When an adult tries to sit in a child-sized lawn chair, the results are comical. Stand up, and the chair is still attached. likewise, it's easy to imagine how inappropriate adult-sized furniture is to a little body. It simply doesn't fit correctly.
Keeping the need for child-sized furniture in mind in children's and youth areas and Sunday school classrooms, church staff may well wonder where best to find the tiny stuff.
Rest assured, there are some great companies that carry all the furnishings a little body could need, along with some polish that helps the pieces look good next to adult furnishings.
Where to Shop
School and library supply companies are the place to look for children's furniture everything from drawing tables to chairs, miniature play kitchens, and play structures.
Madison, Wisconsin-based Demco, for example, is a company that has been around since 1905 and serves the library and school markets. According to Demco's Julie Hornby, marketing product manager, Demco carries everything from seating to creative play furniture, easels, tables, chairs, storage cubbies, and licensed character carpets.
Hornby says Demco carries more than just little furniture, it carries furniture that appeals to children, which is important. "In addition to carrying wood tables and chairs, we carry plastic molded ones that are less expensive as well," Hornby says when asked about churches that may be strictly budget conscious or just getting started.
Other value options for churches include carpets for kids' areas. As Hornby says, "Adding [character] carpets can change the look of an area for little money. Bean bags, too, provide soft seating for little money. Churches can start out small."
Nick Schwarz, director of marketing for Wabasso, Minnesota-based Jonti-Craft Inc., a manufacturer of wood and laminate early learning furniture, says both school supply dealers and local retailers are good bets for finding children's furniture for worship facilities.
"To get the best value, consider making your purchases from one supplier. This can help reduce the lower total delivered cost," Schwarz says. "It also helps with keeping the look of the furniture consistent. Lastly, it makes it easier to manage the ordering process, from placing the order to customer service/
warranty support to receiving the shipment at once."
Another bit of wisdom Schwarz has for church staff in the market for children's furniture is this: "When researching suppliers, check to see that you are working with an established company that can provide a vast line-up of products."
Safety and Top Considerations
When church staff makes actual furniture purchases, Schwarz and Hornby have some invaluable tips to help make sure the furniture is top notch for little ones.
First on the check list is safety. "The furniture must contribute to a safe environment for the children. It is important that all edges of furniture are roundedthis includes the ends of doors, and the bottom and back sides of units," Schwarz states.
Hornby, too, concurs that safety is number one. "Rounded edges on furniture are most important," she says.
Schwarz says that on play kitchens and other furniture with doors or hinges, churches should make certain the product has full-length hinges that open to a full 270 degrees. "These full-length hinges prevent children's fingers from getting pinched," he explains. And opening a full 270-degrees lets the doors fold back along side the cabinet and keeps them out of the way of moving children.
Another common-sense consideration when making a children's furniture purchase is to make sure that seating is soft and comfortable for children, Hornby says.
Schwarz finds that functionality can have as much to do with children's programming. "Consider purchasing furniture items that can pull double-duty.
For instance, if you have a small space, you might purchase a storage unit with a Write-n-Wipe back," he says. Such a unit can be placed in a children's ministry area where it divides two sections of a room where one side is used for storing toys and the other side is used in a teaching area.
Longevity is another concept that church staff should keep in mind when purchasing children's furniture. Schwarz says that a high-quality piece of furniture with a lifetime warranty may actually wind up being cheaper than a less expensive piece of furniture without a warranty that has to be replaced every two to three years.
Mixing and Matching
In some worship facilities, the children's areasor more specifically the children's furnitureends up close to the adult furniture. How can churches make sure the different pieces work together without being an eye sore?
Schwarz says that selecting the right wood for tables and chairs can help ease the difficulty with matching. "A light wood tone [such as premium birch wood] offers an attractive, contemporary look that provides a neutral base so it blends in with just about anything."
Whenever possible, though, Hornby recommends separating adults' and children's areas, much like libraries do. "If you can't divide kids, teens and adults, divide the room with dividers," she suggests.
After all, kids will be kids. They need their own furniture, and even their own rooms if space allows. But that's another topic.