Child Care Centers: Open Concept Vs. Closed Concept And Why It Matters

Child care centers are structured one of two ways: open concept or closed concept. There are some defining features between the two, and reasons why center owners and directors may opt to for one style over the other. As a parent, you should know more about these two concepts/styles and how they may impact your child's education and care.

Open Concept

Open concept child care centers are similar to open concept living areas. There are no full walls or doors cutting rooms off and keeping kids from exploration. In most of these centers, the only rooms that have doors are the ones where the infants and toddlers are because the littlest children in care need protection from the running feet and noise of the older children. The rest of these "rooms" generally have half walls in order to designate which age group is in that area.

The benefits of an open concept child care room are:

  • Encourages young children's curiosity to see what is going on in the next room
  • Children can see what every teacher is doing (which also protects the teachers from false accusations)
  • Provides additional assistance in "rooms" where it is clearly needed
  • Allows parents who are touring the center to investigate the different areas and "rooms" of the center without interrupting
  • Gives the children more room to move, play, and enter/exit the room unhindered by doors and locks, a plus in the event that there is ever a fire

Closed Concept

Closed concept centers, by contrast, all have closed rooms. There are walls that clearly define each classroom, and doors that shut and lock. Every age group has its own room, and in some closed concept centers, every room has its own bathrooms and/or changing station for the children's potty needs. (Open concept centers often share community bathrooms.)

The benefits of a closed concept center are:

  • The children and messes are contained. 
  • Noise levels are contained, which may be vital to any children in the center who are susceptible to loud noises and anxiety.
  • Communicable diseases are contained and localized to the room in which they are discovered -- they do not travel to another room unless a teacher takes them there via improper handwashing (which is unlikely).
  • The environment provides predictability in that it feels like a home; the room with all of its materials and toys feels like a safe place to play.
  • Everyone may be safer in the event of a terrorist threat or security issue; the children and teachers in each room can be locked in.

As you can see, your child's needs and the area in which you reside may effect your decision on which type of center you choose. Overall, you have to choose the one best suited to your child, and the one in which he/she will learn best.