Creating play area for kids…I feel like it is a precious thing when you have little ones running around. Seeing as we are home most of the day, almost every day, having many play areas around the house are a necessity to get through the day. We are fortunate that we have a “bonus” room on the first floor that we have turned into a play room. I love the natural light that comes in through the windows and having the kids so close to the kitchen while I’m making lunch and dinner, has been such a life saver.
But just playing in the play room can get old really quickly, especially on those long winter days when you can’t get out of the house because it’s either way too cold or way too snowy. So we rearranged the furniture in the basement to make an area for the kids to play. By turning the couch and moving it closer to the television, we created this extra space for the kids to run around. We decided to make this space more for gross motor, or full body, activities like riding tricycles, kicking soccer balls, shooting basketballs and pushing shopping carts.
I decided to add an area for art projects, Play Doh and other messy activities in our office/mudroom/craft room area. This floor is tile, making it really easy to clean up if we spill paint, water, Play Doh, etc. all over the floor. I try to do some sort of art activity every day. My two-year-old son loves Play Doh, so he usually ends up playing with that, while my one-year-old daughter loves to color with chubby crayons.
In each kiddos’ bedroom, I have some quiet activities that they can do to calm themselves down before nap and bed. In my daughter’s room, I have a lot of books, stuffed animals and small toys. In my son’s room, I have some puzzles, a race track with a few cars, books, stuffed animals, Mr. Potato Head and large string beads. Typically, one child is tired before the other, so if the non-tired child doesn’t want to listen to books, they have the option to go play in their room with some quiet toys.
So what does any of this have to do with creating a play space in your home? Well, a lot actually. I have learned a lot about what you need to create an effective and welcoming play space that children will enjoy playing in and you will enjoy hanging out in. I have learned how to create a space both cozy for the kids to play in, while easily disguising toy bins to create an adult space when needed. I created my top five pieces of advice based on what I have learned about creating a play space for toddlers.
1. You Don’t Need An Entire Room To Create A Play Space
You can create a play space in any area of your home, it doesn’t have to be an entire room. By placing a table in the office/mudroom/craft room, I created a play space for the kiddos to create art projects. This is an easy way to create a creative space for your child to get messy and not make a mess of your house! In our master bedroom, I have a bin with books and toys the kids can play with while I get ready in the morning. By finding small, independent toys the kids can play with, I created a play space for them on our rug that I store in a bin next to the bench at the end of the bed. This is where you can be creative when deciding on where you will put a play space. I would recommend a soft place for the kids to play such as a rug or blanket, along with few bin with toys and books. It’s as simple as that!
2. Easily Accessible Bins Are Your Best Friend
By having bins that are large enough to store the kiddos’ toys, I am able to make clean-up time a breeze. None of my toy bins have lids because it can be challenging for my kids to open, making independent play not-so-independent as they are relying on me to open bins for them. I have labels on all the bins in the play room with pictures so the kids can find toys they want to play with along with cleaning up their toys and putting them in the proper bins. I do not have picture labels on the bins in the basement, as it will create visual clutter, seeing as the shelving unit is tall. When we clean up, we choose a bin to cars and trucks, another bin to play food, etc. It takes some adult direction for clean-up, but can be done if you are unable to create labels due to visual clutter, or your kiddo just won’t keep the label on! If I am using a smaller bin, I don’t put as many toys in it. It’s best not to overflow bins with toys as things won’t get put away and start to stay on the ground instead of in the bin.
3. Make Areas Around The House For Toys
This has been crucial for us, as we have play spaces all around the house to keep things interesting. We have used the “bonus” room as a play room on the first floor. I also have some bins in the entry way for cars and trucks that can be played with on the wood floors. We have books in a bin in the living room, along with our tent and camp fire. In our master bedroom, we have a bin with independent toys the kids can play with while I am getting ready. The basement has tons of toys for running, jumping and kicking activities. I found that by keeping areas of the house for specific activities, such as painting, that those activities typically stay in that area of the house. For example, I haven’t experienced a lot of jumping on the couch in the living room, but we jump on the couch a lot in the basement. The living rooms has been designated for more quieter activities, while the basement we can run, jump, kick, etc.
4. Change Out Toys To Keep Things New
This is an easy one to do, but tough to remember! I always struggle with remembering to change out toys to keep things new. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I change out books, which you can read about here. I do need to get better about changing out where toys are located around the house to keep things new and different for the kids. I have some quiet toys in the play room that don’t get used as much, so I should swap them out for some other quiet toys that are in the kids’ bedrooms. We have some play food in the basement that I could swap out for some play food that we have in the play room. By changing where toys are located, it gives the kids the idea that it is a new toy because it is in a new place in the house!
5. Most Important…Keep Things Organized
Easier said then done, but by keeping toys in bins, you are already keeping things organized! You don’t need fancy labels or decorative bins to make an effective play space. You just need a space to store the toys that is safe for the kiddos. By reducing visual clutter, you are keeping spaces in your home organized. But don’t be fooled by just throwing everything into a bin, as some things could be broken or missing parts. Instead of spending all of your time trying to sort through all the toys to find matching parts, just search while you are playing. If you are playing with some toys and notice one is broken, toss it instead of putting it back into the bin. You are reducing your clutter, thus keeping you organized, while playing with the kiddos!
In addition to using bins and keeping things organized, I would recommend finding a way to anchor a shelving unit to the wall if you are using it for storing the kids toys. A very long time ago, I talked about how we baby-proofed our entry way table to the wall using zip-ties. By securing furniture to the wall, you are not only making a safe play space for your kiddos, you are making it a welcoming place where the kiddos can play independently…even if it is for a minute or two!
Any other tips you might have to creating a play space for your little ones? Share your comments below!
I would love to hear about how you transformed a space into a welcoming and cozy space! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story and pictures of how you transformed or created a play space and you may be featured on The Organized Mama.