Family Life

Nov 29

If you’re parent to a toddler, I’m sure you’ve reached that point (and if you haven’t yet I promise you will do soon!) where it feels like there’s no sacred adult space left in your home. Your child or children, and their possessions, have spilled out into every room of the house and in our case, even the home office had been hijacked by toys and toddler paraphernalia. It doesn’t matter how big or small your house is, children like to fill the space that they have available to them!

We reached this point a year or so ago, and in an effort to keep working from home feasible, we turned our downstairs home office into a playroom, moving the home office into the guest bedroom upstairs. It was a good decision and at the end of each day we now throw all of Little I’s toys and playthings back into her playroom, creating a sense of adult space for the evening.

But if you dare to venture into the playroom, it’s frequently a bomb site. It’s not that Little I has a ridiculous amount of toys, it’s just that so many of them are big such as her play kitchen, and without any proper storage solution, everything becomes chaos within seconds. My husband and I noticed that Little I has recently been preferring to bring her toys into the lounge to play, and from a development point of view we felt we should be encouraging independent play for short periods of time, which the current state of her playroom didn’t seem to be stimulating.

According to children’s interior design expert, Ursula Wesselingh, “location is the first consideration. Small children like to play close to grown-ups or other children, so the playroom should ideally connect to a main living space with a clear line of vision, i.e. a living room or open plan kitchen/living area. That way the child feels safe enough to play by themselves and parents can keep an eye on things. If such a space isn’t available, the playroom’s main function until at least primary school age will be a room for toy storage and play with an adult present in the room.”

A priority for us in decorating and furnishing Little I’s playroom is to make selected purchases that will stand the test of time, and see her through her childhood years. We didn’t want to be spending time and money on wallpaper, for example, that she would have outgrown in a couple of years.

“You don’t want your growing child to not want to use his or her play space if they start to feel it’s too babyish for them – one great idea is using blackboard paint for sections of wall space – younger children will draw and practice their spellings, whilst teenagers will inevitably mark their territory in a more grown up way!,” suggests interior designer Alíz Ördög, from Lima Europe.

Wesselingh advises that keeping the background simple ensures that the room can be easily updated with age appropriate accessories. “A simple background stops the room from feeling too busy – it’s important that children’s imagination is stimulated, but a busy room can be overwhelming and have the opposite effect. Children like to see their artwork and other creations on display, so create an area on a wall for this purpose. Use an oversize soft board and cover with fabric or wallpaper to pin things on, or paint an area with magnetic paint and frame with mouldings for example. Magnetic paint can be painted over with any colour to fit in with the scheme or create an accent.” She also suggests avoiding outspoken ‘child-friendly’ colours on walls (unless this fits in with the decorative scheme of your home), as children outgrow colours quickly.

Storage solutions have been the big dilemma for us. I have spent several hours researching online to find the perfect furniture pieces that fit in with our taste but will be hard wearing and practical, and I’ve been astonished at how much a lot of them cost. I was also curious as to whether it’s better to have some toys hidden away on higher shelves and rotated regularly, to stimulate creative and independent play.

Ursula Wesselingh from Room to Bloom has some great ideas in regards to storage:

  • Think of how much storage you think you’ll need, then add some more.
  • Choose a mix of easily accessible open storage and closed storage.
  • Low level open storage works best for tinies – but don’t put everything your child owns on display as it will overwhelm rather than stimulate.
  • Purge regularly and rotate/change what’s on offer to keep things fresh.
  • Most children love organising their belongings – encourage good habits early on and use clearly labelled containers for small toys and parts. If they cannot read yet it’s a good idea to work with different colours, pictures or a sample toy glued on the lid or front.
  • Larger baskets can help with a quick tidy up or store large, irregularly shaped items.
  • Books are best displayed on shallow ledges with the covers visible, so children can see what’s available and choose what to read – change regularly. Ikea does picture shelves that are perfect for this, or repurpose Ikea spice racks and create a little library with a few of these grouped together.
  • Any shelving should be secured onto walls to avoid it toppling over should children decide climb into them.
  • A low level, deep shelf across one of the walls can be used for storage but also double up as a crafting surface, desk, TV stand, etc. As part of a storage wall with height adjustable shelving, this kind of arrangement will adapt to your child’s changing needs through the years.

In terms of additional furnishings that will encourage particular activities within Little I’s playroom, we have purchased a lovely small, low table and chairs from Ikea, which is great for drawing and dolls tea parties. We are also hoping that the room will be multi-functional and double up as a guestroom when we have friends to stay, and so have been thinking about sleeping solutions.

“A futon or sofa bed will always be a good investment for a playroom so playing isn’t restricted to the floor and it will be handy for guests as well as sleepovers as your child gets older,” says Ördög. Don’t forget the desk too as it’s an item that will always get used. However, look for a height adjustable one so it grows with your child, or if space is tight, try a fold up wall desk, which can be reattached slightly higher every couple of years. Bean bags and big cushions are great for kids of any age but they can take up valuable floor space so you could opt for seat cubes, which give you more storage space inside or smaller cushions and blankets that can be easily tidied away.” Loose washable covers are key, as we have already discovered with our lounge sofa!

Our decorating and furnishing of Little I’s playroom is currently a work in progress, but I will share photos when it is finished! I’m looking forward to having some fun with it. If you have found any great items of furniture, or have any design ideas to share, please use the comments box below.

About the Author

Wendy McAuliffe

Social media & online PR consultant and trainer, and ex-journalist. Founder and Director of Populate Digital and Mum of two. Living by the sea in Bournemouth. @wendymcauliffe.

  • ursula (room to bloom)

    Hi Wendy – do post pictures as you go along, can’t wait to see how you get on!

  • wendymcauliffe

    Thanks Ursula, I will do!

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