Monday, August 18, 2014

playroom redux

(I don't know if "redux" is technically the appropriate term if the first mention of it was just yesterday, but I like how it sounds.)

Let's pretend this isn't the exact same picture as yesterday.
A couple of people expressed interest in seeing/reading a little bit more about our playroom... I'm happy to oblige!

Storage Bins:

I love these. They're made out of webbing (like backpack straps) woven into baskets, which I really like because they're not unattractive, but are much sturdier than wicker. (I actually use them all over the house, not just in the playroom.) Each one is labeled with the category of toys that go inside, like "dolls," "vehicles," or "Duplos," and-- more importantly-- a picture illustrating that category. That way my 3-year-old knows what goes in each bin and can get out what she wants, and, more to the point, put them away without assistance. The labels were just made in Word with pictures obtained from Google Images, printed on cardstock, "laminated" with contact paper, and safety-pinned to the bins. That way the labels are sturdy, but I can change them out as necessary. We have one unlabeled bin for miscellaneous toys that don't fit into other categories, too. (I'd give you a link to the bins, but I can't find them online. We get them at the home-improvement store on base.)


We have three sling-style bookshelves that I got on Amazon for picture books, and 4 little wall mounted shelves (actually spice racks from IKEA) for small board books. (The slings are deep enough that very small books disappear into them and are no longer visible, which cancels out the whole point-- hence the separate storage for board books.) We use these types of forward-facing shelves again for the benefit of our pre-readers, who identify books by their covers, not their spines.

Whoops... ignore the outlet... looks like mama needs to do some more baby-proofing.


These are just those generic wire industrial shelves you can get anywhere. I think we got ours at Target. I like them because they're super sturdy (notice a theme?), they're deep enough for the storage bins, they're adjustable, they go high enough that I can put "with permission only" toys (like Play-doh or bubbles) out of reach, and I can clip stuff to the wire shelves (I use clothespins to hang painted masterpieces to dry and briefly display).


We have two low tables from IKEA which are reasonably attractive, a good height for my littles, and lightweight enough for them to move around.

We also have two little yellow ottomans for seating-- which Faith climbs on to reach mid-height shelves-- and one small storage ottoman from Target, which holds our collection of wooden blocks (you can see the edge of it in the above picture, under the table-- it appears that they don't sell it anymore, but it's similar to this one only with no pocket).

If we had more room, I'd love to have a comfy couch in there, but they're little enough that they still prefer standing or sitting on the floor when they play... and the living room isn't far away, so we can sit in there and still be generally supervising them. I also have a separate shelf for my own craft supplies and a small desk for my sewing machine on one side of the playroom. (Josie's hanging out by one of the little yellow ottomans, below. They really are little.)


Most of the framed prints are freebies off the internet, or old embroidery projects of mine. The astronomy ones up near the ceiling used to be an old calendar. The rug and curtains are from IKEA. (The generic wall color, tile floor, ceiling fan, and terrible lighting are courtesy of the US Navy. Thanks, taxpayers!)


Jack tells me that I'm kind of a toy snob. I guess that's sort of true-- not that I go for the most expensive toys, or insist on "organic, natural materials only," but I do try to keep our toys within the following guidelines:
- They are open-ended and stimulate the imagination.
- Ideally they're appropriate for a wide age-range.
- They're reasonably well-made and will last a decently long time.
- I don't hate looking at them (or listening to them).
- There aren't a gajillion-billion of them.

These guidelines generally eliminate most battery-operated toys-- at least those of the flashing-and-beeping variety-- and drastically limit cheapy plastic toys. (I don't have anything against plastic toys as a category, except that most of them are ugly and/or not well-made.) They also tend to minimize the number of licensed-character toys, partly because they tend not to be the best quality (Manufacturer: "Who cares if it's a stupid toy? It has Dora on it; it'll fly off the shelves!") and partly due to my personal taste. And I'm fairly ruthless about purging toys that don't fit my guidelines! 

Types of toys we love include:

- Building toys, like wood blocks and Duplos-- I'd like to get them one of those wood railway sets too (maybe Christmas this year), and others as they get older. There are so many great, classic building toys out there. Legos, Lincoln logs, marble runs, tinker toys, all kinds of good ones. And other stuff too-- look how cool these are! Clics, Magna-Tiles, Gears Gears Gears, Tubation... I kind of want all of them! Building toys are great for fine-motor skills, planning skills, practical physics (really!), cooperation, imagination, etc. And they're one toy that you might actually enjoy playing with too!

- Make-believe toys, like dolls (but the open-ended kind, not the stupid dolls that pee or talk or what-have-you), stuffed animals, cars, dress-up clothes, playsilks (which can be used for dress-up, fort-building, doll-wrapping, scene-setting, and all kinds of stuff). We also have a dollhouse, which lives in Faith's room, and a play kitchen too. Pretending is how kids learn and process things, and is actually super important. 

- Art supplies, like crayons, markers, play-doh, safety scissors, glue, construction paper, and paint. We have an oilcloth tablecloth that I spread out for messy crafts, which is so easy to wipe off that it blows my mind.

- Learning/thinking toys, like ABC magnets, fine-motor activities (lacing beads, shape-sorters, etc), musical instruments, and puzzles.

- Gross motor toys-- if we had more room, we'd have more of these! Great for improving coordination and burning off energy. All we've got right now are a noisemaking push/pull toy (Faith uses it as her vacuum cleaner), a sit-and-spin, a wooden ride-on for Josie, and a balance bike for Faith (they have a slide and a water table, but they live outside). There are all kinds of fun options, like mini-trampolines (the kind with a handle), these "hop-around steps," this awesome-looking thing called a Bilibo... I've even seen mini indoor climbing walls on Pinterest! How cool would that be?

Some specifics below:

Art Supplies:
I used to store them in one of the blue bins, but it was too hard to find things in there. Now I use one of those hanging shoe-racks with the pockets for most stuff, and it works much better. Play-doh still gets its own bin, and I have a bin for larger supplies that won't fit in the pockets, like drawing pads or our big box of crayons. I also use a magazine file for our coloring/activity books (used to use a bin for those too, but it didn't work well).

Note: paint is, happily, well out of reach of tiny hands.

Magnet Board:
We've got a big oil drip tray nailed to the wall which works great as a large magnet board! We use little magnetic bins (like the ones for lockers) to keep the different magnets moderately slightly organized. 

"Organized." With air-quotes.

(PEDIATRICIAN ASIDE: if you use magnets with your littles, make sure they can't swallow them. One magnet swallowed is usually no big deal-- like swallowing a penny-- but two magnets swallowed can stick together inside the body if they're strong enough, across intestinal walls, leading to tissue necrosis and bowel perforation and BADNESS. Click here for more info. End PSA.)

Wood puzzles:
We like this Melissa and Doug puzzle rack to keep puzzles corralled while still being easily accessible.

Right now their dress-up clothes hang on one of those accordion-folding peg racks. It works okay, but stuff tends to slide off it-- I think hooks that tilt upward (like these) would work much better. Dress-up accessories live in a nearby plastic bucket, and there's a mirror hung at preschooler-height.

Play Kitchen:
Our wooden play kitchen is older than I am (it first belonged to my big sisters when they were little) and it is awesome. My parents fixed it up last year and gave it to the girls for Christmas (I added the blue paint and shelf paper). Faith is constantly "making dinner" for us, and Josie has recently gotten super-interested in it too.

Wow, I didn't realize I had so much to say about our playroom. Do I overthink things, or what? So anyway, there you have it! Playroom extraordinaire... or something. Did I miss anything? Want any more info on something I mentioned? Feel free to say so!

1 comment :

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I love your playroom! And I feel like I have lots of work to do! I think it's so nice to have a designated room for play. Right now we only have three bedrooms (and likely the situation until my husband is finished with school), and once my baby is old enough I might have her and my son share a room so we can have a playroom in the opposite room. I also think a playroom facilitates sharing since the toys are in a common area as opposed to some toys in one kid's room and other toys in the other kid's room.

    Also, thank you for the info on magnets. Just yesterday I was saying that we need to do something about our magnet situation since my 2.5 year old is constantly "cooking" with them, meaning many of them are on the ground and not on the fridge. And my eight month old LOVES them. Perhaps I'll put them away for a while until she gets out of the put-everything-in-her-mouth stage. Even though the magnets seem large for her to swallow (we have the Melissa & Doug letters and the smaller plastic letters....the smaller ones are the ones I'm most worried about), I don't want to risk it.

    I would love to see close-ups of the books you have on your bookshelf. Or what are favorite books in your house? Books are one of my son's favorite "toys" (in addition to his train table and wooden track set --- I highly recommend it!, and his kitchen) and I'm always on the lookout for more books.

    Again, thank you for this post! I'm definitely going to pin it!