The last time I traveled to Manhattan I visited a few preschools to observe how the urban condition affects preschool design. The most significant difference between schools in our region and those in NYC is the availability of outdoor space. Above are two play spaces tucked into the slivers of leftover land between multistory apartment buildings on the Upper West side. Although direct sun is minimal, daylight is nonetheless a powerful force. Note the mirror on the image to the right.
This article simplifies things somewhat, but the basic premise is interesting - not so much the idea that clutter is 'distracting', but rather the idea of leaving space for (children's own) making.
Link to Tezuka Architect's webpage with photos of the building
One of my favorite education buildings - although I have only seen it in photos - Fuji Kindergarten is a reminder to create spaces for joyous play, not just facilities for parking our kids while we are at work!