Designers are challenged to create pediatric health facilities that appeal to children of all ages. Careful consideration must be taken with use of themes. A cartoon approach is viewed as unsophisticated by older children and research shows that even younger children prefer more universal themes such as nature, ocean, or sky motifs. Design should not overlook parents as well. A hospital stay is equally as stressful for the parents as it is for the children. Accommodations for overnight stays are a must. There is also a trend toward private rooms outfitted with sleeping sofas and a desk space for parents who continue to work. Patient rooms with internet access, dvd players and even gaming systems, like Wii, provide diversions during long stays.
Space for “touches of home” is important in patient rooms. Shelving to hold photos, favorite toys or other personal belongings brings comfort to patients. Allowing room occupants to control lighting is another great way for patients to feel empowered, thus reducing stress and promoting healing.
Positive distractions such as wall decor, artwork, aquariums in lounges, atriums and respite areas helps to engage children’s imaginations. Remember the important qualities for good pediatric design: sense of comfort, control of the patient room and a connection to the outside world. If properly designed, pediatric environments can reduce stress and anxiety which has definite positive effects on healing.
Light and color have been shown to have great impact on the healing process. One project implemented at the U of M Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis allows children to choose the color of their room through a touch screen. They are able to select one of 75 colors and 70 visual effects such as snow or clouds. The color is changed through cove lighting and the visual effects projected onto the ceiling. For little ones confined to long hospital stays, it can be a real comfort to be able to control their environment and a great way to use their imagination as an escape from the routine of medical tests and treatments.
should be introduced into children’s hospital settings carefully. Utilize bold colors as accents or on a feature wall, on furniture, fabrics, or in artwork. Painting all the walls in a space or entire units in bold color will be overwhelming and counterproductive to the healing process.
Use color to create a sense of playfulness which will put children at ease but also create distinct and vibrant spaces. Brighter palettes should be utilized in areas such as the atrium or lobby, cafeteria and clinic areas. More subdued colors should be applied in intensive care units and patient rooms.
Coordinate flooring design and paint colors in corridors with room colors to create an effective wayfinding strategy. Wayfinding signage incorporating graphic elements will be intuitive to children who don’t read yet and will also be helpful to those visitors who don’t speak English.