Granger Community Church: Designing a Little World of Wonder

Here’s a look at the making of a stimulating, sensory-rich church nursery!

While grownups have great experiences in “big-people church,” as Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana calls it, babies have a stimulating, age-appropriate time in “little-people church.” Without being overtly themed, the nursery at Granger Community, designed by Sharon Exley, is sensory-rich, interactive, and aesthetically lovely—designed with babies and caregivers in mind.

Inside the church’s space for babies, “The Nursery Train That Could” environment is the ideal vehicle for an infant’s comfort, safety, social, and spiritual growth. Tracks laid into the carpeting take little children on journeys of their own making (or with wee bits of help). The nursery trains are comprised of brightly painted engines and cars. For more active infants, the engine cars have blowing smokestacks, removable wheels, bells and whistles, the caboose is musical and plays lullabies, the coaches are portable and filled with learning toys, sensorial materials, and activities.

The look and feel of Granger’s three nursery rooms reflects research into infant visual development. In the first few months of life, a newborn is especially stimulated by patterns of black, grey, and white. For this reason, the first nursery suite features a monochrome palette, filled with high-contrast graphics and shapes providing newborns with the best forms of visual stimulation. A monochrome nursery boosts attention span and curiosity, while also improving memory and nervous system development.

Spaces that grow alongside children
As babies grow, they’ll take faithful first steps to more colorful rooms. At around three months of age, babies display a preference for bright primary colors, which aid in visual and cognitive stimulation. These two nursery suites feature red, blue, and yellow graphics, matching wall colors, and lots of activity using custom train and landscape elements (think Wimmer-Ferguson and Montessori early learning toys that are super-sized for stimulation).

Train cars and paths cut into the carpet appear in each of three suites, adding a holistic nature. For volunteer and caregiver ease and convenience, some cars are actually changing tables with mats, safety straps, diapering supplies, and mobiles to capture and keep babies’ attention. The environments feature a landscape of tot lots, where growing babies explore and enjoy the challenges of maneuvering a gently undulating vinyl terrain. Along their journey, they stop to play with the giant soft sculpture trees and stacking toys with Velcro-compatible flowers, bees, birds, and rings.

What could be better than creating environments for taking those first faithful steps?

View the published article on church.design written by Sharon Exley MAAE Associate ASID here:

Granger Community Church Design for a Little World of Wonder

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