storage Area
     7.5.3 Infant and Young Toddler Cubbies
     7.5.4 Older Toddler and Head Start Children’s Cubbies
     7.5.5 Open Activity Area
     7.5.6 Activity Area for Infants
     7.5.7 Activity Area for Toddlers
     7.5.8 Activity Area for Head Start Children
7.6 Lofts and Platforms
     7.6.1 Infant Lofts and Platforms
     7.6.2 Toddler and Preschool Children’s Lofts and Platforms
7.7 Other Areas
     7.7.1 Art Sinks
     7.7.2 Toilets and Sinks
     7.7.3 Diapering Station and Storage Areas
     7.7.4 Sleeping and Napping Areas
     7.7.5 Nursing and Lactation Areas
     7.7.6 Food Preparation
     7.7.7 Eating/Table Area
     7.7.8 Child-Accessible Display
     7.7.9 Classroom and Teacher Storage
     7.7.10 Teacher Storage
     7.7.11 Multi-Purpose and Motor Activity Spaces
     7.7.12 Sick Bay
     7.7.13 Service Spaces
     7.7.14 Kitchen
     7.7.15 Laundry
     7.7.16 Janitor’s Closet
     7.7.17 Service Entrance
7.8 Mechanical/Electrical Telephone Equipment
7.9 Design Features to Avoid

This chapter provides concepts and criteria for the design of the interior spaces of a Head Start center. Area categories include entry and circulation areas, staff rooms, classrooms, common areas, and service areas.

7.1 General Information

Spaces within the center can be separated into three major types: 1) the classroom and common use areas for children; 2) the staff areas for teachers and administrators; and 3) the service areas for servicing the center. The entries to the center and main circulation pathways unify these areas. Descriptions for each space type are as follows. See Chapter 9 for finish recommendations.

7.1.1 Entry and Circulation

The entry includes the transition space, vestibule, and reception area where parents, teachers, children, and visitors enter the facility. The main circulation provides pathways between discreet functional spaces.

7.1.2 Staff Areas

Staff areas include the director’s office, assistant or secretary’s work space, staff lounge and work area, staff toilet, parent/teacher conference area, and central resource storage.

7.1.3 Classrooms

Classrooms for infants, toddlers, and Head Start children are specific to the group using the space. Best practice indicates that these classrooms must have a variety of spaces to support the children’s care and developmentally appropriate activities. Architecturally defined spaces within classrooms include the entrance, cubby storage, classroom and teacher storage, diapering station and storage, toileting and hand washing, sleeping, nursing, and food preparation. The classroom should have an art sink, raised areas, and loft areas (though these level changes need not be built in), and open, architecturally unrestricted areas.

7.1.4 Common Areas

The center may have additional space in a centrally located area for use by children, teachers, and parents. A beneficial by-product of a Head Start center is a stronger sense of community among those using the center.

The center may include a multiple-purpose space. The multiple-purpose space may be used as a meeting area and as a large-motor-activity area. Best practice indicates that if no adequate outdoor play yard space is available or climate is not conducive to outdoor play during significant portions of the year, an indoor large-motor-activity area should be provided. If either portable or permanent lofts are to be located in this room, appropriate protective surfacing should be provided for the highest unprotected deck. (Ref: ASTM-F1292-99)

Unless local licensing requires a separate sick bay, the area should be near the center director’s office. A sick child must wait here until he is picked up by his parent. (See Chapter 10 for ventilation requirements.)

7.1.5 Service Areas

The center requires space for services including food, laundry, janitorial, and service dock/entrance.

7.1.6 Entrance and Circulation

These spaces should provide a safe and convenient arrival and departure site. The main entry is vital to creating a friendly impression for children and a non-threatening transition from parents’ care to staff care.

Certain features help promote a successful transition:

  • An entrance door glazed with safety glass provides full visibility for children and adults.
  • Entryway visibility of classrooms and interesting displays for children can help to ensure a smooth transition at arrival time.
  • A reception desk that allows children to see the adult staffing reception, if one is required. (Typically centers with a population of 74 or more might have a reception desk to monitor access to the center.) The reception desk should be simple not a high counter. Note that the need for a reception desk should be discussed during design development because this feature is often underutilized in existing centers.
  • The main entrance should be in close proximity to an adult lavatory for use by parents and staff.

Other points of entry for the facility include service entry access to the play yards and the classrooms. The main entry should include an exterior transition area, or a covered bench for good-byes, shoe-tying and other child/parent interactions. Ideally, the entry that conforms to ADA dimension requirements would include a vestibule for energy conservation and a reception area. Secondary entries should have transition areas but do not require thermal vestibules. Depending on the climate, porches or mudrooms can serve this purpose. In spaces that are difficult to monitor, fire egress doors should be alarmed.

7.1.7 Exterior Transition Spaces

Rough textured ground surfaces combined with landscaping that keeps soil and foliage away from the entry path are appropriate in these areas, Ground materials and landscaping leading to the building entry should be designed to minimize the potential for tracking soil and water into the building.

All exterior entries used by children should have transition spaces with a bench and a covered area of at least 22.5 square feet. The covered area may be a roof, canopy, or trellis. Transition spaces are important in creating a comfortable environment and integrating the exterior and the interior. These spaces allow children to adjust to the changes between interior and exterior light levels and temperatures. A transition space also may serve as a mud room or may provide an area for children in the outdoor environment.

Elements extending from the building, such as porches, verandas, canopies, or arcades, can create successful transition spaces and in warm climates can be used as program areas.

7.1.8 Vestibule

Provide views of the short-term-parking area from the entry vestibule and design the windows with low sills so that children can look through the windows. Vestibules should consist of two sets of doors to provide energy conservation. The doors must be arranged to permit use by those in wheelchairs. There should be a flush-mounted walk-off mat to prevent tracking of water and soil into the center. The entrance may need security devices. This equipment should be non-intrusive and have a non-threatening appearance. Refer to Chapter 10 for more information on technical requirements. In areas with snow and ice, a roof overhang or canopy should be installed to ensure that the exit is readily accessible at all times.

7.1.9 Reception

A reception area should be located immediately inside the entry. It should be warm, bright, and welcoming. The reception area connects the entrance to the main circulation pathways of the center. Parents escort children to the classroom from this location.

A small reception table at desk height may be provided in large centers. It can serve as a sign-in facility or a spot for parent/teacher mailboxes. A counter, which is typically simpler and less expensive than a reception desk, may serve these functions. Achild should be able to see the adult behind the desk. Furnishings in the reception area may include a sofa, chair, end table, and coffee table.

The design team should select durable finishes (Chapter 9) that have an informal, comfortable appearance and should establish a warm, inviting feeling through use of color, soft seating, plants, and artwork. Recommended finishes include a carpeted floor and a washable durable wall finish. Cut-pile carpet has proven less durable than looped pile. Oriental-style patterned rugs may be associated with a home environment. All rugs in the center should have non-slip backing.

7.1.10 Main Circulation

A center includes two types of circulation paths: the main circulation connecting the various classrooms and major spaces of the center path, and the internal circulation patterns within those spaces. Circulation within classrooms will be discussed in the classroom section of this chapter.

The main circulation path serves as a community space as well as a pathway. The circulation space should not be utilitarian in character. Instead, it should be a street or a gallery with stopping and queuing areas along the way. There should be an opportunity for important social interaction along the circulation path. It is a space to meet other children and parents, a vantage point to see into classrooms, and an exhibition space for children’s art.

The designer should strive to limit the floor space devoted to pure building circulation. There should be at least one accessible drinking fountain in the corridor. It is advisable to avoid the institutional appearance that is created by long, undeviating, double-loaded corridors with doors to rooms on both sides.

When it is not feasible to vary the layout of the circulation corridor, consider adopting the following design strategies to deemphasize the impression long corridors make:

  • Lighting: The designer can introduce artificial lighting. Instead of the dead-center placement of fluorescent lights in corridor ceilings, add strategically placed wall washing lights or natural light through skylights. Putting a window, glazed door, or skylight at the end of a corridor is advisable.
  • Floor Pattern: Using patterns can create a strong sense of place for children and when skillfully used will diminish the impression of long, double-loaded corridors. Large pattern repeats are often effective for de-emphasizing the tunnel appearance of double-loaded corridors. Patterns that are not symmetrically arranged or that emphasize functional areas, such as entrances to classrooms, are an effective means to achieve the same end.
  • Color: The designer should use color to visually alter the dimensions of otherwise institutional looking double-loaded corridors. Care should be taken in choosing the colors. Some think that bright colors may over-stimulate a child. However, since some cultures and communities use colors as a means of identity, color is an important local decision. Children gain a sense of orientation when they can see the entrance to their classroom and recognize landmarks, such as displays, common areas, and other design features. Teachers and children require clear views between the classroom and circulation areas at their viewing levels.

The main circulation path should be designed to serve as a primary means of regular and emergency egress. Through judicious arrangement, the designer should strive to reduce the area devoted to purely utilitarian circulation. No more than 30 percent (some design suggests no more than 20 to 25 percent) of the Occupiable Floor Area (OFA) within a facility should be used for primary circulation and service areas, unless the center location is irregular. The Occupiable Floor Area (OFA) allowance includes circulation within the classroom.

Outside corners in the circulation pathways should be eliminated as much as possible. Angled or curved corners can facilitate cart and stroller traffic and may decrease the possibility of injury.

Recommended finishes for major circulation paths include impervious surfaces at the floor and at wainscot height, paint above wainscot height, and safety glass in windows along the corridor.

7.1.11 Staff Spaces

Staff areas usually include the following spaces:

  • Director’s office
  • Assistant’s or secretary’s work space
  • Parent/teacher conference area
  • Area for family workers and health staff to work and interact with parents.
  • Staff lounge and work area
  • Staff toilet
  • Central resource storage

Spaces used by the staff, particularly teachers, should be easily accessible from the main circulation area.

7.1.12 Director’s Office

The director will normally perform deskwork and interviews in his/her office. The director may use this space to meet with parents, staff members, children, or other visitors and to conduct parent interviews. Larger centers may have an assistant or secretary who works closely with and shares duties with the director. Space for this staff member should be located near the director’s office.

Place this office in a quiet space, next to the reception area and accessible to visitors. To supervise properly, the director’s office must have excellent views of the main entry, the reception area, and as many classrooms as possible.

The director’s office should be comfortable with a carpeted floor and washable wall surfaces. There should be adequate lighting with task lighting components and acoustical separation of at least 45 STC from the children’s active areas.

Furnishings probably would include a desk and chair, two guest chairs, filing cabinets, a coat rack, shelving for books and resources, and lockable storage cabinets or a closet for personal belongings and first aid items. The director’s office requires a telephone and may have security video monitors. There should be adequate power supply to accommodate a personal computer, printer, and a fax machine. A copier and video equipment also may be stored here.

7.1.13 Parent/Teacher Conference Room

Parent/teacher conferences and meetings between staff members normally require space. This space should be located in a private area, adjacent either to the director’s office or the staff lounge. It should have data connect cables and jacks.

The conference space should be comfortable, pleasant, and quiet. Furnishings should include a conference table and seating for a suggested minimum of six, shelving for books, and a notice/bulletin board. Lighting should be dimmable so that video tapes may be viewed.

7.1.14 Staff Lounge

The staff may use this space as both a retreat and a workroom. They may relax and eat here, plan curricula, and prepare classroom materials. The lounge may contain a cot or sofa and should be located near the adult lavatory and central resource storage area. This space requires visual and acoustical separation from children’s areas but should be easily accessible to the staff.

The lounge should be comfortable, pleasant, and soothing. It should contain a counter with a microwave, a sink, an under-counter refrigerator, and cabinets. The flooring at the counter area should be impervious. All base cabinets should have childproof hardware. Recommended furnishings include a table with four chairs, a small sofa, and storage cabinets, some of which lock.

The workroom should have adequate space and power connections for telephone, computer, video equipment, and laminating and copy machines (unless they are in the director’s office). The machines should be isolated in an alcove for better control of noise. There also should be space on the counter for a butcher paper holder and an art waxer (a piece of equipment that allows children’s art to be hung without tape or pins).

7.1.15 Staff Lavatory

A center must provide at least one adult lavatory, although two, at either end of the center are recommended. Two adult lavatories improve the center’s functioning because this enables teachers to be out of classrooms for shorter periods.

Adult lavatories in the center must meet all UFAS and ADA code requirements. Lavatories should be accessible from the reception area and staff lounge. Recommended finishes include impervious flooring such as linoleum and painted walls above an impervious wainscot. One adult lavatory should be located in or near the infant and young toddler classroom areas. Electronic faucets are advisable in adult lavatories.

7.1.16 Central Resource Storage

The director and teachers may use a centrally located resource room for bulk storage of curricula materials and supplies and for storage of resource tapes, books, and audio/video equipment. The central resource storage is not a substitute for small-scale storage within the classroom. This storage is typically wall-mounted cabinets in the classrooms. The base of these securely anchored cabinets must be no lower than 4.5 feet above the finished floor below.

The storage room should have open shelving, lockable, closed-door storage, and filing cabinets. If space permits, a work counter and a counterheight stool may be provided.

7.2 General Concepts for Classroom Design

Children spend most of their day in the classroom. Classrooms afford facilities for care and opportunities for developmentally appropriate activities. Parents typically drop off and pick up children in the classroom, and adults may visit during the day or help as classroom volunteers.

7.2.1 Classroom Areas

The classroom design includes functional areas defined by furniture
arrangements and constructed elements that vary depending on the age of the children in the class. To maximize the space devoted to these important functions, the circulation between entrance and exits should be as direct as possible. It is appropriate to position tables and work surfaces adjacent to circulation areas, while retaining corners and floor areas for more protected and nurturing activities.

Ideally, classroom areas should be designed or arranged to fit four or five children and one adult. There also should be a group gathering area. Areas located in alcoves can allow children to be by themselves or in small groups. Classrooms should be equipped with convenient bins for recycling waste paper and other items.

Major classroom elements, such as plumbing connections, risers or case goods secured in place for safety reasons will remain fixed. Children and their teachers may modify the remaining space to create areas for their activities. The classrooms should provide flexibility for these activities.

Manufactured cubbies anchored to full partitions have been found to be more cost-effective than built-in types. The designer should ensure that the classroom space can accommodate the manufactured cubbies. It is wise to prevent an excess of children’s personal items in and around cubbies that would affect the order and function of the classroom. The cubbies could be arranged to form a cloakroom, an entrance alcove, or a transition area with openings facing away from the main classroom.

Children should have opportunities for diverse activities in the classroom. Lofts offer an opportunity for exploration; however, built-in lofts are not recommended. Low shelves and partitions should be secured to prevent tipping if they are used to separate use areas.

A well-equipped classroom for particular age groups should have the following areas:

Infant Classroom

  • Entrance
  • Cubby storage
  • Classroom and teacher storage
  • Adult lavatory within the classroom (preferable) but no more than 33 feet from the infant classroom entry
  • Diapering station and storage
  • Sleeping/crib area
  • Nursing area
  • Eating/table area
  • Food preparation area
  • Open activity and crawling area for play and development

Young Toddler Classroom

  • Entrance
  • Cubby storage
  • Classroom and teacher storage
  • Adult lavatory within 10 meters of entry
  • Diapering station and storage
  • Children’s toilets and sinks
  • Eating/table area
  • Food preparation area
  • Open activity area for play and development
  • Area with level change (three risers minimum)
  • Cot storage

Older Toddler Classroom

  • Entrance
  • Cubby storage
  • Classroom and teacher storage
  • Children’s toilets and sinks (one sink at toilet exit is preferable to avoid congestion)
  • Eating/table area
  • Art sink
  • Area with level change (three risers minimum)
  • Open, unrestricted activity area
  • Water fountain
  • Cot storage

Head Start Classroom

  • Entrance
  • Cubby storage
  • A classroom for three-year old children requires a small diaper changing area
  • Classroom and teacher storage
  • Children’s toilets and sinks (one sink at toilet exit preferable to avoid congestion)
  • Eating/table area
  • Art sink
  • Water play area
  • Drinking fountain
  • Loft area (not built in)
  • Area with level change (three risers minimum)
  • Open, unrestricted activity area
  • Block area (64 square feet minimum) located away from main circulation
  • Cot storage

Separate male/female child-sized toilets should comply with ADAAG and with UFAS. If this is a problem, the designers should insure that the doors are low enough (59 inches max.) to allow adult supervision.

If windows are installed, they should be located to allow adult supervision of the classroom.

The proper zoning of classrooms is critical to the success of the center. The designer and users should consult at length.

General classroom design principles include the following:

  • Discreet functional areas need to be included in the design of the classroom even though they may be created primarily with furniture.
  • Noisy and active areas need to be away from quiet areas.
  • The circulation from equipment such as slides should flow away from activity centers.
  • Block play is an essential activity and areas must be provided where blocks can remain in position for more than a day and be protected from main circulation pathways and active play.
  • Do not crowd the space with more tables than necessary for mealtime and avoid excessive distance between tables. Rectangular tables should be arranged with 3.25 feet of clear space between them.

7.2.2 Classroom Location

To receive the maximum access to natural light, classrooms should be located along the exterior perimeter of the building. If not possible, the classroom should be located near areas that are along an exterior wall with windows.

Where possible, classrooms should have direct access to a central circulation system and direct access to play yards. They should be close to common use spaces.

7.2.3 Classroom Size

Design classrooms to accommodate the number of children for each age group. The Head Start Program Performance Standards and local licensing requirements must be referenced. Infants and young toddlers must have classrooms separate from other age groups. The design should allow for future expansion in all centers.

7.2.4 Separation of Spaces

Solid or glazed partitions at full height, doors, casework, cabinets, panels, and railings can be used for separation.

Three types of separation must be considered:

  • Acoustical separation
  • Visual separation
  • Physical separation

The following aspects of separation should be considered when designing the classroom spaces:

  • Groups or classrooms of children must be physically separated from each other.
  • Sound transmission between classrooms should be controlled with not less than 34 STC partitions, although complete acoustical separation is not suggested.
  • High noise levels from adjoining classroom spaces can negatively affect class activities.
  • Small, strategically placed windows between classrooms are recommended to offer children a view of other classroom activities. Placement of windows should not interfere with potential placement of classroom furniture. Install at least one window at child and adult levels.

Provide partial height enclosure for fixed elements in the following areas: food preparation, children’s toilet and hand washing, and the rear of cubbies. Food preparation and toileting/diapering areas must be separated to reduce the chance that a caregiver could inadvertently spread germs. Partitions with vision panels can be used effectively to separate these areas while allowing supervision.

Provide complete enclosure for teacher storage within the classroom and complete enclosure for the adult toilets.

7.3 Scale

The design of a nurturing classroom must reflect the designers’ appreciation of children’s scale, including the size of individual spaces within the classroom and the scale of furnishings. (Refer to Table 7.3 showing Physical Dimensions of Children.).

While areas of high ceilings in a classroom may be desirable, height must be modified in spaces that the child perceives as too high to have a residential character (for example, 85 percent of the room is over 11 feet high).

Consider using pendant lighting or ceiling fans hung no lower than 7.5 feet above the occupied floor area below. Pendant task lighting over fixed elements may hang as low as 5.5 feet as long as headroom is not required for passage. Choose fans to improve air flow and energy efficiency with rotation that can be reversed. Aside from the obvious mechanical and lighting enhancements that these strategies provide, they also help tailor spaces to children’s spatial perceptions. In addition, this provides the opportunity to hang banners and create trellis ceilings over activity areas. It is important to ensure that they do not interfere with the function of the sprinkler system.

Table 7.3 - Physical Dimensions of Children

The following dimensions are stated in inches and represent averages. Metric measures have been converted to
English equivalents using the conversions in Appendix D.

AGE IN YEARS

BIRTH

.5

1.0

2.0

3.0

4.0

5.0

BODY LENGTH

20.0

26.4

30.0

34.4

38.0

41.6

45.7

HEAD LENGTH

4.9

5.9

6.9

7.5

7.7

7.8

7.9

HEAD WIDTH

3.8

4.7

5.2

5.5

5.6

5.7

5.7

HEAD CIRCUMFERENCE

21.9

17.3

18.6

19.6

19.6

19.9

20.1

TRUNK LENGTH

8.3

11.6

12.6

13.6

14.3

15.0

15.3

SHOULDER WIDTH

5.9

7.0

8.0

8.8

9.3

9.7

10.0

CHEST CIRCUMFERENCE

13.0

17.2

18.7

20

20.5

20.8

21.7

ABDOMINAL CIRCUMFERENCE

N/A

16.1

17.5

18.2

8.5

20.3

20.4

PELVIC WIDTH

4.6

4.6

5.1

5.7

6.2

6.3

7.3

ARM LENGTH

7.6

10.0

12.0

14.6

6.4

16.7

19.8

HAND LENGTH

N/A

N/A

3.8

4.2

4.7

4.9

5.0

HAND WIDTH

1.4

1.6

1.7

1.9

2.0

2.0

2.2

LEG AND THIGH LENGTH

6.6

8.2

9.6

12.2

14.6

17.2

22.9

SITTING HEIGHT

N/A

17.6

19.2

21.2

22.5

23.5

24.5

KNEE WIDTH

1.5

N/A

2.5

2.6

2.7

2.7

2.7

WEIGHT IN POUNDS

7.5

16.7

22.0

28.0

32.0

38.0

43.0

KNEE PIVOT TO FLOOR

N/A

N/A

N/A

9.6

10.4

11.3

12.5

KNEE WIDTH

1.5

N/A

2.5

2.6

2.7

2.7

2.7

Source: Anita R. Olds, Ph.D., Architectural Prototype Document, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1987; Diffrient, N., Tilley, A.R., and Bardagly, J.C., Humanscale 1/2/3 Manual, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974; Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., Anthropometry of U.S. Infants & Children, Michigan: 1975.

The height of windowsills and counters depends upon the age of the children using the space. Leave 1.5 feet beneath windowsills (measured to the classroom finish floor) so that furniture and equipment can be placed easily along exterior walls. Storefront-type windows starting at the finished floor are not desirable.

Any furnishings and equipment for children should be child-scaled. Countertop height and reach depth should provide children with the opportunities to use them unassisted.

Consideration should be given to the adults using the space. Center design should be both adult and child friendly. Not all elements should be reduced in scale. Door locks, light switches, fire alarm pull stations, and other functional elements should retain adult scale and be mounted at standard heights. Food preparation, storage and service spaces, and other areas of the center used primarily by adults should remain at standard scale.

Furnishings that adults use should be adult scale. Some items may have a double function for both children and adults.

In placing electrical/telecommunication or security equipment, ensure that cords and wires are not placed within reach of children.

7.4 Architectural Form

The architectural form of the classroom should create an appropriate setting for a child. It should convey a definite sense of place while preserving optimal flexibility. The majority of the space should be free of constructed elements, and furniture arrangements should be used to create required functional areas.

The following guidance applies to architectural form:

  • Vary ceiling heights to define areas, disperse light, and create interest. Higher ceiling heights often encourage greater activity levels. Lower ceilings support quiet activities. The probability of higher construction costs must be considered in determining the extent of ceiling variation.
  • Vary floor levels to create riser lofts and low platforms. Sunken areas also are effective. The designer should be aware that permanent, constructed level changes may restrict flexibility and use valuable open floor space. Fixed level changes will require a wheelchair accessible ramp. When deciding where to place level changes, consider placement of furniture that is not fixed to the floor or walls. Used effectively, level changes can add interest and create intimate areas for children. For example, terraces and platforms provide areas for dramatic play activities and can double as seating areas. Lofts that accommodate 3-5 children offer space for large motor activities, dramatic play, or quiet activities. The designer should keep in mind that low-level changes can cause tripping.
  • Vary wall configurations to create interest, soften a space, or create a more nurturing impression in special spaces. The designers should avoid 90 degree or acute outside corners that pose hazards to children who may walk or run into them. Instead, consider curved or obtuse angled partitions. One inch rounded outside corner drywall beads should be used. The designer must keep in mind that visibility of all areas within the classroom is a key factor and avoid creating “blind” areas that make teacher supervision difficult.
  • Locate plumbing fixtures in one area for efficiency. For example, elements with plumbing connections, such as toilet areas and art sinks, should be grouped. The food preparation area must be separate from diapering and lavatory areas, though the areas can be placed on the opposite sides of a wall that separates them.
  • Provide ample display space at children’s height for display of art work and projects. Devices for display of artwork should not involve tacks or tape. Use tacky tape, magnets, clamps, or similar fasteners.
  • Preserve inside corners to create differentiated areas. Use features such as low partitions behind cubbies to create nurturing corner spaces.
  • Providing natural light benefits centers by reducing total energy use and improves the indoor environment. Day lit schools saved an average of $0.27/SF in energy costs over non-daylit schools. (Source: Energy Performance of Daylit Schools Innovative Design, NC)
  • Provide views for children to increase their awareness of their surroundings and the world beyond the center. Views should be provided to the outside, particularly to play yards. Views to atria and planters, common spaces, other classrooms, and circulating pathways also benefit children. Windows should be located at sills low enough for children to see outside and yet should allow placement of small-scaled furniture beneath them.
  • Provide visibility so teachers have an unrestricted view of the children at all times in the classrooms and play yards. Views should be provided between classrooms and other spaces in the center. Any interior doors, with the exception of adult lavatories, should have visibility panels. The top sash of a Dutch door should be secured when in the open position. Interior glazing allows visual supervision and lets children see others in the center. Partitions at the sides of toilets should be no higher than 3.5 feet. Finally, there should be gates (with view panels) in infant and toddler classrooms to prevent children from accessing kitchen and diaper areas.
  • Zone classroom space to separate active and quiet activities.
  • Use variations in ceiling and floor height, wall configuration, light levels, finishes, and open areas to modulate activity levels in different areas of the classroom. Zone high-activity areas, such as the entrances, eating/table areas, and exits to the play yard away from areas intended for sleeping and other quiet activities. Likewise, separate messy and clean areas.

7.5 Classroom Component Areas

 

7.5.1 Classroom Entrances

Each classroom should have a distinct and welcoming entrance that meets all emergency exit requirements. A second classroom entrance to the main circulation path or to play yards should be considered for egress depending on center configuration. Place the classroom entrance along a wall leaving corners available for activity areas. Entrances should allow views from the main circulation area into classrooms. There should be a sign-in counter (with storage below) near the classroom door at approximately 845 millimeters above the finished floor.

7.5.2 Cubby Storage Area

Children typically store their outdoor clothing and personal belongings in a cubby alcove when they arrive in the classroom. Designers should be aware that children may again need their outdoor clothing during the day. Parents may linger in the cubby alcove spending time with their children or with teachers or other parents. The design of the cubby area must consider this activity so bottlenecks do not occur. Cubbies should be arranged in a cloak room so as not to take up valuable classroom wall space.

Cubby storage areas should include the following features:

  • Open-front cubbies scaled to child size, one for each child in the classroom, and secured to the floor and wall to prevent tipping accidents.
  • A three foot clear area in front of the cubbies to ensure easy access.
  • Seating which may be integrated with the cubby for either adult or child use, such as a bench.
  • A parent bulletin board and mail box may also be located in the reception area.

The size and type of cubby storage may vary according to the age group in the classroom. It is wise to include a shelf for child safety seats, if space allows. If the cubbies are purchased, the designer should ensure that the dimensions fit the classroom space and design.

7.5.3 Infant and Young Toddler Cubbies

Infants and young toddlers need storage for diaper bags, clothing, and supplies. Typically, these purchased cubbies are about 1 foot wide, 1 foot deep and 1.5 feet high. The bench in the infant area should be about 1.2 feet above floor level so parents can sit comfortably while removing or putting on their children’s outdoor clothing.

Parents may wish to leave collapsible strollers or other child-carrying equipment at the center during the day. Rods for this purpose should be provided in this storage area or near the reception area. Provide 9 to 12 inches of rod length for every five children and install rods approximately 4.5 to 5 feet above the floor. If a double storage rod is needed, install the top rod about 7 feet above the floor and the bottom rod about 3.5 feet above the floor. Provide a retaining rail to keep the lower end of the strollers in place.

7.5.4 Older Toddler and Head Start Children’s Cubbies

Older toddlers and Head Start children need to store bulkier outdoor clothing in their cubbies. Satchels and backpacks may be stored on hooks. These cubbies should be a minimum of 1 foot wide, 1 foot deep, and 3 to 4 feet high. Two hooks are needed in each compartment for hanging garments. A shelf should be included for boxes, boots, or extra shoes. The bench in this area should be about 10 inches high for children to sit comfortably while preparing for outdoor activity.

7.5.5 Open Activity Area

Each classroom should have an open, unrestricted activity area, clear of constructed elements. Teachers and children are the architects of this space and should be able to adjust and alter this flexible area in response to their needs and activities. This can be accomplished through the use of elements such as curricula equipment and materials, moveable panels and demountable walls, fabrics, furniture such as seating or shelving, and display racks. The required space allotment for this area is described in Chapter 5, Section 5.8.

Requirements for activities occurring within this space will vary according to the age of children. Play activities may involve:

  • Discovery, including sand and water play
  • Large motor activity
  • Art/Music/Dramatic play
  • Reading/listening
  • Manipulation of small puzzles and finger toys
  • Block building
  • Woodworking
  • Science, including nature study
  • Math

It is wise to locate an open activity area within the classroom to take full advantage of natural light. Arrange the fixed elements along inside walls to reduce bottlenecks and maximize use of natural light in the space. The design should encourage traffic pathways minimizing disruption and avoiding areas of activity. Offset walls or partition patterns will allow more intimate areas for children but not obstruct teachers’ views of the activity area. Corner areas providing natural boundaries can set apart an activity area.

Include the following architectural features in open activity areas:

  • Acoustically treated surfaces to reduce noise.
  • Full-spectrum dimmable lighting to supplement natural light.
  • Blunt corner angles since it is important to avoid acute or 90-degree angles on outside corners projecting into the space. Provide a 1/2-inch radius or beveled edge on all outside corners of constructed features.
  • Ample counter areas at child height for work surfaces and display areas. Consider a counter near the windows for growing plants and conducting nature studies.
  • Adequate electrical outlets to serve counter areas for items such as radios, tape players, projectors, and keyboards. Locate outlets for this kind of equipment at least 4.5 feet above the finished floor, so that children cannot reach the outlet or pull equipment off counters using cords connected to low-mounted outlets.
  • Consideration of how the child views the surroundings. Spending time on the floor at a small child’s viewing level is a helpful exercise for a designer of children’s spaces.
  • Furnishings that are child-scale, including tables, chairs, and open storage units. Adult-sized comfortable seating is needed. Bulletin boards and other display areas should be placed at children’s height. Continuous strips from which to hang children’s art are strongly recommended. These strips may be placed approximately 3.2 feet to 4.5 feet above the finished floor.
  • Adequate storage for all curricula materials and supplies. Refer to the discussions on storage in this chapter. (Sections 7.1.1b, 7.5.2, 7.53, 7.5.4, 7.7.3, 7.7.9, 7.7.10, and 7.7.16)

7.5.6 Activity Area for Infants

The infant open activity area should offer opportunities for discovery and learning. This area must be designed as a safe, soft, print rich, stimulating environment in which babies can crawl, explore, and interact with teachers and other adults.

Provide the following architectural features in the infant classroom:

  • Soft-surfaced level changes that should be slight with a maximum of 3 to 4 inches between levels. The space should be soft and cushioned with a variety of textures and coverings. Create level changes using constructed platforms with ramps or stacked upholstered blocks in various configurations. Maximum unenclosed platform height for padded level changes should be 1.5 feet above the floor. Consider including an enclosed raised area for infants at 3 feet above floor level so infants can be at the same eye level as seated adults and be able to view the entire room.
  • Nests and crawl spaces that provide a safe environment for infant exploration can be constructed with low, permanent, soft barriers or with movable objects such as crawling tubes, tunnels, or cardboard boxes.
  • Low grab bars at 1.5 feet above floor level to help infants pull up to a standing position may aid an infant’s sense of security while developing walking skills. Aminimum total length of 5 feet should be provided in each infant classroom.
  • Licensing requirements in some states preclude carpet in infant rooms. Therefore, unpadded floors should be constructed of tile, linoleum, or wood that can be mopped and sanitized daily. Soft areas can be provided using area rugs, and floor mats with anti-slip surfaces to prevent accidents.
  • Views to the outside and to the circulation pathways from floor level, if possible.
  • Interesting things to observe from a baby’s point of view including views while the child is being held by seated or standing adults.
  • Mirrors placed at approximately 1.5 feet above the finished floor so babies can see reflections. Mirror material must be shatterproof, such as safety glass, acrylic, or reflective metal with no sharp edges.

7.5.7 Activity Area for Toddlers

The toddler open activity area should offer an even greater range of challenging opportunities for exploring and developing large muscles and motor skills. Toddlers often move quickly in groups of two or three. The activity area must allow for running and cruising (movement through space to view and select from a variety of activities) without disrupting children engaged in other activities.

Consider the following architectural features in the open activity area for toddlers:

  • Broad pathways to accommodate group movement or cruising.
  • Intimate spaces that allow toddlers to maintain a visual connection with the teacher.
  • Hard surface, impervious flooring throughout, unless the initial design meetings reveal a strong preference for carpet. If carpet is chosen, the quantity will be determined during the initial design concept phase. Area carpets with non-skid backing and mats should be provided for quiet areas.
  • Sand and water play areas that may consist of freestanding tables or troughs with nearby hooks for smocks and towels and impervious floor finish. If feasible, provide a floor drain. Sand and water play can occur in the art sink area. Art sinks should be provided only for older toddlers but not for young toddlers.

7.5.8 Activity Area for Head Start Children

The Head Start open activity area is larger than the areas designed for younger children. Head Start children are involved in a wide range of activities. Their skill level enables them to take part in more advanced activities than infants and toddlers and requires a greater number of interest areas, configured for small groups of children.

Consider the following architectural features in the Head Start classroom:

  • Design the space to allow for maturing skills in large muscle development. Refer to the discussion on lofts and platforms in Section 7.6 of this chapter.
  • Allow sand and water play using freestanding tables or troughs with nearby hooks for smocks and towels. An impervious waterproof floor finish and a floor drain should be used where feasible. Sand and water play also can occur in the art sink area or outside.
  • Include hard, impervious floor surfacing throughout with area rugs for quiet areas. If carpeting is required, the amount of carpet will be determined during the initial design concept phase.

7.6 Lofts and Platforms

Lofts and platform areas are optional constructed elements within the classroom. They offer many activity opportunities and advantages. Lofts and platforms are not appropriate for every classroom, because they can minimize flexibility. Lofts must be designed and positioned with child safety in mind. Constructed elements should reduce the risk of children falling from the loft. Typically, lofts will be purchased pieces of equipment that the architect- engineer will include in the design.

Lofts with slides and steps offer a variety of experiences. However, it is best for circulation if they descend in the same direction.

It is important to coordinate sprinkler requirements and to avoid placing sprinkers under lofts too close to children.

7.6.1 Infant Lofts and Platforms

Infant classrooms require soft, colorful crawling areas with slight level changes such as low, carpeted, constructed platforms, moveable foam shapes, or forms that provide level changes. Ramps or small 3– to 4–inch steps should be used between levels. All corners should be rounded, and all surfaces should be soft to minimize falls. The maximum height of platforms for infants is 18 inches.

Recessed constructed areas provide infants with large, contained spaces in which to move and explore. Low retaining sides allow infants to pull themselves up and move. Similar portable low boundaries also might be effective. Use caution if planning to permanently construct such an area as a permanent installation could reduce classroom flexibility.

7.6.2 Toddler and Preschool Children’s Lofts and Platforms

Lofts enhance toddler and Head Start classrooms by offering the following advantages:

  • Challenging, large-muscle activities
  • Small intimate spaces
  • Additional spaces for exploration
  • Opportunities for a child to view the environment from another level
  • A classroom with more character

The following design requirements should be considered in the design of a loft for toddler and Head Start age groups:

  • Lofts should be no higher than 3 feet above the finished floor for toddlers and 4.5 feet above the finished floor for Head Start children. The design should minimize conflict and allow more than one child at a time to use the space. For instance, offering stairs going up and a slide coming down can minimize congestion and possible conflict.
  • Loft features should meet the definition for fall zones and have resilient surfaces, as prescribed by the CPSC’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety. Refer to Chapter 6, Section 6.7.5, Play Yard Surfaces.
  • Lofts should meet applicable local, state, or other standards.
  • Guardrails should be provided to protect children from falling from raised areas.
  • Toddlers should have guardrails on any constructed surface more than 10 inches above adjacent surfaces. Head Start children should have guardrails on any raised surface more than 20 inches above floor level. The top of the guardrail must be at least 2.5 feet above the platform, or in accordance with local codes, whichever is more stringent. Openings between 3.5 and 9 inches should be avoided to prevent head entrapment and openings between 0.3 inch and 1 inch should be avoided to prevent finger and hand entrapment.
  • Protective barriers should be provided on all raised surfaces 2.5 feet above floor level or higher for Head Start and younger children. Protective barriers can be vertical slats or acrylic panels (for clear visibility). Openings in these panels should be no larger than 3 inches to prevent entrapment. Avoid using horizontal rails that allow climbing.
  • All protruding corners should have a minimum radius of 1/2 inch.
  • Teachers must be able to see and reach all areas of a loft.
  • The loft should present an image of safety and should not include overly challenging elements, such as cantilevers or narrow bridges.
  • Level changes should be appropriate to the age group and accessible by ramps, steps, or ladders. Two children should be able to use the steps and ladders at the same time. Riser heights for stairs should be a maximum of 5 inches for toddlers and Head Start children. Minimum tread depth should be approximately 11 inches. Stairs and ramps should be a minimum of 3 feet wide.
  • Handrails should be provided for all stairs and ramps at 22 inches above the leading edge of the treads. All handrails should adjoin the wall to avoid the possibility of injury. Handrails should meet state, tribal, and local codes.

7.7 Other Areas

In addition to required spaces in the classroom, others located elsewhere in the center can provide specialized activity settings for children, teachers, and parents. These areas should not be considered part of the minimum required activity square footage area.
 

7.7.1 Art Sinks

For toddler and preschool classrooms, HSB suggests providing a stainless steel sink with a gooseneck faucet and wrist handles mounted in a 22-inch-high counter for children to use in art and other activities requiring water and cleanup. The gooseneck faucet will allow teachers and children to place a bucket under the faucet. Traps should be accessible for easy cleaning.

The art sink area should include storage, display, and drying areas for finished work or works-in-progress. The counter should be 16 to 22 inches deep, so that children can reach the faucet. The design should provide 3 to 4 feet of open counter length adjacent to the sink. It is good practice to provide an adult height art sink in all toddler and Head Start classrooms. Faucets and levers should be located behind the sink adjacent to the wall rather than at the side of the sink. Faucet controls should be no less than 14 inches from the leading edge of the counter.

The art sink should be next to the eating/table area, since most art activities require tables; and this provides a dual use for tables with similar finishes. Ideally, the sink should be close to display walls and equipped with dry marker boards or chalkboards. Install impervious floor coverings with sealed seams and a floor drain in this area. Including a built-in counter with a configuration that allows children to face each other during activities is advisable. A shatterproof mirror above the counter is a desirable feature.

7.7.2 Toilets and Sinks

The following plumbing requirements are for areas devoted to toddlers and Head Start children:

  • A minimum of two toilets in the center but not less than one toilet and two child-height hand-washing sinks. Include one lavatory and one drinking fountain for every 10 children. Two classrooms may share one toilet area.
  • Toddlers: Two adult sinks at a minimum, one for diapering in the toddler room and one for use near food preparation.
  • Head Start: One adult sink and one or two hand-washing sinks for every 10-20 children and one connection for water play.
  • Toilet areas may be used by both girls and boys and may be partially screened. If doors are provided, they should not lock. This offers some privacy but allows adult supervision. Toilet areas are to have gates or half doors at entrances and may have child-height partitioning between toilets. As with all full-height doors, these elements should have hinge protection so that children’s hands and fingers are not accidentally pinched.
  • An adult toilet should be located outside the older toddler and Head Start classrooms and either in or near infant and young toddler classrooms.
  • Classroom toilets should be placed toward the interior perimeter to leave the exterior free for access to natural light and views. They should be constructed as part of the fixed elements and, where possible, should share plumbing walls with other areas requiring plumbing connections. The toilet area should be physically separated from food preparation and eating areas and partially screened from the view of remaining spaces. Hand-washing sinks may be located within the toilet area but are best placed in the classroom on a wall adjacent to the toilet area to facilitate supervision and reduce congestion in the toilet area.
  • Toilets are to be child-size for toddlers. Larger toilets may be chosen for Head Start children. They must be accessible to children with special needs.
  • Toddler and Head Start toilet areas should have durable, water-resistant finishes and bright, cheerful lighting. Recommended flooring includes ceramic tile with an integral cove base and a ceramic tile wainscot to 3 feet above the floor with a painted wall above.

Following are suggested features for the toilet area:

  • For toddlers, a toilet seat height of approximately 11 inches including the seat. Head Start children who are four to five years old may use adult-size toilets.
  • A floor drain.
  • A toilet tissue dispenser next to toilet.
  • Exhaust ventilation.

Recommended features for the hand-washing sink include:

  • A sink mounted 22 inches above the floor and counters 16 to 22 inches deep allow children to reach controls. Junior-height wash fountains also may be used with a washbasin rim height of approximately 25 inches.
  • The hot water temperature should be controlled to a maximum of 109.4° F. Hot water heaters should be placed where they are not accessible to children.
  • Soap dispensers should be at each sink.
  • One paper towel dispenser per sink area. Metered roll dispensers are preferred with one at each sink area. The dispenser should not have a serrated edge. Even though rolled goods are usually more economical and environmentally sensitive, note that children often waste rolled goods because they lack the coordination to tear rolled paper easily.
  • One freestanding pedal-operated waste receptacle per sink area. Metal receptacles should not have sharp edges.
  • Moveable waste receptacles.
  • Safety mirrors mounted at child height.

7.7.3 Diapering Station and Storage Areas

A diapering station and diaper storage area are needed in each classroom serving infants or toddlers. Locate this area in an easily accessible, central location, but apart from food preparation and eating areas. Orient the diapering station so that a teacher can maintain visual supervision of the other children while diapering a baby or toddler, and the children can see the teacher. This component should be constructed as part of the fixed elements within the classroom and designed to maximize use of the existing plumbing connections.

The diapering station and storage area consists of a changing table, countertop with sink, waste bin, and upper storage cabinets for diapers and other supplies. All equipment and storage needed for this area must be easily cleaned, non-porous, and accessible to the teacher at the changing table. The teacher should not move away from the child being diapered. The diapering station should be designed to reduce possible transmission of blood-borne pathogens. The table should be easily sanitized or sterilized, and all material contaminated with feces should be stored safely and hygienically in sealed receptacles.

Specific equipment at the diaper station should include:

  • Changing table with an impervious surface. The top surface should be at least 2.8 feet above the floor. There must be a safety device on either side of the baby, such as a tubular rail to provide side restraint 3 inches above the surface of the mat. Since mats are typically 1 inch thick, the top of the rail should be approximately 4 inches above the surface of the changing table. The table should be 2 feet wide and 3.3 feet long. It should have a waterproof covered pad. Check with local licensing for possible additional requirements.
  • Hand washing sink with sloped sides and within reach of the changing table. It should have hands-free or wrist-blade faucet controls. Diaper sinks should not have gooseneck faucets because this type causes more splashing than standard faucets.
  • Paper towel, soap, and rubber glove dispensers within reach of the teacher at the changing table.
  • Open compartmentalized upper cabinets approximately 9 inches wide, 9 inches high, and 12 inches deep.
  • Waste storage for disposable diapers must be in a waterproof, washable container with a disposable plastic liner. The waste storage must be covered with an airtight lid and must be within reach of the teacher at the changing table and must be operable without utilizing both hands. A pedal-operated waste container may be used and should be placed under the counter out of reach of children. If both cloth and disposable diapers are used, separate containers must be provided.
  • Movable or retractable steps are necessary to help toddlers up onto the changing table. Steps are particularly helpful for caregivers who may be challenged by excessive lifting.
  • Exhaust ventilation free from drafts would be ideal. A separate zone or a ceiling-mounted unit heater may be provided at the changing table to maintain a temperature warmer than the rest of the classroom. Recommended finishes include impervious flooring and millwork, countertops, and a wall splash. Wall surfaces adjacent to the changing table should have impervious finishes. Finishes must be unaffected by disinfectants used to clean the changing table surface.

7.7.4 Sleeping and Napping Areas

Special areas for sleeping are provided in infant rooms and often in young toddler rooms. Infant sleeping areas should be quiet and pleasant and located in a space within the classroom where infants can sleep according to their individual schedules. Teachers must have visual and acoustical access to this area at all times. It is best to locate sleeping areas away from active areas.

Installation of walls or half walls and glass in the nap area is not advisable as this may mean the nap area will be designated as a separate sleeping area. Some licensing authorities might require a teacher to be stationed in the nap room. Allow ample space for one crib per infant, placed 36 inches apart. Recommended finishes include carpeted floor and painted walls above an impervious wainscot and washable, glossy paint, or another washable surface. It is important to use dimmable lighting. Window treatments can be used to control direct sunlight through exterior windows.

Provide a crib for each infant and young toddler. One of every four cribs should be an evacuation crib that is especially constructed for this purpose. It should be equipped with 4-inch wheels and capable of holding and transporting up to five infants. The evacuation crib(s) should be placed closest to the emergency exit point and must be capable of easily passing through a 3-foot-wide door.

Sleeping areas should be equipped with smoke detectors. Recommended fire safety requirements for children’s sleeping rooms can be found in Section 10.1, Chapter 10.

Older toddler and Head Start classrooms generally will not have space allocated for a sleeping area but will provide napping cots that can be stored within the classroom when not in use. A few cribs may be needed in a toddler classroom.

7.7.5 Nursing and Lactation Areas

A quiet, semi-private area in the infant classroom may be provided for a mother to visit and nurse her infant or for lactation. Locate this space near the sleeping area with some visual separation from the other areas of the classroom and privacy from the circulation pathways. This space should be located near a sink and be as comfortable as possible. It should have adjacent counter space and a carpeted floor. Include at least one comfortable chair.

7.7.6 Food Preparation

Children usually eat in their classrooms with teachers. A food preparation area should be provided in infant and young toddler classrooms for storing and heating bottles and for preparing foods.

It is advisable to locate infant and young toddler food preparation areas near fixed elements within the classroom. The area should be adjacent to the eating/ table area and separated from the diapering station, toilet, and handwashing areas. Placing food preparation areas near activity areas provides teachers with clear views of the classroom. No food preparation area should be located under sewer or drainpipes concealed in the ceiling.

The food preparation areas in classrooms may include the following heavy-duty items:

  • Upper and lower washable cabinet storage: HSB recommends providing childproof latches or locks to prevent child access to any storage within reach
  • Counter area: It is wise to provide an adult-scale impervious counter, at least 8 feet long with a back splash. The top of the counter should be 2.8 feet high. Drawer and door pulls should be non-projecting types. Hinges should be heavy duty and durable because they receive intensive use. One cabinet should be lockable.
  • A sink with a single-lever faucet, spray hose, and garbage disposal. The hot water temperature should be limited to 109.4°F.
  • A bottle warmer
  • A refrigerator providing a minimum of 8 cubic feet of refrigerator storage and a lockable box in each refrigerator for storing medication.
  • Finishes include impervious flooring and a gloss-painted wall
    above an impervious wainscot. Plastic laminate finishes include laminate countertop, cabinet face, and back splash. Use post-formed counters with integral coves and bullnose. Ceiling tile should have washable facing.

7.7.7 Eating/Table Area

Meal and snack times in the classroom are opportunities for children and their teachers and visiting adults to enjoy social interaction in small groups, such as the family would at home. A parent may join the child at the table to share lunch. Usually, this area is part of the open, unrestricted portion of the classroom and is used for other activities during the day.

Small infants are held during bottle-feeding, while older infants who are able to sit may be placed in a low high chair while being fed soft foods. Traditional high chairs are not recommended because of the risk of falling and tipping and the reduced opportunity for social interaction.

Provide low stools for the teachers to sit on while feeding older infants. Provide a gliding chair or other comfortable chair for a teacher to sit in while bottle-feeding. Locate the infant eating space near the food preparation area, away from the open, unrestricted area where other children may be moving about. Young toddlers may be seated together at the same low table. Rectangular tables make better use of space than round tables.

Locate eating/table areas for older children in a central location away from toilet areas and in a pleasant area with natural light and items of interest, such as plants. For toddlers and older children, the eating/table area can be part of the general activity space.

Children older than infancy need movable chairs and tables built at the appropriate scale for their eating area. Storable tables may be used so the room can accommodate other activities. Each toddler and Head Start classroom should provide a separate, drinking fountain, preferably in the eating area. Mount the drinking fountain at 1.8 feet above the floor in a central location on a plumbing wall for toddlers. For Head Start children in general areas, the fountain should be mounted at 2.6 feet above the floor.

Recommended finishes for the eating/table areas include sheet vinyl flooring and a vinyl wall covering or a high-gloss, washable painted wall.

7.7.8 Child-Accessible Display

Shelving placed low to the floor allows children to see available curriculum materials and make selections. These materials may include books, art supplies and equipment, manipulative toys, large or small blocks, pull or push toys, and dramatic play materials. HSB suggests using open shelving approximately 16 inches deep by 30 inches high for this purpose.

Small items requiring further organization can be placed on this shelving in containers, such as plastic tubs or wire or wicker baskets. Shelving can be built-in millwork or freestanding movable units. Where appropriate, open shelving should be considered to create an open feeling in the classroom. If shelf backing is used, it should be attractive and useful. For instance, it may be mirrored with non-breakable reflective material.

Movable units lend greater flexibility, though they should be equipped with locking casters. A combination of built-in and freestanding units offer the best design solution. Some state, tribal, and local codes may require these units to be fixed to the floor.

7.7.9 Classroom and Teacher Storage

It is essential for classroom design to include adequate storage for the items required for a quality program. Inadequate storage conveys a cluttered, chaotic, or shoddy impression. Plan storage for cots, strolling equipment, curriculum materials, and supplies. Use of doors on storage areas should be minimized, because doors can cause finger entrapment and create a greater possibility of an accident occurring.

Any necessary door should have full-vision panels and the hardware to allow a trapped child to exit when the door is locked from the outside. Alcoves without doors can be used for storing stackable cots.

Provide some lockable storage in the classroom but ensure that some cabinets are situated to limit a child’s access. Provide one lockable cabinet in each group of cabinets. This storage area is necessary for storing classroom equipment, materials, and supplies. Hooks and pegboards can be used to provide easy storage of aprons and small equipment.

Other storage may include overhead cabinets or shelves in food preparation areas. A lockable cabinet should be located above children’s reach for storage of items such as medications, cleaning products, and other restricted items. Medications also may be stored in the refrigerator or food preparation area in a locked container.

7.7.10 Teacher Storage

Some lockable storage should be provided in the classroom for teachers to store outdoor clothing and other personal belongings. This storage may be provided in the storage area or in cabinets intended for the teacher’s use. It should include a closet with a rod for hanging coats as well as shelving installed above the rod.

7.7.11 Multi-Purpose and Motor Activity Spaces

If space is available, HSB suggests providing a versatile, large, indoor open area for activities. A multipurpose space is especially important when large-muscle activity typically occuring on a playground must take place indoors because of poor climate. This indoor space also can be used for group gatherings or meetings. Note that use of multi-purpose space should never be considered an adequate permanent substitute for playing outdoors.

Play equipment should be considered carefully to ensure that it can be used within the confines of an enclosed room. Such a room may have features, such as sprinklers and pendant-hung lighting fixtures, which must be protected from damage. Windows are not as important a feature in multipurpose spaces as they are in classrooms. However, natural lighting from non-breakable skylights is highly desirable and energy efficient.

It is wise to include movable partitions and a carpeted raised area for dramatic play in the multipurpose space. Furthermore, locating the multipurpose room near the kitchen and including a pass-through can increase the versatility of the space.

HSB suggests providing the following architectural features and equipment for multipurpose areas:

  • High ceilings.
  • Acoustical treatment on walls and ceilings and consideration of acoustical separation between the multipurpose room and adjoining rooms.
  • Impervious flooring. If carpeted areas are desired to provide soft areas, non-slip area rugs should be used.
  • A hard, durable, washable surface as a wall finish.
  • Play equipment.
  • Protective resilient surfaces in fall zones.
  • Hard-surface pathways for wheeled toys.
  • Storage for equipment and supplies.

7.7.12 Sick Bay

The sick bay which is required n some states, is used to temporarily isolate ill children until they can be taken home. Typically, if state licensing allows, a sick child waits on a cot in an alcove adjacent to the center director’s office rather than in seclusion. If the sick bay is a separate space, locate it adjacent to the director’s office or other program staff offices for uninterrupted supervision.

The sick bay should be near a toilet and include a cot or bed with a nightlight. This area should have simple, pleasant, finishes that are easy to clean and lockable storage for first aid supplies. A bookshelf for the storage of books and toys is appropriate, and a view of the exterior is recommended.

7.7.13 Service Spaces

Spaces for service areas such as the kitchen, laundry, the janitor’s closet, and a telephone equipment room should be located at the rear of the facility near the service entrance and separate from children’s activities. These service areas should not be accessible to children with the exception of the kitchen.

Major food staging and serving activities should be centralized in a kitchen area. The kitchen should be near the Head Start classroom.

Locating the multipurpose area near the kitchen makes it easier for children to use that space to work on cooking activities. This arrangement also provides an area for group lunches and other gatherings that may need kitchen access.

7.7.14 Kitchen

The type of food service provided to the center affects the scope and size of the kitchen area. HSB does not recommend any standards, codes, or requirements for full commercial kitchens with deep-fat fryers, ventilation hoods, and similar equipment. If the center includes a kitchen of this type, a food service specialist should be consulted as part of design services.

It is desirable to install a kitchen with heavy-duty equipment that can function primarily as a warming area for food or snacks and a staging area for receiving catered meals. Large centers may have two kitchen areas. The architect-engineer should not design a commercial kitchen on a scale that may trigger the need for sophisticated venting and hood-mounted fire suppression equipment. Especially in existing buildings, this type of commercial kitchen could force expensive modifications that could affect other sections of the building. For instance, in a multi-story building, this type of kitchen may require openings through several floors as well as through the roof to accommodate a vent duct.

The kitchen should be accessible to service personnel, staff, and other adults. For safety reasons, children will not be allowed in this space unless escorted by an adult. The kitchen should be in a central location with access to the service entrance near the multi-purpose area and separate from the classrooms.

Suggested components include:

  • A stainless steel, three-compartment, deep sink with required plumbing and hot and cold water connections located near the dishwasher and include a gooseneck faucet.
  • A separate hand-washing sink.
  • A garbage disposal with plumbing connections.
  • A floor drain.
  • A heavy duty, commercial-type dishwasher.
  • A commercial-type refrigerator with storage at or below 39.2°F and freezer storage at or below -0.4°F. (Many centers will require two refrigerators and one or two commercial freezers. This issue should be clarified during initial design meetings.)
  • A microwave oven (but not for warming formula or baby food).
  • A convection oven and range.
  • A range.
  • Adequate deep counter space (2-foot minimum).
  • Closed storage for dry food, equipment, and supplies on wire metal shelves.
  • A recycling bin.
  • Commercial style kitchen equipment with washable finishes such as stainless steel.
  • A dietitian corner with a telephone.
  • Ample, easily washed metal cabinets with accessible interior shelving.
  • Stainless steel countertops and washable, seamless wall surfaces made for kitchens.
  • An impervious, durable, easily cleaned floor finish.
  • A washable ceiling finish.
  • Space for two or more stainless steel food carts
  • Adequate lighting, ventilation, and clearances.
  • Locked storage for hazardous materials.
  • Clean, dry, well-ventilated storage off the floor for food not requiring refrigeration.
  • Shelving in kitchen areas that is not exposed wood. Metal wire shelving is the best choice for this purpose.
  • Storage for all utensils and equipment off the floor in clean, dry, closed spaces.
  • Food storage, preparation, and service areas placed in areas without sewage or drainpipes above.
  • Ample electrical outlets out of children’s reach with ground-fault interruption (GFI) in wet areas.

7.7.15 Laundry

Laundry rooms should only be accessible to adults. They should be located near the infant/toddler classrooms and convenient to food service areas. For acoustical purposes and to ensure adult-controlled access, the laundry rooms should be away from children’s areas and have lockable doors that can be opened from inside.

Ideally, the laundry rooms should be close to exterior walls to minimize the run of the dryer exhaust vent to the exterior. Note that dryer exhausts contain combustible lint which can present a fire hazard when the exhaust is excessive. Dryers must be vented separately and not combined with other building exhaust systems.

Recommended equipment includes:

  • A heavy-duty residential style washer and dryer.
  • Large centers may require additional equipment.
  • An electrical power outlet, venting, plumbing connections, floor drain, deep sink, and millwork with closed, and lockable storage.
  • A dishwasher to wash toys that are often soiled by children, if space and budget allow.
  • A counter for folding clothes and lockable wall cabinets for storage.

7.7.16 Janitor’s Closet

Service personnel and staff use this space for storing janitorial supplies and equipment which should include a mop sink with plumbing connections and storage for pails, mops, vacuums, and related cleaning supplies and equipment. The door should have a lock, which can be opened from the inside without a key and lockable cabinets for cleaning supplies. Provide exhaust ventilation. Special fire safety and ventilation requirements can be found in Chapter 10.

Though isolated from children’s activity areas, janitor’s closets and maintenance facilities should be designed for the convenience of the cleaning and maintenance staff.

To protect indoor air quality from the potential impact of cleaning and maintenance activities, the following should be considered:

  • Fully enclosed areas with separate outside exhaust;
  • No air recirculation ;
  • Negative pressure where chemical use occurs, as described in LEED Version 2.0; and
  • Automatic chemical mixing dispensers to assure correct dilutions of cleaning materials.

7.7.17 Service Entrance

A key-access service entrance is needed by service personnel to deliver food and supplies and for trash removal. This entrance should be accessible to maintenance and kitchen staff. Locate the entrance next to service areas and away from the front entry and children’s activity areas.
 

7.8 Mechanical/Electrical Telephone Equipment

Except when they are freestanding buildings, centers typically will be provided with mechanical service by a central plant. In freestanding buildings, interior space should be provided for mechanical or rooftop equipment.

When deciding to use rooftop equipment careful consideration should be given to the additional maintenance and roof support needed and the type of structural engineering that this configuration entails. This caution is particularly applicable to regions of the country with significant precipitation. HSB suggests using equipment and systems that will have long-term operating and maintenance costs that are low.

Space for telephone service should be centrally located and separate from the children’s areas. Although a dedicated telephone closet is not always necessary, if one is provided, it should have a lockable door not accessible by children, but which can be opened from the inside. Finishes may include painted walls and sealed concrete for the floor.

7.9 Design Features to Avoid

A short list of undesirable center features follows. The list is not exhaustive:

  • Excessive areas of fixed carpet.
  • Sinks that are not deep enough.
  • Inaccessible shelving.
  • Excessive space devoted to lavatories such as separate areas for each classroom instead of shared areas. If separate lavatories are provided, ADA-mandated wheelchair clearances must be included in each room and this is not an economical use of space.
  • Cubbies that line up facing the classroom waste precious classroom wall space and create a chaotic visual impression.
  • Solid interior doors that do not allow supervision.
  • Inadequate or improper storage creating crowded chaotic-looking classroom environments. Note that large central storage rooms will not solve a center’s storage problems. Instead, wall-mounted cabinets and closets close to children’s activity areas in the classroom are essential.
  • Diapering areas that face walls and do not allow supervision.
  • Ceiling-mounted institutional troffer-type fluorescent light fixtures typical of office space that have no dimmers and poor color rendition. This type of poor lighting is often accompanied by a lack of adequate task lighting.
  • Using 90-degree or acute-angled walls where an obtuse angle would be safer and easier to negotiate.
  • Windows mounted too high for children’s use or without risers to allow accessing the view.
  • Long dead-end corridors do not maximize efficiency. Corridors that must be lengthy because of site configuration need areas available for stopping, queuing, and socializing.
  • Inadequate natural light.
  • Misuse of color. This includes over-stimulating, overly-bright, or dark and oppressive wall colors. Since these mistakes usually result from relying on small sample color chips, color choice should be based on large samples.

See PDF version:
     Furnishings and Equipment [PDF, 553KB]

"Furnishings and Equipment." Head Start Design Guide. Second Edition. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 2005. English.

Last Reviewed: October 2010

Last Updated: October 2, 2014