When children play, it helps their brains develop, improves focus, and boosts academic performance. Play-based learning provides opportunities for children to develop skills through investigating, exploring, interacting, and problem-solving. When building educational institutions adding physical components that encourage play can make a tremendous difference in how a child learns.


During the Industrial Revolution, our nation experienced enormous growth in manufacturing that left company owners in desperate need of workers. Companies would hire children as young as 3 to fill positions. Children employed by companies such as coal mine operations or factories were paid low wages, worked long hours, and dealt with unsafe, unhealthy conditions.

In 1904 the National Child Labor Committee was created. The NCLC’s mission of “promoting the rights, awareness, dignity, well-being, and education of children and youth as they relate to work and working” led to the Fair Standards Act of 1938. The act increased school enrollments and overwhelmed classrooms which made it necessary to maximize space. Classrooms featured raised platforms for teachers and organized rows of desks for students. For decades institutions continued to follow the teacher-centered classroom model when designing schools. In the 1970s, research showed that student learning was influenced by classroom layout and design. Schools slowly began to change layouts to enhance classroom experiences. However, today most school designs still echo a post-industrial revolution era.


At Centennial Elementary School in Humble, TX, each grade level features themed learning pods. The pods represent present and past areas of the local community, including a historic downtown area, a natural-looking thicket, an airport, astronauts, and dinosaurs. Children gathering in these spots explore, experiment, discover, and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. Using elements such as realistic logs for sitting in the thicket, life-size astronauts next to a space capsule that students meet in, and an airplane hanging from the ceiling create an immersive, rich, meaningful, and more joyful learning experience.

Spaces like Centennial, which encourage active play-based learning, allow children to explore the natural and social environments around them. Science shows evidence that the amount of play a child does influence a child’s ability to learn. Exploration and discovery through play create the groundwork for higher-level activities and thinking. When children are in a physical space where they can experiment and make mistakes, it creates the foundation they will need to become future innovators, scientists, engineers, and thought leaders.

To find out how to create a playful learning space at your educational institution, contact us at hello@worldsofwow.com.

View Centennial Elementary learning pods here.

Worlds of Wow, a team of artists, problem solvers, and makers, can help answer any questions on transition spaces or interior design. The WOW team is committed to the idea that intentionally designed spaces have the power to build community, connect families, and create opportunities for kids of all abilities to play together. WoW helps their clients better understand their vision, clarify its purpose, and bring it to life using play, 3D decor, interactive elements, technology, and murals.