I don’t know about you, but I love designing and creating environments for children. I want the environment to make them feel welcomed, intrigued, and excited to be there. Creating irresistible environments involves far more than the physical space, however. Here are seven tips we’ve learned in our attempt to create irresistible environments for children.
1. Create a Focal Wall or Space
A focal space or wall is critical for any large group experience. Your focal space supports what you are trying to teach and should be full of energy. What you do with that space will help create anticipation and excitement.
2. Use Color and Light!
Make sure your environment is bright, fun, and inviting. Children love color and learn better in a space that feels alive and energetic. Colored light bulbs in lamps, brightly colored walls with oversized polka-dots or key words painted on them can be an inexpensive way to enhance your space.
3. Provide Extraordinary Service
In his book Creating Magic, Disney’s Executive Vice President, Lee Cockerell states, “What really drives the magic is the extraordinary service.” This concept of extraordinary service is paramount to children entering your environment and wanting to stay. Make sure you have a team of leaders who greet families, register kids, and create a great first impression. They need to be friendly, welcoming, energetic, and most of all, make children feel like they’ve been waiting for them to arrive!
4. Be Organized
You could have the most beautiful space for children, but if a family is confused about how to register, or children aren’t clear on where to go, or a child leaves your environment unattended, nothing you have on your walls will matter. Ensure you have fine-tuned systems for how everything is done.
5. Keep Your Space Clean
This should go without saying, but your space should be clean. Environments with dust bunnies, paper scraps on the floor, or cluttered walls do not say “Welcome.” Help leaders make it a habit to pick up in between service times or during transitions. Nobody wants to leave their child at a place that looks disorganized, messy, or dirty.
6. Have a “Wow” Factor!
As often as possible, you want to create a “Wow!” experience, something that surprises kids and is memorable. Wow experiences can be any number of things. For example, you could change your set (or part of it) each month to go along with the monthly theme. Or, you could incorporate a surprise gift, snack, funny moment, game, etc. The best “Wow!” moments are the ones you hear the kids telling their parents about as they exit your environment. “Wow” factors make what you’re teaching stick and they create opportunities for conversations.
7. Use a Team
Creating an irresistible environment takes work. If you want to do it well, you can’t go it alone. The right team of people will help you get further, faster. As you begin to recruit leaders, think about the various skill sets needed. Who can help decorate the space, think through systems, produce large group, and everything else involved with your elementary environment?
A Final Thought
Creating an irresistible environment is not the end. It’s a means to the end. It helps kids feel welcome, engages them in what is happening, and connects them to a community. Then, the stage is set for them to learn about how to have a relationship with God and how to live in relationship with others.
Lisa Molite is the Elementary Director at Community Christian Church in White Marsh, MD. She is married and has two daughters. She is passionate about creating environments that make kids want to run to church! Lisa loves all things Orange, her chocolate lab, and Starbucks coffee! For more great ideas about creating environments, see her blog at readysetsunday.com