I have spent quite a bit of time recently in coffee shops – they make great meeting places for 1-2-1 business meetings- and often there is a little area set aside for children with children’s table and chairs and some indestructible games.
I always watch how the children react to their special area. It is invariable the same. They run to it, look around and then pick up a chair and move it. If its a boy child they always pick up the chair, turn it upside down and then lose interest. Girls will often sit at the table, or move the chair nearer to their mother. The chair does not immediately become part of their play.
When I was designing Children’s Furniture I wanted to add an element of imaginative play and tested the prototypes on children for some time before we went into production. It still surprises (and delights) me to see how quickly the children interact with the chairs; how quickly they begin to talk to the character on the chair.
Another thing which I noticed whilst watching children was how many of the small children climbed into a chair knee-first and then turned round to sit down. It is so easy for the chair to overbalance as the child leans on the chair back to turn and sit and for the child to crash face first onto the floor.
When choosing a child’s chair make sure it feels stable. Legs which spread beyond the seat area are more stable. Chairs with arms should have arms which do not project wider than the seat area as children can often put their weight on an arm and lean over to reach something.
Rocking chairs should always have rockers with a shallow arc which projects beyond the seat and preferably has “Stops” at each end of the rockers.
Its great fun designing furniture for children, but you have to design for use and foreseeable misuse. As we know children can possess a great talent for finding unusual ways to use things. Some have a greater capacity than others for finding ways to injure themselves, my daughter when young being one of them. But that’s another story…