It is believed that most children are born creative. This is particularly so if childhood is filled with play and allows room for imagination, exploration and experience via the senses.
But for children in cities, play is often replaced by enrichment programs focusing on academic training. Physical play is often replaced by virtual play that does little to engage the senses. Wondrous Light Children’s House offers a living, breathing form of education. Located in a conservation shophouse in Singapore, this place is about making connections to the environment, humanity, the cosmos, and all of life's experiences as these unfold through daily encounters.
Designed with the children’s scale, perspectives and psychologies in mind, children move through and dwell in crafted spaces with a variety of spatial experiences that support emotional developments. Varying planar qualities through the use of natural and recycled plywood panels offer different experiences of touch and feel with the change in texture, line works, and formal expressions.
Devoid of large, colourful graphics and alphabets that are common in most pre-school centres, it is the spaces that set the backdrop for the different needs of the children’s activities, and at the same time arousing the children's sense of curiosity and imagination.
The emphasis here is not about ‘head-learning’ but ‘limb-learning’; it is about experiences, the senses, feelings, and the concern for children as embodied beings engaging with the material world; and the importance, richness, and value of experience as a source of knowledge. Learning consists of an element of will, which is closely tied to the body and the senses, as well as of emotion and cognition.
This project offers an alternative setting for nurturing pre-schoolers. It is not called a pre-school, nor child-care, nor kindergarten. It does not aim to 'éducate' children through introducing academics nor exposing them with the latest digital technologies. What it offers is a 'home environment' where children feel most calm and secured, where children grow to enjoy free, self-directed play; where they develop a sense of empathy; and through explorations and enhancements of their senses, they become emotionally stable, more authentic, more imaginative, and more conscientious of their state of being. In collaborating with nature through gardening and mud-play, the child becomes aware of the various senses associated with the play, and the connections between social, physical and the tropical weather, offering experiences and understanding of growth and decay in nature, of rainwater and waste/recycling/composting management.
The Integration of Biophilic designs calms children and parents. Parents are motivated with the idea of cultivating interest and awareness of ecology amongst the children, and promoting co-living with nature as a way of life. Although this is housed in a relatively small premises in a conservation shophouse, it has much to offer for a happy childhood, as can be seen in the confident, contented and joyful faces of the children here.