You have been asking me to share more of my home with you, so that you can see how the things I homemaking methods and techniques I talk about look in action. I share a bit of this stuff on my Instagram account (say hi on IG if you follow me over there!), but I’m happy to give a more in-depth tour on the blog.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared my garage with you. This week, I’m sharing my kids’ playroom. My children share a bedroom, so that we could take advantage of this sun-filled room for playing during the day. We love this room!
The playroom changes a lot. We have simple furniture that’s easy to move, not too many static decorations (just a few things on the walls), and everything that’s “loose” is for playing. The room is totally open-ended, and my kids can exercise their imaginations here.
Here’s the tour of our simple, bright, open-ended playroom.
The little couch and chairs are Guidecraft furniture from my teaching days, and I recovered some of the cushions with fabric from IKEA. My daughter hand-sewed the purple pillow at school, as a Mother’s Day gift to me. I’ve proudly displayed on my bed since then, but recently she “stole” it for her baby doll.
The curved piece of wood is a Curvy Board, or a Waldorf rocker board. The kids use it as a table, a bridge for cars to drive on and under, and (as you’ll see later) a platform to jump off of. They also sit or stand on it and rock, and sometimes “drive” it together.
One of the kids’ favorite things ever is dressing up. The dress-up things stay out most of the time, and they’re some of the most-used “toys” in our entire house. The basket is full of play silks (real silk, not polyester ones, are much nicer to play with), silk scarves, some muslin blankets from when they were babies (the bamboo ones are especially nice for dressing up), and a couple of vintage cafe tablecloths. On the shelf are their hats, the strawberry birthday crown I sewed and embroidered for my daughter 2 years ago, wings, and Anneliese’s tiara (she bought it with her birthday money), along with two vintage half-aprons.
Under the shelf are 3M hooks for organizing some of the other stuff. Tutus, neck ties, and a robe my sister sent the kids from her trip to Japan are there right now, but we switch things around a lot.
This little IKEA table usually has some sort of manipulative toy on it, the legos, or it’s left empty. The kids made the paintings above it, and they love telling visitors, “I am the artist!”
I made these little Matryoshka toys for my kids a couple of years ago (here’s my post on the process), and they love playing with them. Sometimes they nest them and take them apart. Other times, they pretend they’re “babies” and take care of them.
And because my kids don’t have very many toys out at once, I don’t worry too much about the littlest Matryoshka dolls going missing. The kids really take care of their things in general, partly because it’s not overwhelming to maintain just a few toys at a time.
The green cubes that are holding books are part of this modular cube storage set. Each cube is separate, and we’ve used them in so many different ways. Sometimes, I have them almost-empty so that the kids can use them to build forts. They’re super-lightweight, so the kids can move them around easily on their own. Those cube-shelves have definitely been a favorite part of our open-ended playroom.
We also have some more books in their bedroom, and keep library books in the living room.
Right now the kids are really into these horses, which were mine when I was little. Vehicles are also huge right now. We have this airplane, two of these cars, this truck, and the Tonka truck above, along with about 10 matchbox-sized cars, and they all get major play-time.
One of my favorite things about having such a simple setup is that the children really exercise their creativity. They make connections between toys that I wouldn’t normally think of, and problem-solve to get things to work the way they want them to. Here, they’re using play silks as “leashes” to attach the horses to the Tonka truck, using hair accessories as clamps. They worked on this for a really long time together!
This is the IKEA EXPEDIT shelf (now replaced with KALLAX) where we store most of the toys that are in rotation. The white woven-paper baskets are from Cost Plus World Market. We have a bazillion of these baskets all over the house. They’re my favorites!
Right now the first cubby holds my childhood horses. The next one has the vehicles (minus the Tonka truck which doesn’t fit in the basket). Next is a wooden dollhouse with furniture and little dolls (sorry, no source… I’ve tried and tried to find it, but the closest thing I can find is this one, which is VERY similar but also has a garage).
The next cubby has a basket of “paper things.” Pictures the kids are working on, or little books they’ve made. Some paper kites with ribbon streamers we made together, a couple of notebooks and a zipper pouch of twist-up crayons. Any little scraps of paper they’re currently enjoying (a favorite picture from the coupons we get in the mail, birthday cards, random stuff like that) go here until they get tired of them.
The last cubby holds a basket for little toys. Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve always had one basket for the tiny miscellaneous toys that aren’t really a part of anything else. It’s SO helpful in cutting down on clutter, because those toys can be “floaters” otherwise, ending up on any and every surface in the house when they’re not being used. Right now, this box has a couple of calculators, a little wooden camera toy, some pinwheels, and a few other things.
I made the buntings over the windows forever ago, and I love how they look fun without being over-the top. Here’s my tutorial for how to make buntings, in case you want some too.
This closet is where we store the out-of-rotation toys and books. There’s a latch on it, not because I’m evil, but because things really get out of hand if the kids have free access to what’s in there (for now). When too many toys get pulled out at once, the kids lose their focus and get “bored” much more easily. Plus, the playroom takes forever for them to clean up when they’re finished playing, which is frustrating and discouraging for them.
Another thing besides the basket for small random toys I’ve always had since my first child was born is a mirror specifically for the kids. When they were younger, I mounted it horizontally, close to the floor or above their beds, so they could see it as they lay or crawled. Now they use it to check out the outfits they put together out of their dress-up clothes, or to make funny faces at themselves.
Above the closet are some mounted butterflies and a moth, which I ordered from someone on etsy (sorry, I can’t remember which shop).
The camera is brilliant here. It allows me to peek at the children as they play, without disturbing or interrupting them. Check out my tutorial on how to install this IP camera as a baby monitor – WAY cheaper than actual baby monitor cameras, too.
I don’t just use it to spy though. It’s really helpful if the kids are playing together and I hear a shout or something. I can just peek at them on my phone, and see if they really need me to intervene or not. For little squabbles, I like to let them work it out a bit, and only step in as a last resort. If someone is hitting or looks like they’re about to (which usually means we need it to be nap time), I go in immediately. Other times, they’re just playing loudly and don’t need me at all.
No, I’m not always with them when they’re playing. It’s healthy and important for them to play alone or together without an adult supervising or leading. Plus, when they’re happily engaged in the playroom, it gives me a chance to do some other things that need to be done around the house without little helpers.
Would you like to learn more about our toy rotation system?
I’m working on a post for you about that for next week. Please comment with your questions, if you have any, so that I can be sure to answer them!
Do you want to create your own open-ended play area?
- The first step is to define a space. In our last house, we didn’t have a playroom, but part of our living room was the play area for a while. It was visibly designated with a small area rug.
- Then, remove all decor within kids’ reach that isn’t “playable.” If it’s off limits to little hands, what’s it doing in their play area?
- Once you’ve removed excess decor, remove toys that only do one thing. Most electronic toys fall under this category. To have an open-ended playroom, your kids need the freedom to use materials and toys in different ways than the expected.
If you already have a space defined, go ahead and examine your playroom’s decor. If your kids’ play area is free of “not to touch” objects, try removing a few more items to see what it does for their creativity!
Spend 15 minutes on this now, and comment to let me know what kind of effect it has on your children’s play.