Color and Light in Interior Spaces for Children with Autism

For children diagnosed with autism, their surroundings play a crucial role in determining their sense of ease and overall health. Extensive research has delved into the correlation between color and light and the well-being of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In this article, we’ve compiled key insights from these studies.


Enhancing Interior Spaces for Children with Autism: A Guide to Color and Light

We were intrigued by the discoveries unearthed in these studies and felt compelled to share them. We aim to equip architects, designers and business owners who are creating autism centers, ABA therapy facilities, and other spaces dedicated to those on the spectrum. We hope these valuable insights help to craft environments better suited to the needs of these children. Read on for more.

Understanding Autism

Autism is characterized by difficulties in social communication and interaction. People with autism may also have sensory sensitivities, making them particularly sensitive to stimuli in their environment, such as colors and lights.


Light and Color on the Autism Spectrum

In a recent study by Sardar S. Shareef and Guita Farivarsadri titled “The Impact of Colour and Light on Children with Autism in Interior Spaces from an Architectural Point of View” [1], the role of color and light in interior spaces for children with autism was investigated.

Key Findings:

  1. Color Preferences: According to the study, neutral colors like grey, green, blue, and white were generally preferred by children with autism. Bright colors like red and yellow were found to have adverse effects on them.
  2. Light Preferences: Natural light was favored whenever possible, while artificial lighting, especially fluorescent lights, was generally disliked due to flickering and negative effects on perception.

Grey color has no effect, either positive or negative, on those with ASD. White colors if used alone were found to have a negative effect.

Preferred lighting techniques to be used in spaces for people with autism include more natural styles of lighting:

  • Indirect sunlight, controlled with the use of curtains
  • Indirect tungsten lighting
  • Indirect white LED light
  • Use dimmers to control artificial lighting


A study conducted by Marine Grandgeorge and Nobuo Masataka on “Atypical Color Preference in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” [2] has similar findings. This study provides valuable insights into the atypical color preferences of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Children with ASD exhibited distinct color preferences compared to children with typical development (TD). While TD children showed a typical preference for red and blue, boys with ASD displayed an aversion to yellow and a heightened preference for green and brown. These differences were consistent across different age groups within the ASD population.

Example of an ABA therapy center with underwater theming.

The aversion to yellow in children with ASD may be linked to their heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, particularly luminance. The preference for green and brown aligns with anecdotal reports and may reflect a unique perceptual experience in children with ASD. Neurological explanations suggest disruptions in color processing pathways, contributing to these atypical preferences.


To add on to these findings, another study, “A case study on the effect of light and colors in the built environment on autistic children’s behavior” [3], found that the sensitivity of autistic children to colors plays a crucial role in their perception and interaction with their environment. Research suggests that the choice of colors in interior spaces can significantly impact their mood, behavior, and learning outcomes.

By incorporating autism-friendly color palettes such as pastel shades and muted tones while avoiding bold and bright colors, indoor environments can be designed to provide a soothing sensory experience for autistic individuals.

This study also explored how visual aids like landmarks and color-coding can simplify navigation for autistic individuals. Researchers observed children’s behaviors in their classrooms beforehand. Implementing a simple navigation system with color-coded paths can make it easier for visually sensitive autistic individuals to move around without fear. Also, colorful mats were utilized to create color shapes on the floor, enhancing the accessibility and navigability of areas for autistic children.

Church classroom signs with animal themed rooms.


What Are the Implications for Designers

  • Use neutral and muted colors, avoiding bright and saturated hues.
  • Prioritize natural lighting and minimize the use of fluorescent lights.
  • Consider the use of color coding in wayfinding solutions.
  • Consider the individual needs and sensitivities of each child when designing spaces.


Children’s spaces are meant to be colorful, and when crafting a business tailored for children, embracing vibrant and playful colors becomes essential for creating an inviting and engaging environment. If your space caters to all children, you don’t have to be scared of yellows, pinks, and reds! Whether it’s a daycare center, a toy store, or a children’s clothing boutique, incorporating bright hues and cheerful designs can captivate young imaginations and foster a sense of joy and excitement.

However, when creating specialized spaces for children on the spectrum, it’s important to be mindful of color and its effects. Designers should prioritize light, color, and space considerations in environments that cater to autistic children. By understanding their preferences and sensitivities, architects and designers can play a crucial role in enhancing the well-being and comfort of these children in interior spaces, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for all.

Further research and attention to this area are needed to continue improving design practices for individuals with autism.


For our article today, we reference the studies found here:

[1] The Impact of Colour and Light on Children with Autism in Interior Spaces from an Architectural Point of View

[2] Atypical Color Preference in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

[3] A case study on the effect of light and colors in the built environment on autistic children’s behavior


If you would like to learn about creating welcoming spaces for children, check out these additional resources from IDS:

Enhancing ABA Therapy Centers with Themed Decor

8 Color Schemes and What They Mean for Your Office Vibe

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The Healing Power of Fun Decor in Children’s Hospital Environments

From the moment a family steps through the doors of a children’s hospital, they are surrounded by fear, uncertainty, and stress. But what if there was something that could help alleviate some of those feelings – something that could make the hospital environment more inviting and, ultimately, create better health outcomes for patients? Decorating a children’s hospital with fun elements can help to distract sick children from their ailments and create an atmosphere of hope and optimism.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in understanding how the physical environment of hospitals can impact the healing process, particularly for children. Numerous studies have shown that fun, engaging, and aesthetically pleasing environments can significantly enhance mood, reduce stress, and improve treatment outcomes for young patients. We’ve gathered some of these studies together to compare the benefits researchers have found.


One notable study on healing gardens in hospitals highlighted the positive impact of abstract art and outdoor spaces on patients’ moods. The researchers found that exposure to visually stimulating and nature-inspired environments led to a noticeable improvement in emotional well-being.

In another influential paper, RS Ulrich’s theory and research on healthcare environments demonstrated that well-designed spaces with therapeutic elements could significantly uplift patients’ spirits and aid in their recovery. Ulrich noted that whimsical and fun elements in hospital design were particularly beneficial for children, creating a more welcoming and less intimidating atmosphere.

A study focusing on children’s perspectives on hospital design emphasized the importance of incorporating fun activities and colorful decor to enhance the healing environment. The research revealed that children preferred hospitals with playful and engaging spaces, which contributed positively to their overall healing process.

The Therapy by Design evaluation of the UK hospital building program found that changes in hospital design, including the introduction of vibrant colors and interactive features, had a significant positive effect on patients’ moods and morale. This study underscored the value of creating more benign and healing environments through thoughtful design.

Research on color and lighting in hospital design further supports the idea that children’s environments should be visually stimulating. The study found that appropriate use of color and light could enhance children’s perceptions and moods, making the hospital experience less stressful and more enjoyable.

A comprehensive review of evidence-based healthcare design by Ulrich and colleagues highlighted the importance of designing physical environments that support clinical outcomes. The review concluded that incorporating elements of fun and engagement in hospital design can lead to better health outcomes and overall satisfaction for patients.

Additionally, a paper on pain management in hospital environments found that interesting and distracting decor, such as patient-generated art, could help manage pain by providing a mental distraction and creating a more pleasant environment.

The study on pictorial interventions in pediatric hospital environments revealed that fun and engaging visuals could positively affect parents’ perceptions of the hospital unit, thereby creating a more positive and supportive atmosphere for children undergoing treatment.

Finally, research on designing hospital environments to improve psychological wellbeing highlighted the role of fun decor in enhancing the mental health of pediatric patients. The study suggested that incorporating playful elements like stickers and child-friendly decorations could significantly improve the psychological well-being of young patients.

10 Examples of Themed Decor in Hospitals and Medical Facilities

Example of an ABA therapy center with underwater theming.
Underwater mural in an ABA therapy center.
Landmark character outside of a pediatric medical clinic.
Private playroom in a children’s hospital.
Wayfinding sign in a children’s hospital.
I Spy mural in a hospital treatment room.
Reception desk in a pediatric hospital wing.
Fun seating area in a children’s medical center.
Door murals on rooms in a pediatric ER waiting area.
Fun reception desk in an obstetrician’s office.
Jungle wall murals in a medical exam room.

The Evidence of The Impact of Decor is Clear

Fun and engaging decor in children’s hospital environments plays a crucial role in improving their mood, reducing stress, and enhancing treatment outcomes. By designing spaces that are visually stimulating and child-friendly, healthcare providers can create a more supportive and healing environment for their youngest patients.

Hospitals do not have to be sterile environments. Adding bright colors, fun decorations, and cheerful artwork can bring life into a medical setting. Having fun spaces within the hospital helps to make sick children feel safe and secure while also allowing them to spend quality time with their families during difficult times. Imagination Design Studios (IDS) is an expert at creating spaces for children in healthcare environments. Contact IDS to get started transforming your facility from a mundane to a magical patient experience.

Interested in learning more? Check out these related resources on themed environments and their benefits:

5 Ways to Improve Pediatric Patient Experience in Your Medical Clinic

Pediatric Therapy Facility Decor Inspiration

Keep Guests on Track with 7 Types of Fun Wayfinding Signage for Pediatric Healthcare Spaces


References

  1. Marcus, C. C. (2007). Healing Gardens in Hospitals. Interdisciplinary Design and Research e-Journal. Retrieved from brikbase.org
  2. Ulrich, R. S. (1999). Theory and Research. Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design. Retrieved from illinois-online.org
  3. Nourmusavi Nasab, S., Karimi Azeri, A. R., & Mirbazel, S. (2020). Ideal Physical Features of Environmental Design in Children’s Hospital: Using Children’s Perspectives. Facilities. Retrieved from researchgate.net
  4. Gesler, W., Bell, M., Curtis, S., Hubbard, P., & Francis, S. (2004). Therapy by Design: Evaluating the UK Hospital Building Program. Health & Place. Retrieved from academia.edu
  5. Dalke, H., Little, J., Niemann, E., & Camgoz, N. (2006). Colour and Lighting in Hospital Design. Optics & Laser Technology. Retrieved from academia.edu
  6. Ulrich, R. S., Zimring, C., Zhu, X., & DuBose, J. (2008). A Review of the Research Literature on Evidence-Based Healthcare Design. Health Environments Research & Design Journal. Retrieved from brikbase.org
  7. Malenbaum, S., Keefe, F. J., Williams, A. C. C., & Ulrich, R. (2008). Pain in its Environmental Context: Implications for Designing Environments to Enhance Pain Control. Pain. Retrieved from nih.gov
  8. Monti, F., Agostini, F., Dellabartola, S., & Neri, E. (2012). Pictorial Intervention in a Pediatric Hospital Environment: Effects on Parental Affective Perception of the Unit. Journal of Environmental Psychology. Retrieved from academia.edu
  9. da Rosa, V. M., & Brust-Renck, P. G. (2021). Designing Hospital Environments to Improve the Psychological Wellbeing of Pediatric Patients. Children, Youth and Environments. Retrieved from muse.jhu.edu

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Improve the Experience of Pediatric Therapy Patients with Fun Decor

Children who need therapy, whether OT, PT, ST, or ABA therapy, often face a unique challenge. The journey of learning and recovery can be emotional, tiring, and at times, daunting to children who may not understand the outcome of their treatment. As a healthcare professional providing therapy to pediatric patients, it is important to keep their spirits up and make sure that they are comfortable in your environment.

One way to improve your patient’s experience is by creating fun and functional decor in your therapy space that will engage children while also helping them heal.

Patient consult with mother and daughter.

We will discuss the types of decor you can add to your space and how you can use this kid-centric decor to improve the therapy patient experience.


How to Improve the Experience of Pediatric Therapy Patients with Fun Decor


Using Colorful Wall Art to Transform a Space

Wall decor is the perfect solution for therapy spaces that require ample room for activities. By adorning your walls with eye-catching art, you can transform a bland space into an immersive environment that sparks joy and distracts from any anxieties.

The walls of your therapy space should be colorful, inviting, and reflective of your brand identity. When children enter the room, they should feel immediately at ease and excited to engage in therapy sessions. That’s why selecting wall art that reflects your brand is crucial. Whether you want to create a calming and relaxing environment or a space for fun and play, your wall decor can help you achieve that goal.

Smaller window graphic panels provide fun wall decor as well.

Fun wall colors and graphics are a great place to start. Take it to the next level with murals featuring exciting themes and landscapes. Colorful murals and graphics have been found to greatly enhance the patient experience at therapy clinics and pediatric therapy centers. For kids in particular, a theme can make a kid’s stay much less daunting. It can provide a visual escape from the task at hand and create an inviting atmosphere that feels safe.


Using Fun Furniture & Accessories to Create an Engaging Space

Pediatric therapy clinics can be intimidating for children, but by incorporating fun and comfortable furniture, such as bean bag chairs, colorful rugs, playful seating options, or even swings, you can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable in the space.

A variety of seating options.

Other accessories such as toys, puzzles, or games can add more fun elements into the mix while also providing opportunities for therapeutic learning activities during sessions. Children may feel anxious or stressed during therapy sessions, but by incorporating engaging accessories, you can help distract them from any discomfort or fear they may be experiencing.

Play-based therapy is an effective approach for children, and by incorporating playful furniture and accessories, you can encourage play and exploration, which can lead to better therapeutic outcomes.

Functional but fun furniture like shoe racks, bookshelves, and storage seating is a great way to add some exciting decor without taking away from therapy space.

A fantastical shoe rack.

To learn more about custom furniture pieces, click here.

Finally, adding plants into the mix helps create an even more engaging atmosphere. By adding natural elements to the decor, it greatly contributes to improving indoor air quality which helps boost moods further. Even creating an outdoor therapy area where kids can be outside in fresh air with trees can take your clinic to the next level.


Creating Comfort Through Accessible Design & Layout

When it comes to pediatric therapy, creating a welcoming and comfortable environment is essential for your patient’s success. A key aspect of achieving this is ensuring that all furniture pieces are easily accessible for children of all ages and abilities. Sharp edges and overly tall furniture can be intimidating and uncomfortable for young patients, so it’s crucial to choose pieces that are safe and inviting. By designing a space that feels like it’s made for them, not adults, children will feel more at ease and engaged in their therapy sessions.

A well-thought-out layout will also provide secure circulation paths throughout treatment rooms so every child can move around with ease, without feeling trapped or closed off.

Additionally, using accessible signage with pictures and colors can also make navigating the space easier for children who may have difficulty reading.

Wayfinding sign that reads "Hippo Room".

We, as adults often forget what it’s like to experience a space as a child. If you approach designing therapy spaces with the mindset of a child, you may be surprised at how much more welcoming and accommodating you can make it feel. By prioritizing elements like accessibility, comfort, and fun, you can create a pediatric therapy environment that encourages play, engagement, and positive therapeutic outcomes.

Whether it’s selecting furniture that’s the right size and shape for small bodies, or adding playful decor that sparks joy and curiosity, every detail counts. With a little creativity and attention to detail, you can transform your therapy space into a place where children feel safe, supported, and excited to learn and grow.


Environment Has a Big Impact on Children’s Patient Experience

The first impression your pediatric therapy clinic makes can set the tone for your patients’ entire experience. By creating a kid-centric environment with fun yet functional decor, you can instantly create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere that primes your patients for their therapy sessions. With the right decor, you can create a space that encourages play and exploration, making it easier for children to connect with their therapists and achieve positive therapeutic outcomes.

Mawish Baber, the operations director at the Andalusia Clinics for Kids Wellness has this to say about adding colorful themed decor to their clinic and therapy spaces:

“The kids love the theming. The kids that visit us have started referring to the clinic as “The Fun Center” cementing our desire to make this a place of wellness and development, not a place they are forced to visit.”


Interested to learn more? Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and improving patient experience:

Pediatric Therapy Facility Decor Inspiration

What is Patient Experience and Why Does It Matter?

5 Ways to Improve Pediatric Patient Experience in Your Medical Clinic

Keep Guests on Track with 7 Types of Fun Wayfinding Signage for Pediatric Healthcare Spaces

How Creative Decor Can Benefit Pediatric Therapy Clinics

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from a mundane to a magical patient experience.

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Dentophobia: How to Help Kids Deal with Anxiety About Dental Procedures

You see and hear about it everywhere: children and adults alike are nervous about going to the dentist. In fact, in many cases, they’re more than nervous. They have dental-related anxiety.

Dentophobia, or simply dental fear and anxiety (DFA) is incredibly common, not only in North America, but also around the world. According to various studies and reports, 74% of children and adolescents report anxiety, and one in ten of them suffer from a severe phobia that almost entirely inhibits them from going to the dentist’s office at all.

There are different reasons why kids might be scared of the dentist. Many of them are similar to the reasons that adults are scared, including being self-conscious about their oral health and a generalized fear of needles. Other concerns are more child-specific, like the fear of the unknown, having never actually been to the dentist before, and a general feeling of powerlessness.

Whatever the reason, as a dentist, it’s important that you do your best to alleviate your patient’s concerns.

Here are a few tips to help kids deal with their dental jitters for any procedure, and ensure a pleasant experience for everyone!

Communicate with Kids

The most important place to start is by talking to the kids themselves. By nature, kids are naturally curious and eager to explore the world around them. Here’s are some examples of ways you can ensure you’re communicating clearly and effectively with your young patients:

  • Talk to your patient directly, not “around” them. While communication with parents is important too (see below), it’s important that the child be at the center of your attention.
  • Ask them about their life and hobbies! Get them comfortable and laughing before you get down the the serious business.
  • Speak calmly and use more simple words that kids understand in order to help them relax. Don’t overcomplicate things, medical words and confusing terms can be scary and cause their imgaintions to run wild.
  • Be the “hype-wo/man” so to speak, and praise them throughout the appointment. Positive reinforcement is absolutely key, and works wonders on easing stress. You can always promise them a trip to a prize cabinet or treausre drawer as a fun reward to look forward to.

Talk to Parents

Almost equally important to helping kids deal with dental procedure anxiety, is establishing and cultivating a strong relationship with their parents. Research suggests that parental dental fear is a key factor in whether or not someone will develop dental fear and anxiety of their own.

Consider the following when talking to parents:

  • Provide them with some key “talking points” in advance. A great guide that you can provide parents is The Kids’ Guide to the Dentist, a fun story that takes kids through their first dental visit and what they can expect.

  • Address their own concerns. As mentioned, parental dental fear is a strong indicator for dental fear in their children. By easing their own anxieties, parents are better able to ensure that their kids don’t repeat similar habits.
  • Give them some key resources that they can take home and share with their kids before their first visit, or in between subsequent visits.

By communicating clearly with parents and providing them with the resources that they need, you can take another step in reducing overall dental anxiety with your young patients.

Create a Welcoming Space

On top of open communication with your patients and their parents, one of the most important things you can do to help with dental anxiety is to provide a welcoming and friendly environment.

A welcoming environment can take a few different shapes. Some suggestions include:

  • Books that kids and their parents can peruse while waiting for the dentist— particularly if they’re dentist-themed!
  • Sometimes, a fresh coat of paint can help make all the difference. Within a general practice, consider a colorful children’s play and activity area. Playgrounds are always bright and colourful, so painting a special space for kids in a colour they know if meant for fun and play eases them into your environment.
  • Create a space made just for kids. A private room or even just a corner that acts as a welcoming space for children to hang out in before their appointment makes kids feel special.
tent entrance paly area with tree and woodland creatures
  • If your practice is primarily focused on kids, you might want to consider going beyond just one designated play area, and set up a whole themed office. This ensures that kids are interacting with a dynamic and exciting space every step of the way. By transforming a space into a magical destination kids will be excited to go to the dentist, competely eliminating that pesky dentophobia.

sculpted sandcastle reception desk and custom beach mural in pediatric dental office

By helping kids deal with dental anxiety at a young age, you will instill healthy habits within them, helping to ensure that they don’t grow into overly anxious adults that avoid proper oral health solely out of fear.

For more ideas on how to transform your dental office into the most welcoming space possible for kids, contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to talk to a creative consultant today.

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6 Tips to Make Your Dental Practice More Inviting for Pediatric Patients

To become the #1 choice in your community, it is imperative that your dental practice is welcoming to everyone, no matter their age. While appealing to the adult crowd has its own set of essentials, the needs and wants of your pediatric guests require a different, more careful approach that can at times be difficult to navigate.

To ensure that you and your practice are truly creating a comfortable and welcoming place for children, we’ve assembled 6 simple tips to make your practice more inviting for pediatric patients. Parents and kids alike will thank you!


UNDERSTANDING DENTAL VISIT ANXIETY IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS

It could be their first appointment or their tenth; the amount of visits doesn’t really matter. The feeling of anxiety being in an unfamiliar place is a constant reality for kids. This anxiety could stem from a bad experience at a previous office, feeling the nervousness from a parent, or just the apprehension that comes with a new and unfamiliar experience – and this anxiety is a sliding scale. From a bit of hesitancy all the way to downright dread, kids experience it all.

Providing a safe space and rolling out the welcome mat for kids requires sensitivity, kindness, and strategic planning. It’s about creating an environment that everyone will feel relaxed in, and let them know they’re with a trustworthy adult. It’s easier than you think!


Tip #1: Transform Waiting Time into Fun Time at Your Pediatric Dental Office

The hardest part of a dental visit for many families is the minutes before the appointment itself. Since the wait is often unavoidable, use it to your advantage by setting the tone with a wow-worthy reception area. Think helpful, fun, and welcoming!

  • Distractions are a must. Hands-on activities like gaming stations, books, coloring pages, or I Spy murals are enjoyable and distracting. If you have a designated play area – even better!
  • Playful colors in the reception area can make the experience feel less daunting by creating a bright space. When paired with a fun sculpture, the decor is a great way to make your practice feel less like a medical office, and more like a fun day at a theme park. (Tip: Check out our blog on ideal dental office color schemes!)
  • Arrange seating so parents/accompanying adults can stay engaged with their kids. Low seating can keep adults and kids at eye level, encouraging a feeling of security and comfort.


Tip #2: Building Trust and Rapport with Young Dental Patients

From the moment a child walks in, a compassionate front staff member should take on the role of “Kids Concierge” to bring them in on the experience. If the reception staff extends less attention to the child over their accompanying adult, it can sometimes make them feel left out or ignored. The Kids Concierge is a quick fix to this problem.

  • Encourage your Kids Concierge to step from behind the counter and physically greet pediatric patients. Getting on their level to exchange a fist-bump or handshake is a great way to build rapport and comfort, and make kids feel like they have a friend in the office. This staff member can engage with children from the moment they walk through the door, through the waiting process, and walk them to their chair.
  • Establish trust by including the child in the conversation about their appointment. If they feel like they are part of the process, it can eliminate some of the fear of the unknown.


Tip #3: Confidence is Key in Pediatric Dentistry

When children are anxious, they may not be overly enthusiastic to comply with directions. Be prepared! The right way to respond to “no” can be the difference between a negative and a positive experience.

  • Be kind and patient.
  • Be confident. Children will sense uncertainty and are looking to your team for guidance.


Tip #4: Simplifying and Explaining Dental Procedures for Children

Most children come to an appointment with a preconceived notion of what a visit to the dentist entails. Media, stories from friends, or even anecdotes from parents can really impact a child’s perception negatively, so it is up to you and your team to put them at ease

  • Provide a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of each step of their appointment.
  • Avoid clinical dental-speak. For example, call an x-ray image just a “picture of a tooth” or something else that makes sense to them.
  • Brainstorm with your team various creative words and phrases you can use to describe equipment, treatments, procedures etc.




Tip #5: Encouraging Curiosity and Questions in Child Dental Patients

Giving children the freedom to ask questions is imperative. Kids are curious, and one of the ways they get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation is by asking their own questions and satisfying their curiosity.

  • Establish permission to ask questions from moment one.
  • Be curious about each of your pediatric patients. Ask about their hobbies, passions, games, sports – anything they’re interested in to open the conversation to inquiry.
  • Be prepared! Find a way to get in the “know” with what the youth are into, so you can have engaging conversations and include references they’ll recognize while answering their questions.


Tip #6: End Dental Appointment Visits on a High Note with Prizes

Reward good visits and soothe tougher visits with prizes! Place a visible prize box or toy vending machine near the front desk and have your Kids Concierge mention to the pediatric patient that after their visit they’ll be able to choose whichever prize they’d like. The simple fixation on a small but meaningful item will make the visit go by in a flash.

A tangible reward they can take home is also something they’ll remember long after the visit – creating a positive association with the dentist as opposed to a negative one. Parents can then lead up to their next appointment by reminding them of the awesome toy car or pretty ring they got the last time they saw your team.


Make Visits More Inviting by Creating a Welcoming Environment in Pediatric Dental Practices

An outstanding patient experience for kids may seem difficult, but it’s all about making them feel welcome from the moment they walk through the door to the second they leave. Anxiety-free dental visits are priceless for families and parents, so we hope that these tips will help you create streamlined dental visits for all comfort levels.


Looking for more info? Check out more of our resources!

6 Calming Strategies for Kids Nervous About Healthcare Appointments

And…

Download Our White Paper: Alleviating Patient Anxiety Through Office Theming

Set kids and their parents up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. Create an environment that:

  • Reduces patient anxiety and enhances their relaxation
  • Primes kids and families for their appointments
  • Promotes positive dental care experiences

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free dental experience for kids.

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Top-Shelf Books for Kids to Add to Your Clinic Waiting Area

Distraction is a go-to tool in a parent’s utility belt. A favorite snack or a well-timed “wow, look at that!” can quickly take a kid’s mind off of whatever is causing their fear, panic, or anxiety.

Books can work wonders for reducing kids’ anxiety as well, which is why it’s a good idea to have some in your clinic waiting room.

LIKE PULLING A RABBIT OUT OF A HAT

Books are like that standard magician’s trick of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. They’re a common object kids can relate to – you reach into the pages and voila!, there’s a story that can help them cope in the moment.

A dental visit requires varying levels of coping skills for a child and their parent(s). Dental anxiety is common, and the more you can do to help create positive associations with dentistry the more likely they are to overcome it.


GO-TO BOOKS FOR KIDS THAT CAN SEND A POSITIVE MESSAGE

Must-reads for Dental Practices for Ages 2 – 8

The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss

Hey, he’s a “Dr.,” right? Well, not exactly, but most kids (and parents) are familiar with Dr. Seuss’s rhyming perspective on life.

An unsure child can relate to this introductory look at dental care. Kids will begin to relax as Dr. Seuss talks about teeth, dentistry, and visiting the dentist.



Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer

Kids are probably familiar with the Little Critters book series. This lighthearted classic follows the main character, Little Critter’s, experience in the dentist’s chair.

This book’s message helps kids feel at ease with the uncertainty of a dental appointment. It’s recommended for a child’s first visit to the dentist.


Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Rey

Who doesn’t love Curious George? He’s always up to something and this time it’s a trip to the dentist.

The man with yellow hat wants George’s teeth to be healthy (like all parents). After a bite into an apple, Curious George’s experience teaches kids about dental hygiene, visiting the dentist, and having courage.

Dentist Trip by Scholastic

Fans of Peppa Pig will get into this story. Peppa discovers that the dentist’s office is a colorful, fun-loving place when she tags along with George on his first dental visit.

Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller

Who said facts about teeth and dentistry had to be boring? This book is perfect for kids who are having their first appointment.

Throughout the book, teeth and dental care are given a positive vibe through engaging graphics and illustrations. Kids who have been to the dentist before but are now anxious about cleanings or treatments will be helped by this resource.



Add These Titles to Your Clinic Shelves Too


My Dentist, My Friend by P.K. Halliman

A step-by-step rhyming guide that delivers assurance that a dental visit is nothing to worry about.


How Many Teeth? by Paul Showers

This classic children’s book is about a journey through tooth development. It shows how losing baby teeth is a positive experience to make room for adult teeth.


The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller

A fun look at dental hygiene with kid-friendly illustrations to help walk kids through the importance of tooth care. It’s especially useful for helping older kids develop some dental independence.


Elmo Visits the Dentist by P.J. Shaw

Elmo takes the “big bad wolf” to a dental appointment. He sits with him while the dental assistant explains what happens at a dental visit. A good read for kids who are anxious about their first dental experience.


MAKE BOOKS PART OF YOUR CLINIC ENVIRONMENT TO REDUCE ANXIETY IN KIDS

An outstanding patient experience for kids and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and the environment that supports it – books included!

Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and providing anxiety-free dental visits:

6 Calming Strategies for Kids Nervous About Healthcare Appointments

Reduce Dental Anxiety with “The Kids’ Guide to the Dentist” by IDS

Set kids and their parents up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. Create an environment that:

  • Reduces patient anxiety and enhances their relaxation
  • Primes kids and families for their appointments
  • Promotes positive dental care experiences

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free dental experience for kids.

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How Dentists Can Eliminate Anxiety in Kids During Their First Appointment

“I love going to the dentist!” It might be a stretch thinking you’ll hear that from most kids. Even so, that perspective can motivate you as a dentist to deal with anxiety in kids during their first appointment.

Almost 20% of school age children are afraid of a dental visit. Those in that range, and the larger percentage of dental avoiders, increase the challenge of helping families establish good oral health habits.


Can You Give a Parent a Hand?

Parents feel a heavy burden to look after their kid’s health – dentistry included. They’re looking for understanding and an advocate to help them with their child’s attitude about it.

You can share the load by:

  • Giving them advance “talking points.” Kids appreciate predictability so encourage parents to not drop a dental appointment on them at the last minute.
  • Establishing a communication thread. A first dental appointment prompts a lot of questions – be ready and be available via phone, text, email, and virtually.
  • Gathering as much info as possible about their child. Their fears, oral health habits, lifestyle/diet, school and personal interests, etc.
  • Supply parents with resources that will help prepare their kids for what to expect on their first visit.

Do everything within reason to support a parent’s desire to improve their child’s oral health.

HOW TO HELP KIDS ACTUALLY “LOVE” THEIR FIRST APPOINTMENT (AND EACH ONE AFTER THAT)

Use Your Kind Voice and Simple Words

In essence, ditch the dental speak. You’ll be amazed how simplifying your words can also impact your tone.

Kids feel at ease when you use a friendly, familiar voice. Use simple descriptions when talking about procedures.


Have a Conversation with the Child Too

It’s natural to default to the adult-in-the-room (aka, the parent or guardian). But keep in mind that the child is the one you’ll be treating.

Kids are part of the patient experience too. Showing an interest in their life, their interests, and their fears will create trust and increase their comfort.


High-Five the Good Behavior

Give every kid “praise” when they show bravery during their dental appointment. It could be nothing short of heroic for some kids to hang-in for the duration of a check-up or treatment.

Applause reinforces behavior. Even a small amount of way-to-go’s can lead to a trusting, long-term relationship with you as their dentist.


SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOME ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

There will be those kids that regardless of how you speak to them, speak with them, or reward their good efforts – they need a little more assistance with a first or future dental appointment.

This can apply in a themed, calm, kid-centric environment too.


Promote Sedation Solutions Where Necessary

It’s called “happy gas” for a reason. And it’s better for your young patients that you refer to it as such.

The anxiety reducing effects of sedation dentistry deserve attention – especially for those kids that require a bit more coaxing.

  • Explain how it works and what to expect.
  • Confirm with their parent any additional sedation methods (e.g. oral sedation, etc) if there’s a reason they prefer not to use “happy gas.”


Encourage Behavioral Support

There are times when you wear a “therapist’s” hat during a first dental visit. Of course, you’re aware of your boundaries and skill set. But a listening, compassionate ear can be the beginning of helping a child and parent unpack some potential rooted fears.

  • Have some behavioral therapy resources in-your-hip-pocket. A counseling or therapeutic referral could be just what a child needs if their anxiety is more ingrained.
  • Watch your “language” and encourage parents to do the same. We’re not talking the “foul” type but rather words like “hurt,” “shots,” “only a little…,” etc. These send up red-flags.
  • Be patient and supportive. Anxiety in kids about a dental visit can be overcome but it takes time and consistency. Cool heads will prevail – yours not theirs.


Create an environment that reduces (or eliminates) anxiety in kids beginning with their first appointment.

An outstanding patient experience for kids and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and the environment that supports it.

Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and providing anxiety-free dental visits:

6 Calming Strategies for Kids Nervous About Healthcare Appointments

Download Our White Paper: Alleviating Patient Anxiety Through Office Theming

A Practical Guide to Creating an Exceptional Patient Experience



Set kids and their parents up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. Create an environment that:

  • Reduces patient anxiety and enhances their relaxation
  • Primes kids and families for their appointments
  • Promotes positive dental care experiences

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free dental experience for kids.


Grab a free resource you can share with your young patients:

FOUND THIS ARTICLE HELPFUL?

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Reduce Dental Anxiety with “The Kids’ Guide to the Dentist”

Going to the dentist can be scary for children, so it’s important to address their dental anxiety in a way that’s both kind and encouraging. Helping a child face their fears of the dentist will help set them up for a positive interaction and a stronger lifetime relationship with dentistry. 

Common Causes of Dental Anxiety

Think about some of the reasons why your anxiety flares up as an adult. The fear of the unknown or remembering uncomfortable experiences are probably pretty big contributors, right? Kids have similar feelings, but coupled with big imaginations that can lead them to picture scenarios that create further fear and anxiety. An anxious child will also focus on previous stressful dental experiences, causing even more anxiety.

Infographic showing common dental anxiety triggers.


ONE WAY TO HELP PEDIATRIC ANXIETY? THE KIDS’ GUIDE TO THE DENTIST ACTIVITY BOOK

Put Young Patients at Ease by Preparing Them for Their Visit

To help put your young patients at ease, we created The Kids’ Guide to the Dentist as a free resource for your office! Follow along as a little lion cub has their first visit to the dentist and meets Dr. Bear! This educational coloring book will show kids what to expect during their appointments and take some of the anxiety out of a dental visit. The book is filled with activities like coloring pages, mazes, and connect-the-dots to keep kids engaged and entertained throughout the story. It’s written with kids language in mind and is perfect for preschool reading levels and beyond.

This guide can be easily printed off from your office printer as a waiting room activity. Or you can send it out to parents as a PDF to share with their kids before their dental appointments.

You can even request a custom version with your name as the dentist in the story, free of charge. Anywhere “Dr. Bear” appears will be replaced with your name instead. You can download the generic Dr. Bear version as well if you don’t want it customized.



Request your copy of the guide from the form below:

You can’t control the past experiences of your young dental patients, but you can control the current and future ones. Understanding what could have contributed to their dental anxiety and your willingness to help them overcome it will truly make a difference in their attitude and appointment success. 


Interested in other helpful, free resources for your young patients? Check out these related resources:

IDS Kids Club – Kids can learn to draw with a series of videos and activity sheets!

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How to Help Your Pediatric Patients Overcome Their Fear of the Dentist

Kids have big imaginations. Unfortunately, this big imagination can imagine scenarios that create fear and anxiety. That reality should mean creating a priority to help your pediatric patients overcome their fear of the dentist. But why?

For the Sake of Their Health

It’s common to avoid those things that create stress and fear. In some instances, this is a healthy reaction. Even so, in the case of dental anxiety or fear of the dentist, avoidance can produce unhealthy outcomes. The results can lead to a short- and long -term impact on a child’s oral health.

Delayed or cancelled dental appointments or treatment produce a downward spiral. Dental pain, general health problems, increased anxiety, and more costly or complex dental treatment can be traced to dental fear that’s not confronted and overcome.


Why Kids Fear the Dentist

First of all, dental fear is a common experience. In fact, it’s estimated that 20% of school age children fear visiting the dentist.

The general issue of dental phobia is categorized among other diagnosed phobias. But the big question is why?

Dental anxiety can be triggered by a number of experiences including:

  • A previous traumatic experience
  • A fear of needles
  • A conditional response promoted by other family members

It’s essential to a child’s oral and general health that their fear of the dentist be sourced and solved. There are promising and practical steps to help kids feel at ease, comfortable, and confident during a visit to the dentist.


HOW TO HELP KIDS OVERCOME THEIR FEAR OF THE DENTIST

Encourage Parents to Model a Healthy Relationship with Dentistry


Parents and the significant adults in a child’s life set the tone for how a child interacts with others. Role modeling can and should include health related encounters like dentistry.

Any talk or response of fear will naturally be picked up by a child. Likewise, positive language and experiences will be associated as well.

Parents can lead the way by:

  • Allowing their child/children to accompany them to a dental appointment (e.g. a routine teeth cleaning).
  • Encouraging them to ask questions about what the dentist is doing during an appointment
  • Sharing how their teeth feel after a cleaning, procedure, etc.
  • Modeling daily oral hygiene and asking their child/children to join them while brushing and flossing.



Educate Them Early and Often About Dentistry

Early adopters of dentistry will be less likely to experience extended bouts of dental anxiety. Keep in mind that they might not be completely fearless, but they will be more comfortable in the dental environment.


Also consider adding some age-level educational resources to help acquaint kids with what to expect when visiting the dentist. Coloring books, associative games, and youth-oriented books will help educate them about dental appointments, routine procedures, and generally how to care for their developing teeth.



Engage Their Curiosity with a Preliminary Office Visit

Their first visit to the dentist doesn’t have to involve an examination. Why not allow them to experience a somewhat “hands-on,” get-acquainted tour of the dental office?

The environment will be less intimidating if they can walk around, smell the aromas, see the instruments, sit in a chair, etc. A child will begin to make a positive association with dentistry the more they’re exposed to the environment prior to an actual dental appointment.


Equip Them with Positive Vibes, Proactive Habits, and Rewarding Outcomes

Words matter. And when speaking about dentistry it’s vital to choose a positive, inviting tone.

Equally so, good habits are formed when actions are positive instead of negative. Saying, “you have to brush your teeth…” carries the tone that it’s a burden to do so. Instead, make a positive association with dental care by referring to brushing and flossing as a natural part of the daily health routine.

And it can help matters to provide some incentive for being courageous about a dental visit. Find some reasonable motivation and offer it as a “reward” for a child’s positive embrace of a dental appointment.


Create a Calming Environment and You’ll See a Decrease in Fear of the Dentist and an Increase in a Positive Perception of Dentistry

An outstanding patient experience for children and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and environment. Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and providing anxiety-free dental visits:

6 Calming Strategies for Kids Nervous About Healthcare Appointments

Download Our White Paper: Alleviating Patient Anxiety Through Office Theming

A Practical Guide to Creating an Exceptional Patient Experience

Valuing your patients and their families sets them up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. And the environment you create can help you achieve a better patient experience.

  • Reduce patient anxiety and enhance their relaxation
  • Prime patients and families for their appointments
  • Create positive dental care experiences

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free patient experience.

FOUND THIS ARTICLE HELPFUL?

SHARE THE LOVE!

  • envelope

RELATED POSTS

Color and Light in Interior Spaces for Children with Autism

The Healing Power of Fun Decor in Children’s Hospital Environments

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How (and Why) to Help Kids with Anxiety About the Dentist

Good experiences are worth repeating. That truth applies to your strategies for helping kids with anxiety in your dental office – a result that can improve your patient retention too.

Children can sometimes experience fear about their next dental appointment. A positive patient experience can increase the likelihood that they won’t dread it.


WHY HELPING KIDS WITH ANXIETY ABOUT DENTISTRY IS A TOP PRIORITY

Aversion to dental care often begins early. Helping a child face their fears now will help assure their positive, lifetime relationship with dentistry.

Dental anxiety is simply the fear felt about seeking or receiving dental care. It’s also helpful to understand that it goes deeper than merely not wanting to go to a dental appointment.

The fear is real. And here’s why.

Anxiety is the body’s response to a perceived threat or danger. The physical changes that occur inside a person feeling fear attaches to their memory and the particular social situation.

Human beings have a unique relationship with anxiety. For example, a child feeling anxious will engage their memory and imagination to rehearse the experience.

Essentially, a child’s memory of an anxious experience can enlarge it into a potential outcome that produces fear. Whether it occurs or not isn’t the issue – the anxiety is there!

All this to say: dental anxiety is a credible issue for children especially. It could present as…

  • “Acting out”
  • Crying
  • Tantrums
  • Lack of cooperation
  • And more…


HELPING KIDS WITH ANXIETY ABOUT DENTISTRY STARTS WITH THE POTENTIAL CAUSES

You can’t control the past experiences of your young dental patients. But you can control the current and future ones as you understand what could have contributed to their dental anxiety.

Embarrassment

Children can feel self-conscious about their oral health as adults do. Tooth decay, bad breath, misaligned or crooked teeth, and more can create embarrassing moments for them.

Needles and “Shots” (Injections)

Kids like adults have a perception about needles. Remember, the anticipated pain associated with a shot or injection can create strong feelings of anxiety prior to a dental appointment.

Anesthesia

The general feeling of being out-of-control is often associated with sedation. For some, wearing a mask or having their nose covered will lead to anxious reactions.

Pain

Who likes pain? Even the thought of a perceived painful experience can lead to anxiety about dental treatment.

Powerlessness

Feeling as if a circumstance is beyond one’s control can cause panic and anxiety. Any pain that’s felt can lead a child to experience a sense that nothing will provide relief.

Time

A long period of time since the previous dental visit can contribute to anxiety in children. It’s common to assume that more problems (e.g. cavities, etc) will be the result of not consistently visiting your office. And in their mind, that’s more potential discomfort and thus more anxiety.

The “Unknown”

Children imagine what a visit to the dentist is like. This especially follows stories they’ve heard or what they’ve gleaned from another’s negative experience.


HELPING KIDS WITH ANXIETY ABOUT DENTISTRY RESTORES CONFIDENCE IN YOUR EXPERTISE AND CREATES LIFETIME PATIENT RELATIONSHIPS

Be The “Right Dentist”

Parents will seek a dentist based on the collective experiences of others. Keep in mind that many search on the assumption that all dentists are alike.

The difference for you could be based on your “reputation” relative to care quality and sensitivity to patient perception – including dental anxiety.

  • Create a themed environment that’s visibly attentive to children.
  • Ease anxiety through clear communication about procedures, appointment protocols, and preliminary conversations.
  • (If applicable) talk about and promote your own family to give the impression that you understand a child’s perspective.


Communicate and Clarify

Provide families as much appointment information as possible. This helps create predictability for their child ahead of their visit.

  • Give parents/families the resources to answer questions with care and confidence prior to a dental visit.
  • Chat with the parent/family about the questions their child/children have about dentistry.
  • Clarify appointment details and eliminate any “surprises” prior to their arrival.
  • Put kids at-ease about dental care by reminding them of the benefits of good oral health habits.



Provide a “Calming” Experience

Your dental practice environment sets the tone for a child’s dental appointment. From the moment they arrive assure them that your office is a “kid-friendly” place to receive dental care.

  • Manage each transition during their visit. When appropriate allow a parent/family member to accompany their child as necessary during the appointment.
  • Enhance their feeling of security by letting them bring personal items from home (e.g. stuffed animal, blanket, etc).
  • Lighten the mood by asking about their interests, hobbies, accomplishments, etc.


CREATING A CALMING ENVIRONMENT FOR HELPING KIDS WITH ANXIETY CAN PRODUCE A POSITIVE PERCEPTION OF DENTISTRY AND ENHANCE PATIENT RETENTION

Outstanding patient experience for children and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and environment. Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and providing anxiety-free dental visits:

5 Goals for Improving Patient Experience in Your Pediatric Dental Practice

Our Top 5 Hands-Free Waiting Room Ideas to Engage and Entertain Patients

5 Tips for Creating the Experience Parents Really Want While in the Waiting Room (But Won’t Tell You!)

Valuing your patients and their families sets them up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. And the environment you create can help you achieve a better patient experience.

  • Reduce patient anxiety and enhance their relaxation
  • Prime patients and families for their appointments
  • Create positive dental care experiences

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office into an anxiety-free patient experience.

FOUND THIS ARTICLE HELPFUL?

SHARE THE LOVE!

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RELATED POSTS

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The Healing Power of Fun Decor in Children’s Hospital Environments

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