Unlocking the Power of Aesthetics: Why Every Child Deserves an Aesthetically Designed and Inclusive Ecosystem

Many questions about the importance of designing visually appealing early childhood ecosystems have emerged. These questions are an invitation to explore aesthetics’ transformative impact on children’s growth and development and every child’s right to be immersed in beautifully designed ecosystems.

In the world-renowned Schools of Reggio Emilia in Italy, aesthetics are embraced as an integral part of the pedagogy, interactions, and ecosystem design. Here, children are recognized for their ability to express their thoughts, intentions, and ideas through a Hundred Languages, including their aesthetic capacities. The environment, often called the “third teacher,” works hand-in-hand with dedicated educators and pedagogistas to fully support and enhance these expressive abilities.

What remains an intriguing question is the elusive nature of aesthetics and its application in early childhood ecosystems. While conversing with early childhood educators, a fascinating array of perspectives emerges, each offering a unique interpretation of aesthetics. These interpretations offer a unique lens through which aesthetics can be perceived, sparking further contemplation and inquiry and leaving us pondering and exploring the depths of the captivating concept of aesthetics.

little child painting like artist

It is often said that beauty resides in the eyes of the beholder. Before fully defining the value of aesthetics, we must reflect on its benefits and purpose. After all, children deserve more than just one approach to their interactions and play. I want to engage the reader to think deeply about multiple perspectives regarding introducing, designing, and provoking children’s appreciation of beauty and aesthetic values. In this series of blogs, we will explore the purpose of aesthetics in detail. We will look at the theories and educational philosophies that support it and how it impacts children’s capacities to create and innovate. 

We begin with the premise that aesthetics offer children an alternative path to wonderment and expression. It invites them to seek beauty and investigate the complexities of different ways to communicate their ideas and thinking, thus inviting others to listen and appreciate their stories. To ignore aesthetics is to deny children an expressive voice and a generative context for learning. 

Imagine that we defined aesthetics as a feeling of wonder. Aesthetics is a way to express our thinking, which embraces learning as a wondering, inquiry, curiosity, and the constant search for beauty and creativity—aesthetics encourages children to find complexity in simple objects. 

little boys picking strawberries in garden 2023 11 27 05 19 22 utc

We must also consider the meaning of aesthetics as a vehicle of equity and inclusion. Aesthetics give children a voice that is powerful, regenerative, and within a relational context of learning.

The Aesthetics of Play

Beautiful spaces must also provide an invitation to play. Create a beautiful play space that sparks joy and encourages exploration. By carefully designing a space that combines function and aesthetics, you can provide endless possibilities for discovery. Incorporate soft surfaces, accessible storage, nature-inspired colors, natural light, and different textures to create a visually appealing and interactive space. Don’t forget about safety considerations, but find the freedom to be creative and involve the children in the design process. After all, children look at the space and discover different affordances than adults.

Children’s aesthetic sensibilities are enhanced by allowing them to explore their environment in a manner that encourages divergent thinking (a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions). As children play with unscripted materials, they explore and wonder about the essential design and art elements, such as line, color, form, space, and design. Thus increasing their appreciation of beauty. We must also analyze the role of aesthetics in children’s play. In her book The Original Learning Approach, Suzanne Axelson asks us to consider the aesthetics of the objects and materials we add to the early childhood ecosystem. How do the objects and materials add beauty, wonder, harmony, and creativity? How do the objects and materials inspire us? How do we appreciate them? (Axelssn, 2023) Answering these questions is only the start of further inquiry and exploration. Perhaps the concept of aesthetics also embraces the constant search for ‘Good” questions we can continue to ask. Beauty is found in the search for new knowledge and unexpected discoveries. 

A more formal definition of aesthetics concerns the nature and appreciation of art and taste. Focusing on aesthetics allows us to create and appreciate art and to design beautiful objects. According to humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1999), humans have an inherent need for aesthetics, which he considers an integral part of the human experience. An aesthetically pleasing environment can promote children’s creativity and aesthetic expression. An aesthetically pleasing environment encourages children to care and actively participate in a community of learners. Every culture has a decisive aesthetic contribution, and children can embrace the aesthetic representations from different cultures. 

In her book Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began, Professor Ellen Dissanayake (2000) discusses aesthetics as a sensibility that defines how people intentionally show what they value, appreciate, and care about. Aesthetics allows us to understand and communicate how we think and express our ideas. Aesthetics encompasses the relationships between people, children, objects, materials, environments, and places. In representing our aesthetic sensitivities, we begin to express the core of our humanity. 

girl play magic color water drops onto the rainbow 2023 11 27 05 05 58 utc

Join me as we explore the powerful link between aesthetics and inclusion. Together, we will unravel the intricate web of elements shaping our design choices to create beautiful, inclusive environments where children with special rights survive and thrive. Please take advantage of the thought-provoking blog series that delves into the significance of designing inclusive ecosystems and how they intersect with the design world. Come and discover the untapped potential of this dynamic connection.

References:

Axelsson, S. (2023). The original learning approach: Weaving together playing, learning, and teaching in early childhood. Redleaf Press. 

Dissanayake, E. (2015). Art and intimacy: How the arts began. University of Washington Press. 

Hoffman, E. (1999). The right to be human: A biography of Abraham Maslow. McGraw-Hill.