How colour in a learning environment affects primary school children

How colour in a learning environment affects primary school children

Millennial pink? Midnight blue? Or maybe a punchy mustard yellow? Decision-making on colours for interior design is commonly led by trends and personal taste. Both are important considerations of course, but there’s one major factor that tends to get overlooked – colour psychology. It’s become widely accepted that the characteristics of a space, specifically colours, have psychological effects, influencing both how occupants feel and their performance. This has shown to be particularly true for young children, highlighting the need for careful consideration when decorating educational spaces. Well-designed primary school interiors boost primary school pupils’ learning by 16% – and a quarter of this has been attributed to the colour and complexity of the space.

Colour has the potential to influence behaviour, and help – or hinder – learning and development.

Young children are stimulated most by bright colours

When babies’ eyes are developing, it’s bright hues that they’re able to see best. And as they develop, they continue to be drawn to more vivid colours – a major reason that food and toy companies rely so heavily on the use of bright colour combinations. These colours stimulate children far more than more muted colours. And this is far more pronounced when contrasting shades, or bold patterns are used. Such a palette works well for spaces like playrooms, encouraging activity and imagination, but it may be best to think twice before plastering primary colours over children’s bedroom walls; pastel shades and neutrals are calming, and far more conducive to a good night’s sleep. Ideally, a primary school classroom would be a good balance between the two – providing enough stimulation to inspire and hold childrens’ attention, whilst not so much that it distracts them from the task at hand.

Colours and autism

Extra consideration with use of colour is required when designing educational spaces for children on the autistic spectrum, due to their increased sensitivity to stimuli.

The use of muted neutrals, such as cream, is suggested – rather than bright shades, or white – both of which can be far too much for hypersensitive children. Yellow, in particular, has been shown to be too sensory overloading. Use of pattern can also be overwhelming, so it’s best to keep to solid colour in these circumstances.

Colour is important for wayfinding in children

The use of colour in a school environment also affects childrens’ ability to recognise, recall and follow routes. The colour used for different spaces has a significant impact on their memory of routes and positioning of spaces – different colours within different spaces helps them to remember each one and to differentiate between them. Similar techniques have been proven to work well within other building types too. For example, the many different wall murals used within Sheffield Childrens’ Hospital have allowed children to feel more secure and less ‘lost’, as they are able to navigate by way of the wall designs.

These few points are just the beginning when it comes to the many different ways that colour can influence emotion, behaviour and educational performance of children. There’s a great deal of material on the subject, and researchers are adding to their understanding of colour psychology all the time.

One thing’s for sure: as simple as it may seem, colour undoubtedly affects children, and how effective a learning environment can be. It’s time to consider psychology when selecting the colour palette; your favourite colour, or the next ‘it’ shade just won’t cut it.

If you’d like to tailor an interior to children, are looking for a solution that’s engaging, effective and looks great, then we’d love to chat to you about our bespoke wall designs. You can contact us here.