The Children’s Revolution!

Imagine homes around the world where mothers no longer tell their sons and daughters not to stand on chairs, climb dressers, or throw things in their rooms. That’s exactly the effect Ikea hopes its new PS Unlimited Play series will have. Each piece of furniture in the collection is designed to either encourage activity, allow space for rest, or create a sense of privacy for kids. “We started by asking how we could make family life better, and how we could make life for children better,” says Todd Steele, commercial manager for Ikea North America. “When we looked at research, it was easy to identify that children don’t get outside and play as much as they did twenty years ago. They’re not nearly as active as they once were.”

The next step was calling on child-development experts to help identify the concepts that would drive the designs: movement, play, and rest. Design researcher Robin Moore and educational psychologist Nilda Cosco both work with North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative, a program focused on creating environments for healthy human development. “We talked about the issues of childhood at the beginning of the twenty-first century, about what children need to compensate for the growing number of restrictions on their lives,” Moore explains. “Movement was one of those concepts. In a restricted domestic environment, how can you make objects that have movement built into them?”

The designers’ responses to that question include a rattan swinging chair (Svinga, by Tina Christensen and Kai Legaard), a balance cushion (Virrig, by Eva Lilja Löwenhielm), and a curved rocking board (Vagga, by Åsa Andblad). “I’ve also seen children stand Vagga straight up against a corner so it becomes a cubby,” Cosco says. “Turn it over, and you can crawl under it. It can also be a slide.” She mentions that she likes the mesh storage tube Fångst (by Annie Huldén and Sanna Dahlman) because it playfully encourages children to put away their toys and Svinga because it creates personal space within a shared room.

But don’t think of the furniture simply as oversize toys. Moore points out that the pieces are conducive to cognitive development. “Play is the primary way in which children—especially young children—learn,” he says. “They need to have time and space to explore the world around them at their own pace and not always under the control of adults.”

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