When The Kaleidoscope Project partnered with The Salvation Army of Wake County, we collectively developed three goals for The Salvation Army of Wake County Family Emergency Shelter:
1. A more child friendly lobby.
2. More functional play spaces that support kids’ social emotional well-being
3. Appropriate activities for children during case manager/parent meetings.
We utilized the best practices, listened to staff, and listened to families in order to intentionally redesign the three spaces to better support the social and emotional well-being of the children.
When families entered The Salvation Army, there were no clear places for children to wait. As a result children found interesting ways to entertain themselves, which often led to stressed out adults during an already stressful time.
The lobby has a corner that is off to the side and perfect for a space dedicated for kids.
• We began by adding soft, durable rubber gym mats. The mats provide a softer surface for kids to play on and define the space boundaries.
• Next, we added a durable playhouse with round floor seating cushions. The house has been a huge hit!
• We then added a wall decal for décor and a wall mounted beaded toy for kids to play with.
• Last, we moved a large stationary interactive wood bus toy from the playroom to the lobby. Just like the playhouse, it too has been a big hit.
The Salvation Army has three playrooms and a space in the common room (open area located next to the playrooms) dedicated to children. The spaces, although large, were not fully serving their purpose. Unlabeled bins of small toy parts made it challenging to know where all the toy pieces went. Parents with multiple children did not have clear line of site to all spaces when their children split up to play in different areas. The spaces were not designed for child/child or child/adult interactive play.
The play spaces were designed with high use in mind. We incorporated feedback from staff and parents to ensure they would be functional spaces for the needs of those using it.
• We first cleared out broken toys and toys with missing pieces.
• Volunteers cleaned the space, painted multiple soothing murals that helped bring nature in, and reorganized the room.
• We added several new play zones within the space that used large pieces and more open space, allowing adults or multiple children to play alongside each other.
• Restorative areas were included in each play area to provide children a place to relax, read, or do calming activities.
• An art area was developed to create a space for children to express themselves.
Case Management Meetings
During case management meetings, children play in sight of adults in the hallway. This resulted in children finding ways to entertain themselves or ending up back in the room with their caregiver. The children needed appropriate activities to occupy them while difficult, adult conversations were taking place.
Case Management Meetings: After having discussions with case managers and staff about the need for children to have something to do while they wait, we implemented two different strategies.
• Wall mounted toys were installed in the hall for children to interact with and play with.
• Play kits were provided for each case manager office. These kits include a wide range of toys such as Legos, cars, and Magna-Tiles. The kits are provided to the children during meetings for them to explore and play with in the hallway.
Early feedback from families and staff has been positive.