Creating Unforgettable Experiences: Designing for Children

Dr. Sarah Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners, Mansfield Texas, Experiential Education, Garden Classroom

Since 1978, Exhibit Concepts has been creating experiential environments. What started in the trade show world has grown into corporate interiors, museum centers, and even classrooms. While all lines of business have their differences, there are a few commonalities. Most notably, purposeful design. Whether you’re designing an environment for marketing managers, museum attendees, or students, knowing how to best capture your audience’s attention is key.

If you’re working to plan an event or education space for children, we’ve got a few quick tips to help inspire your next children’s project, building upon our experience working in children’s museums and experiential education over the years. 

Think like a kid... through research!

Empathy is a key component to creating experiences that truly resonate with children. It’s vital to understand the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of your end user, especially when designing for children.  Just like everyone else, children are complex, intelligent beings, trying to understand a big crazy world in their own unique way. Every age group and every generation have their own way of thinking and interpreting new experiences. Don’t assume that kids these days think and feel the way that you did when you were their age. Instead, try asking them. At Exhibit Concepts, we begin by creating persona groups that carefully define audiences, and then use real user stories to build empathy maps and prototypes. Question every assumption and use as many research tools as possible to help your team see the world through the eyes of your audience.   

Don’t forget parents & teachers!

Many experiences designed for children require some adult guidance, but even “self-guided” experiences for children can be enhanced with adult support. In any case, it’s important to understand early in the planning process how parents and educators fit into the puzzle. Will parents or teachers be part of the experience, or will they take a backseat while the children lead? How should parents and teachers talk to children, before, during, and after the experience? Most importantly, what can your team do to empower parents and teachers and prepare them to support the children throughout the experience? At Exhibit Concepts, we’re experts at not only developing the experiences, play-based activities, and engagements for children, but also at providing the necessary training and support materials for parents and teachers.  

Remember to layer your design!

Many times, your event or experiential space will need to speak to multiple diverse groups simultaneously. That could mean designing for 4-year-olds, 6-year-olds, parents, teachers, and more, all at the same time. At Exhibit Concepts, we utilize a Layered Design approach to help create experiences that meet the needs of multiple audience groups simultaneously.  In other words, we’re not talking about physically designing visual layers, but instead creating multiple experience layers that resonate with different groups. A layered design considers the varied needs of multiple audiences and allows everyone to enjoy the experience in their own way. 

Want to inspire a brighter future? Together, we can help develop greater understanding for the challenges children face every day, and better meet the needs of all learners while connecting them with supportive adults. Contact Exhibit Concepts, and our team of curious problem-solvers will work with you to create childhood memories that last a lifetime and shape the world.  

Colleen Incandela

Colleen Incandela is Exhibit Concepts' Curriculum Design Specialist. Previously, she designed and evaluated exhibits and programs in the museum industry. Before that, she was a kindergarten teacher and school administrator. Colleen holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Early Childhood Professions.

Jamie Vandeberg

Jamie Vandeberg is Exhibit Concepts' Creative Director. He is a creative leader with a passion for design. Jamie first joined Exhibit Concepts in 1995. He then pursued other opportunities before returning in 2021 to oversee Exhibit Concepts' Creative Department. Jamie holds a degree in interior design from the University of Cincinnati.

Adam Wik

Adam Wik is a marketing, brand and communications professional with a passion for storytelling. Adam joined the Exhibit Concepts team in 2021 bringing 10 years experience working in marketing, public relations, and design. Adam holds degrees in business, marketing, and graphic design with concentrations in New Ventures and Customer Insight.


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