When this teacher turned mom and personal friend called me to help her redo her playroom, I was so excited to take on the challenge. Especially since I would get to enjoy the results along side of her! In a nutshell, this mom of two was growing more and more frustrated with the lack of storage, limited floor space, and felt as if the playroom was uninviting. Ring a bell? Before we could get started with the project, I needed to ask questions… A LOT of questions. As a mom, teacher, and professional organizer (it’s nearly impossible to separate the three), I wear many hats when working with families looking to get organized. For me, it is important to understand how the space is used, what is and isn’t working, and what the homeowner’s goals are. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to organization!
Here is what we determined. . . This room is a formal living room turned playroom and is visible the minute you walk into the house. Lucky for me, the room was packed with potential, great decor, and a reasonable budget to add some of the items on this family’s wish list. Don’t get discouraged if some of the items on your organizational wishlist aren’t in the budget. This just requires a little more creativity and patience. Try Craigslist, local sales groups on Facebook, and even consignment/thrift stores. Try asking friends/neighbors that have older children if they are ready to let go some of the things their children have outgrown.
With two young children at home, ages three and ten months old, we had to be creative in order to meet the needs of both children. This three year old is really into art, but there was no art supply storage and, therefore, items stacked up on the work table, making it hard to be creative. A large collection of books and a beautiful teepee were also an essential part of the design. Both items took up a lot of floor space making it hard for the kids to explore the room with ease. Dress up and make believe is HUGE to any three year old, so it was key that we incorporate creative play into this room. In addition to finding a space for the essentials, this mom wanted toys to have a logical home so that her children could learn to play and clean up independently. With young children in the home, it was important that furniture be secure and that toys in this space be safe for all ages. Ultimately, the most important thing to this family was to have a fun and safe place for their children to grow and explore in.
Let It Go
Take time to purge toys at least twice a year. This doesn’t have to mean giving them away. Try rotating toys to keep the playroom fresh or even make a trade with a neighbor/friend. If you are done growing your family, donate toys that your children have outgrown, abandoned or those that drive you crazy. Throw away toys that are broken or missing pieces. Children younger than seven probably aren’t ready to help make these decisions, so it is best to make this a parent-task. Choose quality over quantity. Think about workmanship and purpose. Maria Montessori said, “Get toys that encourage children do something with their hands, to drop a ball in a box, or to stack rings to accomplish a task”. Toys with flashing lights and buttons are not teaching our children how to think independently and problem solve. Opt for toys that give the child a task and/or encourage creativity.
The Sky’s The Limit
Baskets tend to be the storage solution of choice in most playrooms I encounter. While I love a good basket, playroom baskets are often over-sized. Toys get buried on the bottom and children tend to play with what they can see. When we use a basket to store toys in a playroom, it is typical that if one fills up, we buy another. Before you know it, the floor is full of baskets with toys buried so far down they will never see the light of day. If you think a basket is the solution for your space, choose baskets that are small, transparent, or use them to store larger items that won’t get lost.
So where do you put the toys? I see it in every space I visit, the forgotten vertical space that is wasted on our walls. This is especially true with children’s spaces as we want our children to be safe and toys easily accessible. Don’t be afraid to go up! Furniture doesn’t have to be low to the ground for child’s room and the top shelf of any piece can serve a great purpose. Store items here that you prefer your child use while supervised or use this space to add some character to the room. If your child still needs supervision with paper books, store the board books on lower shelves until they have learned the rules. Don’t forget to secure taller/heavier furniture to the walls for safety.
When children know what is expected of them and feel safe they can make decisions more independently. After all, this is our ultimate goal, right? Take the time up front to teach your child how to play. Define clear, simple rules and routines in your home so that they can independently accomplish things for themselves. It may take a little more time initially, but it will benefit everyone in the long run. When designing your play space be sure to create kid friendly storage so children know where toys go and can independently play as well as clean up. This sense of accomplishment can help develop self-esteem in children of all ages. This doesn’t mean that they have to be able to reach everything! Be strategic about what you put out of reach. Make art supplies your child can use independently easily accessible and utilize cabinets, carts, and closets to put away items you prefer they use under direct supervision.
Create A Space to Inspire Creativity
If and when possible, each space in the playroom should serve a specific purpose. Divide your playroom into areas that will help direct and encourage creativity as well as define the objects that belong in the area for easy clean up. Children should know where to find their toys and where to put them away. Allow your child frequent opportunities to make choices and lots of time to experience and explore expressive materials. Maria Montessori said it best when she said, “Play is the work of the child”. Fill the space with toys that allow your child to think for themselves and provide them experiences with a wide variety of content (art, music, language, science, math, social relations).
Market What You Support
My friend reminded me recently that grocery stores display sugary cereals facing out and at eye level for a reason. Why not do the same for books?! Draw them in and they will be readers for life! The simple fact is: The more kids read, the better readers they become. The Washington Post stated that “ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” Letting your child choose the books that interest them is the fastest way to get them to read. Freedom of choice is the key to creating excitement about reading. When children can access bookseasily, they are more likely to read. Display your books facing out so that kids will be attracted to their covers and in turn they will be drawn to read!
Patience Is A Virtue
Organizing kids playrooms can be overwhelming, especially if your children have too many toys or your family doesn’t have a large space to dedicate to play. How your family plays can say a lot about how you parent and what you are encouraging in your children. Kids learn by playing. Teach them how. Find the right tools for your needs and organize their space in a way that encourages independence and creativity. Remember that once this space is organized, you are not done. First and foremost, teach your children how you expect them to behave in the space. Go over the rules and expectations, setting them up for success. An organized home requires regular maintenance just like anything else. Get in a good habit of editing the space on a regular basis. Make adjustments as needed. Don’t underestimate your children. Give them the tools and then set your expectations high and your children will rise to the occasion when it comes to independence in their new space. Most importantly, get in there and play with them! We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all. Enjoy!
-Craigslist Chalkboard $40
-Ikea Picture Ledge Shelves $15/each
-Ikea Fintrop Rails & Caddies $9 rails, $7 caddies
-Craigslist Toddler Table $20
-Target Mori 5 Shelf Bookcase $136/each
-Hobby Lobby Dress Up Mirror $30
-Hobby Lobby Shelves & Hooks $20 each
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