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Karri Bowen-Poole of Smart Playrooms is Reinventing Kid Room Design

At Figgy we love connecting with innovators and entrepreneurs like Karri Bowen-Poole, the creative mind behind Smart Playrooms. Karri sat down with to share her journey and explain exactly what goes into a Smart Playroom.

Karri Bowen-Poole has spent the last decade revolutionizing the way children play and learn. As a former teacher and educator she uses her expertise in child development, and combines it with her knowledge and passion for designing functional spaces to create Smart Playrooms. Her time in the classroom taught her to understand the different needs of each child, and how learning takes shape in many different forms. 

Today Karri keeps busy by offering personal and custom playroom design for all types of purposeful play spaces – each one with the goal to promote learning, creativity, collaboration and, of course, fun! In short, Karri is on a mission to change the way your kids play!

Figgy: It’s clear you have a passion for learning and helping kids reach their potential. Where does that come from?

Kari: I had the most memorable fifth grade teacher who was creative, smart and knew how to engage the students… including me. His teaching style made me love learning and helped me to feel so confident that I knew years later I wanted to be that same kind of teacher for other students. Shortly after I graduated from college, I started teaching as an intern at Greenwich Academy in Connecticut and pursued my Masters in Education at the same time.

Figgy: Tell us about how your experience as a teacher shapes your understanding of a child's unique learning needs?

Kari: I have always felt innately connected to other children and can understand and empathize with their needs, strengths and talents. I was the pied piper of babysitters and kids would always  seek me out as I was and am genuinely interested in everything they say and do. My experiences in the classroom were crucial to helping me see all kinds of needs, learning styles, creativity and intellectual curiosity.

“Play is integral to the development of our children’s growth and the environment is the third teacher. Kids can learn everything they need to know by the design and intentions of just the space itself.” 

Figgy: Let’s chat Smart Playrooms, tell us a bit about your company and its mission.

Kari: My mission has always been to emotionally support children by intentionally designing a space custom to the kids' needs and interests. I am focused on changing the way kids play with my innovative ideas.

Figgy: How did the idea for Smart Playrooms come about? 

Kari: I woke up in the middle of the night with the incredible, novel idea of designing playrooms like classrooms. I quit my teaching job that spring and started to design and organize playrooms like classrooms. No one at the time had ever thought of designing a playroom custom to kid’s needs and interests. It has been great to be on the forefront of this approach. 

Figgy: Can you explain the concept of the playroom as the "third teacher" and its impact on children's behavior?

Kari: Play is integral to the development of our children’s growth and the environment is the third teacher means they can learn everything they need to know by the design and intentions of just the space itself. Every corner encourages kids to delve deeper into their interests and every activity has a specific educational purpose in our playrooms. The design depends on the child but our top three zones are usually the physical movement or sports zone and an art or creative activity zone as well as a pretend play zone.

Figgy: What goes into designing a Smart Playroom?

Kari: We do a deep intake into the kids interests, ages and needs before we give any ideas or strategies. In fact that is the strategy! To really think about what you want your kids to be doing more and less of and then design the space with that in mind. 

Figgy: What are your top playroom must-haves!?

Kari: A swing, cozy comfortable seating and monkey bars… of course! 

Figgy: There's no doubt it's an exciting time to be in the playroom design space, what is the best part of what you do?

Kari: I am just so thrilled that playroom design has become an actual thing! This is because parents understand the value of creating purposeful spaces for their kids and the long lasting habits, routines and behavior that can naturally come with this kind of intentional design choices.

Figgy: Last Question, how do you envision the role of playrooms evolving in the coming years, both in homes and educational settings?

Answer: I think we will continue to see all kinds of beautiful thoughtful spaces that are focused on the educational and emotional needs of the kids. Playroom design has basically just started and it’s going to be really interesting to see what parents and designers can create in playrooms. We keep adding the coolest products to my ecommerce online store called Project Playroom, because I have so many ideas for products (and design many of these myself) and I know I will have so many more playroom product ideas and I look forward to seeing all of my ideas in playrooms throughout the world. 

Figgy: The future of play is looking bright!  For more stories like these, sign up for our newsletter.