Design & Construction

Children’s Spaces: Theming Tips & Tricks for Small Churches

Carol Badaracco Padgett  ·  December 1, 2009

If your church is small and your budget is smaller still, you can create beautiful, effective, themed children’s space. And in the process, your church may become a more compelling destination for young families with children.

According to Todd Phillippi, president of WPH Architects for Ministry in Penndel, Pa., the strength of theming is simply this: “Theming adds excitement and fun to a space. Our expectation is that people will continue to start looking for a church because they want their kids to learn about God.”

Sharon Exley, president of Chicago’s ArchitectureIsFun Inc., says churches of any size will be on the right track with theming as long as they make sure it’s relevant to the audience. “Theming needs to … speak directly to children,” she says. “Design must be informed by what is significant to children … which would be integrated with the curricula and mission.”

Once a small church is ready to pick a theme and move forward, there are pros that are willing to help and advise. According to Bruce Barry of Oldsmar, Fla.’s Wacky World Studios, there’s a lot that small churches can do themselves by involving art-talented church members or inviting the help of the local artist down the street if they can’t afford outside help.

Related Slideshow: 10 Ideas for Color-Infused Children’s Space

“Some churches can’t afford me or a local artist to come in,” Barry says, “but with the right tools and an instruction video, they can tackle the world.”

Wacky World Studios structures its theme creation and installation services at $25 on up. “Church staff can call and [describe their church and children’s space]. I can then tell them accent colors and stuff to add, and for about $200 they’ll end up with a new-looking space,” Barry says of churches that decide to create and install theming on their own.

Some of the tools that Barry encourages do-it-yourself churches to use to create themed environments are foam cores and gator boards—regular foams that are very lightweight. Then, Barry suggests cutting the foam core into shape with a “miracle tool” he calls a Hot Head, or a heated foam cutter that slices through foam core like butter and leaves behind no residue to sweep up. The tool can be purchased at a discount home do-it-yourself retailer or on Wacky World’s website,

When it comes to making sure your themed items are on scale and matching in terms of size, Barry offers this tip: Scale everything out before you start sketching anything. His expert tip for scale is that one inch equals one foot.

For more information on design for compelling children’s spaces, see an article entitled “The Hands by Which We Take Hold of Heaven” from the January/February 2010 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine.


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