Tips for Lighting Interior Spaces for Children

Many believe that lighting is of little importance beyond its aesthetic function, considering primarily the appearance of light fixtures and ensuring only that they produce at least an adequate amount of light. However, there is a strong consensus among architects that good lighting design can vastly improve the comfort of interior spaces, adding an enormous aesthetic, functional, and environmental value. In addition, the choice of lighting system may contribute to improved efficiency and sustainability within the building as a whole.

As for the needs of children, it is essential to pay attention to the quantity, quality, and type of lamp for every different environment, whether it be a space to sleep, play, or learn. Below, we delineate more specific considerations.

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

Locations of light bulbs

Obviously, designating the exact place where each light bulb will be installed is as important as knowing the quantity and color of the bulb. In bedrooms, the ideal position is always to maintain direct central lighting, with a warmly colored light. Depending on the size of the room, the number of lamps that will be needed should be calculated. In addition, it is important to address light sources for specific (indirect) use, since unlike adult sleep (which requires maximum darkness to achieve a better rest), children have different requirements:

© Mike Schwartz. Image Kids Science Labs 02 / Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

© Mike Schwartz. Image Kids Science Labs 02 / Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

A soft light always on to reduce insecurity or fear of darkness.

  • An exclusive light near the changing area to help care for hygiene at night (in the case of young children).
  • A soft light to help parents or the caregiver during nighttime meals.
  • Indirect lighting that allows a healthy sleep routine (such as reading before bedtime, for example) without waking the child at the wrong times.
  • White, bright lights can encourage concentration at the desk or study table.
  • Appliques or wall spotlights on stairs, corridors, or areas facilitating ‘unsafe’ journeys.

© ENVANER. Image Geometrical Space for a Two Kid Family / Atelier D+Y

© ENVANER. Image Geometrical Space for a Two Kid Family / Atelier D+Y

Types of light bulbs

The same considerations of common lighting projects apply to environments intended for children. The sleeping areas should be cozy and the recommended lighting should be warm in temperature and color. For learning environments that require attention and concentration, cold tones are recommended. Play areas (where children are likely to spend most of the day) should have good ventilation and natural light.

© Janez Marolt . Image Podgorje TimeShare Kindergarten and School / Arhitektura Jure Kotnik

© Janez Marolt . Image Podgorje TimeShare Kindergarten and School / Arhitektura Jure Kotnik

Lighting fixtures and systems

Special care should be taken with those light fixtures that will be located at the height of the child, such as lamps or spotlights at floor level. It is essential to pay attention and choose those that are made with natural materials such as wood or those that are painted with non-toxic products or varnishes. Some options include:

© Studio Bauhaus. Image SM Nursery / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro
© Studio Bauhaus. Image SM Nursery / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro

1. Adjustable rails

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

2. Pendants

© Studio Bauhaus. Image AN Kindergarten / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro

© Studio Bauhaus. Image AN Kindergarten / HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro

3. Floor level lighting

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

4. Wall-mounted lamp 

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

© Jason Findley. Image BabySteps Interior / AtelierBlur/Georges Hung Architecte D.P.L.G. + Priestman Architects HK

5. LED

Courtesy of estúdio AMATAM. Image Kalorias - Children's Space / Estúdio AMATAM

Courtesy of estúdio AMATAM. Image Kalorias – Children’s Space / Estúdio AMATAM

6. Inlaid spotlights

© Xia Zhi . Image Family Box Qingdao / Crossboundaries

© Xia Zhi . Image Family Box Qingdao / Crossboundaries

The importance of dimmer

Dimmers work well particularly in child-friendly environments because they control the intensity of light according to whatever need. During the first months of the baby’s life, the lights in their room will be on almost continuously. Therefore, the dimmer’s ability to make the lighting soft enough to lie down and breastfeed without waking the baby and, at the same time, guarantee a sufficient amount of light to see, for example, makes it incredibly helpful. In addition, dimmers decrease the contrast between darkness and light, which is may protect the developing eyes of younger infants. To install a dimmer, simply check if the lamp or lighting fixture is compatible with the technology and connect it to the existing switch.

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

Autonomy with switches

Older children usually wake up at night to drink water or use the bathroom, so they obviously need to be able to turn the lights on and off when they need it. A more practical solution than placing switches lower is to provide low stairs so that they can reach them autonomously.

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

© Threeimages. Image Avenue Green Sheshan in Shanghai / ELTO Consultancy

Extra tips

  • As a safety measure, it is recommended to avoid hanging lamps on cribs or beds.
  • When it is not possible to make extensive changes to add new lights, parents can add lighting with LED tapes or dots.
  • As these are children dealing with electricity, special care must be taken in the quality and safety of the specified products

Author: Audrey Migliani | Translated by José Tomás Franco

This article was first published in Arch Daily and is republished with permission.

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