Child’s play

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Guastalla Kindergarten, Italy by Mario Cucinella Architects. There are varied spaces within for exploration, play, rest, and transparent zones to peek out at other children.

Guastalla Kindergarten, Italy by Mario Cucinella Architects. There are varied spaces within for exploration, play, rest, and transparent zones to peek out at other children. Image: Moreno Maggi

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The Guastalla Kindergarten in Italy is made from natural timber. Areas of connection are designed to be used with curiosity, encouraging creativity and growth.

The Guastalla Kindergarten in Italy is made from natural timber. Areas of connection are designed to be used with curiosity, encouraging creativity and growth. Image: Moreno Maggi

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IKC Zeven Zeeën, Amsterdam. The entrance of the superstructure is via a large, bright outdoor staircase, and the red concrete facade and round windows add a playful element.

IKC Zeven Zeeën, Amsterdam. The entrance of the superstructure is via a large, bright outdoor staircase, and the red concrete facade and round windows add a playful element.

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IKC Zeven Zeeën by Moke Architecten, Amsterdam. This energy neutral kindergarten and primary school is a link in a network of outdoor spaces in the neighborhood.

IKC Zeven Zeeën by Moke Architecten, Amsterdam. This energy neutral kindergarten and primary school is a link in a network of outdoor spaces in the neighborhood.

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Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo by Tezuka Architects. The oval school is conceived as a single village. Skylights allow kids to play peekaboo and noise floats freely from inside to out.

Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo by Tezuka Architects. The oval school is conceived as a single village. Skylights allow kids to play peekaboo and noise floats freely from inside to out. Image: courtesy Tezuka Architects

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Fuji Kindergarten. The architect has worked around several existing trees, allowing nature to act as a playground – children are encouraged to climb trees here.

Fuji Kindergarten. The architect has worked around several existing trees, allowing nature to act as a playground – children are encouraged to climb trees here. Image: Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA

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Frederiksvej Kindergarten by COBE, Denmark. The building is divided into 11 houses to create a small-scale village atmosphere, where children can establish their own play niches.

Frederiksvej Kindergarten by COBE, Denmark. The building is divided into 11 houses to create a small-scale village atmosphere, where children can establish their own play niches. Image: Rasmus Hjortshøj

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Frederiksvej Kindergarten. Within the preschool, various rooms of different sizes encourages diversity and allows children to create their own individualised play zones.

Frederiksvej Kindergarten. Within the preschool, various rooms of different sizes encourages diversity and allows children to create their own individualised play zones. Image: Rasmus Hjortshøj

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Te Mirumiru, Northland. Designed by Collingridge & Smith Architects, this building is based on the Māori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother).

Te Mirumiru, Northland. Designed by Collingridge & Smith Architects, this building is based on the Māori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother). Image: Simon Devitt

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Te Mirumiru. The naturally lit and ventilated rooms have an open and easy relationship with the outdoors, allowing children to flow in and out as they wish.

Te Mirumiru. The naturally lit and ventilated rooms have an open and easy relationship with the outdoors, allowing children to flow in and out as they wish. Image: Simon Devitt

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Råå Day Care Center in Sweden by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter. The building's design is based on the surrounding dunes and the complex features a large playground.

Råå Day Care Center in Sweden by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter. The building’s design is based on the surrounding dunes and the complex features a large playground. Image: Adam Mørk

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Råå Day Care Center. Large windows in the facade and the roof create a connection with the sea, and allow for plenty of natural daylight into all the playrooms.

Råå Day Care Center. Large windows in the facade and the roof create a connection with the sea, and allow for plenty of natural daylight into all the playrooms. Image: Adam Mørk

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Kindergarten Kekec by Arhitektura Jure Kotnik, Slovenia. Toy slats allow for a play and educational element, where children can turn the wooden planks to show different colours.

Kindergarten Kekec by Arhitektura Jure Kotnik, Slovenia. Toy slats allow for a play and educational element, where children can turn the wooden planks to show different colours. Image: Miran Kambič

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Kindergarten Kekec. The slats are painted nine different bright colors on one side, allowing children to learn colours and experience wood as a material at the same time.

Kindergarten Kekec. The slats are painted nine different bright colors on one side, allowing children to learn colours and experience wood as a material at the same time. Image: Miran Kambič

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Cloud Garden Nursery in Tokyo by Junya Ishigami. The design sought to recreate the feeling of walking in the clouds and also references its elevated location in a tower block.

Cloud Garden Nursery in Tokyo by Junya Ishigami. The design sought to recreate the feeling of walking in the clouds and also references its elevated location in a tower block. Image: Edmund Sumner

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Cloud Garden Nursery. Children can use the curved shapes as a playground, with some spaces only large enough for small people to pass through.

Cloud Garden Nursery. Children can use the curved shapes as a playground, with some spaces only large enough for small people to pass through. Image: Edmund Sumner

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Soyoo Joyful Growth Center by Crossboundaries in China. The design of this building is based on allowing the child to explore and learn through play.

Soyoo Joyful Growth Center by Crossboundaries in China. The design of this building is based on allowing the child to explore and learn through play.

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Soyoo Joyful Growth Center. Five tubes of different colours cut through the building in different angles, opening up to a multitude of journeys that children can choose from.

Soyoo Joyful Growth Center. Five tubes of different colours cut through the building in different angles, opening up to a multitude of journeys that children can choose from.

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Fagerborg Kindergarten, Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. One end of the organic-looking building cantilevers to create a sheltered entrance space.

Fagerborg Kindergarten, Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. One end of the organic-looking building cantilevers to create a sheltered entrance space.

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Fagerborg Kindergarten. The light-filled, colourful interior is designed to stimulate young minds and encourage creativity.

Fagerborg Kindergarten. The light-filled, colourful interior is designed to stimulate young minds and encourage creativity.

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What do children need out of a space that they can potentially spend a vast amount of time in? How can we best promote and encourage their need for creativity and provide them with a safe place to express their energy?

A kindergarten that is well designed is inclusive of the community, connects indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly and includes plenty of greenery and natural light.

The most successful designs are those that welcome interaction with the environment, that encourage children’s energy and imagination while also ensuring that the building responds to important physical conditions such as temperature, acoustics and adequate space.

Below, we feature ten kindergartens that we think meet all these criteria, while at the same time remaining a fun, interesting and playful space.

The Guastalla Kindergarten in Italy is made from natural timber. Areas of connection are designed to be used with curiosity, encouraging creativity and growth. Image:  Moreno Maggi
IKC Zeven Zeeën, Amsterdam. The entrance of the superstructure is via a large, bright outdoor staircase, and the red concrete facade and round windows add a playful element.
Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo by Tezuka Architects. The oval school is conceived as a single village. Skylights allow kids to play peekaboo and noise floats freely from inside to out. Image:  courtesy Tezuka Architects
Frederiksvej Kindergarten by COBE, Denmark. The building is divided into 11 houses to create a small-scale village atmosphere, where children can establish their own play niches. Image:  Rasmus Hjortshøj
Te Mirumiru, Northland. Designed by Collingridge & Smith Architects, this building is based on the Māori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother). Image:  Simon Devitt
Råå Day Care Center in Sweden by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter. The building’s design is based on the surrounding dunes and the complex features a large playground. Image:  Adam Mørk
Kindergarten Kekec by Arhitektura Jure Kotnik, Slovenia. Toy slats allow for a play and educational element, where children can turn the wooden planks to show different colours. Image:  Miran Kambič
Cloud Garden Nursery in Tokyo by Junya Ishigami. The design sought to recreate the feeling of walking in the clouds and also references its elevated location in a tower block. Image:  Edmund Sumner
Soyoo Joyful Growth Center by Crossboundaries in China. The design of this building is based on allowing the child to explore and learn through play.
Fagerborg Kindergarten, Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. One end of the organic-looking building cantilevers to create a sheltered entrance space.

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