HEI Schools participated Helsinki Design Week with a creative space design workshop in September. Children were inspired and encouraged to build and shape spaces based on their own wishes and perspectives.

When adults design and build spaces for children, the starting point is often functionality (How many shoes will fit? How to keep this clean?) or assumptions of what children usually like (bright colours, cheerful comic characters). Spaces designed for children, such as kindergartens and schools, are often saturated with visual noise, colours and lots of different type of stimuli. But how do children build and shape spaces when they can decide for themselves?

The workshop in Helsinki Design Week was part of HEI Schools’ larger ongoing project to study how children view, shape and build spaces. Physical space plays an important role in HEI Schools concept. It takes the functional aspects of everyday life in kindergarten into consideration but it also has an important role in enhancing children’s curiosity and creativity. Rich learning environment should encourage children to wonder, question, explore and experiment.

A space becomes a place when persons take it and shapes it according to their wishes, views and needs. At the core of HEI Schools is to promote children’s active participation and agency. By giving children opportunities to be part of a decision making and building processes HEI Schools aims to enhance their sense of competence, ownership and commitment. The experience of agency is thus of great significance for the shaping of a child’s identity: who s/he is and who s/he wants to be.   Place-making also provide children the opportunity to boost their well-being by control their moods and emotions according to daily needs. Instead of making spaces for children, HEI Schools wants to make children’s places.

Children should be active users and shapers of the spaces. If we promote open ended toys, we should also enhance open ended spaces. The creative mind is a playful mind.