I get a lot of questions about our play room and I’ve determined that there are a lot of philosophies out there about play, spaces, the types of toys we allow, whether one should allow toys at all given the abundance of household items, whether a big happy mess is the natural state of children, whether we should rotate toys, or whether they should just be exploring nature outside, already.
My thoughts on play are that I encourage it. I want my kids to play like it is their job because it is their job. If there are ways to inject learning, or the even more important love of learning into the play activity then I am all for it.
I started out hoping to develop “stations” in our play room to consolidate like toys with like toys: The Puzzle Station, The Social Studies Station, The Science Station, The “Things That Go” Station, etc… I wanted every toy visible because I felt it would be easier to get the kids to help pick up if they knew where things went. I also felt they might be more inclined to play with items they could see.
To do this, I had to find shelving where I could find it. We didn’t build anything but we did find bookcases at The Salvation Army, Target, Wal-Mart and Yard Sales to provide some organization. A major goal was to create an enivironment that was inviting that would allow the children to gravitate to their interests to explore.
As my kids grew older, (they are 2 and 4), the un-compelled fascination with Super Heroes and trucks emerged in my son and dress-up and dramatic play in my daughter. The play space evolved.
You will find descriptions of how I’ve organized our play space as well as photos and descriptions of two others organized in accordance with different criteria. I love seeing play spaces because I know that they are places where genuine joy occur.
I do not believe that play spaces have to be ridiculously elaborate or even very well-stocked with toys. (I will say that I do believe that age-appropriate books are a MUST.) We lived for a time in a place where the kids only had a small nook in the foyer for a play space with very limited room for toys. They were just as happy and just as energized to play.
I feel the that most important thing we can do is to show an interest in our kids. We don’t have to be wearing holes in our jeans trying to play blocks with them, but I think it’s good for them to see us seeing them play and learn. (Note: These are my opinions and there is zero reason for anyone to care about my opinion. I majored in Political Science, not Child Development. But I CAN kiss a mean boo-boo and make it ALL better.)
Here are a couple of my favorite blogs that talk a lot about wonderful, learning and sensory-oriented play rooms where the children are the self-guided teachers. I want these play rooms.
And here are several photos of the play room. You will see that there is not a lot of uniformity of shelving. It’s what we could find at prices that didn’t make us gag.
In the Science area, we put all science-related books and learning items. Here is one of our favorite activities: fossil, mineral and shell identification. We take out the books about these things and use magnifying glasses to analyze the items and learn more about them.
The Social Studies area has all globe and map-related items. The shelving unit also houses ethnic costumes for the kids to dress-up in cultural garb. We included atlases we would have recycled to talk about maps. We saved brochures and country guides from places we’ve visited. When de-cluttering, I found a lot of things we’d collected from around the world. They were the tacky tourist proof we’d actually stepped foot in another country. They did not fit our home decor. These things found their way onto an educational cork-board and a ribbon board.
The Reading area. Books. Love books. Two shelves are books from my own childhood. Not much is sweeter than reading a book to your child that you remember gave you such delight in your youth.
And we are suckers for puzzles. Just Love Puzzles.
To create a dress-up area that would actually hold a good number of costumes, I purchased an inexpensive garment rack and just left out the extender bars that would have made these stand taller. It is pretty lightweight and could topple over if pressed aggressively, but my kids haven’t done it. It’s a simple and cheap solution.
The Motorcade. We have a boy. For sure.
The rest of the room is broken into mini-stations: music and motor skills, art, construction and balancing toys, science, baby doll care…..
And there are the obligatory train and doll play spaces, a kitchen and pantry. Also, one of our favorite items is that puppet theater. The puppets are hanging on a lingerie drying rack. We also use one of those to hang art up to dry.
But, enough about our play room, here are two others that I LOVE.
A friend of mine wanted a play room that was functional but that was also aesthetically pleasing. Her play space is highly visible from the front door. She installed wire to hang her kid’s artwork.
In a tucked-away nook, she emplaced shelving from Target and cubby bins to hold items.
She maximized storage available within non-traditional play room storage items like this table and put up photographs taken by her father on an African Safari to decorate with a playful yet sophisticated touch.
Another friend’s play space is divided according to gender and age. At the time these photos were taken, she had a 2 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. You can see she also strung the wire along the wall, but here it is used to display photos.
This is the common family area of her play room.
The boy’s side (from the train table out to the workbench)……
The girl’s side….
Well, that’s about it! But, this post gives me a great idea. I think we’d all love to see what your play spaces look like and what innovative solutions you’ve found to solve storage and space issues. Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and they might just appear in post about cool play spaces!
Happy Playing, Folks!