“Play space” is what we’re calling the long, awkwardly narrow room by the kitchen because we’re not quite sure what else to call it.
We never really knew what to do with the space before kids. It used to act as a sort of living room, but we always ended up doing most of our “living room” stuff downstairs (entertaining guests, watching movies, etc). Now this is where Lydia spends most of her time (after the kitchen, perhaps), and we’ve decided to gear it to her everyday needs. But “toy room” didn’t sound quite right for the new space because toys only play a small part of Lydia’s daily play experience. (The room also features a large reading nook and craft area).
Lydia’s play space has very little to do with “Becoming Peculiar,” but I’m just so darn pleased with the final results I had to share.
Here’s what the room looked like before (several months ago):
The walls were still the dull beige the former owners painted them (and I’ve never been a fan of beige.) Years ago, I’d decided on a medieval/Pre-Raphaelite look for the room, but that was difficult to pull off (a) on a tight budget and (b) now with a kid in the house.
So I decided to spunk things up a bit with a new coat of white recycled paint (inexpensive and eco-friendly), some bright/funky decor for the walls, and cheerful curtains from Ikea.
After months of gathering materials and planning, here’s what we came up with.The view when you just walk in from the mudroom. The framed alphabet art and pillow are both from Ikea. The two tables are from thrift stores and have only been primered so far — I plan to paint them a light aqua.I’ve talked about our toy shelves a couple of times already (7 Cheap and Awesome Items to Add to Your Toddler’s Toy Shelf; Preparing the Environment for a Low-Media Toddler). Storing toys on low, open shelves is inspired by Montessori principles, wherein children are encouraged to do things for themselves as much as possible.
I try to rotate toys every few weeks to limit what’s available at a given time, giving toys some time in storage to “freshen up” in their appeal. These are ALL the toys Lydia can access at a time. I like to have them openly visible to keep things organized and make them more appealing. I store collections (like blocks, tea sets and plastic animals) together in thrifted baskets or on wooden trays. Her play dough and accessories are on a tray together, too.
The easel is from Ikea and one of the best purchases we’ve made — she uses it every day. It cost a mere $15 and seems sturdy enough. (The chalk is kept in the basket underneath.) The other side is a white board, but we usually use it for paper and paint. It has a shelf for holding paints and brushes.
For the wall above, we painted an old thrifted frame black and used it to frame some of Lydia’s original artwork. Doesn’t get much cheaper than that.
I’ve also written about our reading nook (made from gutters) before (Preparing the Environment for a Low-Media Toddler.) We’re still thrilled with this setup. The only change here is the addition of the wooden letters above the shelves (from Hobby Lobby, 50% off). We also re-painted the wooden chair (which Ben built) to match the decor. (The sheepskin is from — where else? — Ikea).
I’m also really proud of our Care of Self Table (another Montessori-inspired idea). it was our solution to the problem of how we could enable Lydia to easily wipe her face, brush her hair, and (eventually) brush her teeth independently. We wanted easy access to a mirror and a nice, low shelf. It’s also right outside the bathroom, so we can grab some water from the sink as needed.
Ben designed and built this himself after I described what I wanted. (I helped paint!) We resized and framed an old mirror and secured it to the wall above the shelf. We currently keep a small hairbrush and a tray with cloths (which I periodically dampen, as necessary) on the shelf. During spells of the sniffles, I can add a box of tissues or handkerchiefs so she can blow/wipe her own nose.
We keep a wire basket underneath for used cloths.
And another source of pride and joy: Ben picked up this lovely antique dresser from the side of the road. FOR FREE.
The drawers were really hard to pull in and out, so he built new drawers for the inside (with new-fangled slides) using the original drawer fronts. So it has all its original charm without the difficult-to-open drawers.
We store Lyida’s art and craft supplies in here (beads, yarn, glitter, etc). She can open the drawers herself and loves to help herself to an “activiwy” at her leisure.
Lydia, using her awesome Melissa and Doug triangular crayons from her craft dresser. The table and antique child-sized chairs were thrifted and repainted. (Like I said, we still need to paint the tables.)
There you have it! Hope you were inspired! And be aware that the room is rarely this tidy, and the rest of the house is not nearly as well-coordinated in terms of decor.