An indoor cube ‘clubhouse’ (as my boys like to call it).

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A couple of years ago my lovely husband built this cube for our boys for Christmas. They ending up only wanting to play on top of it, so it was relegated to the basement. Fast forward to now, and while working on building a bookcase for a family using fun legs from DIY Hairpin Legs, I had the happy thought that our boys would love the cube if it was lofted vs sitting on the ground. So I bought some fun super tall hairpin legs for us (our house is tiny, so the space under it needed to still be usable too) and voila, this magic happened today. A ladder* still needs to be made, but for now our trusty Tripp Trapp chair by Stokke works perfectly.

*update – a ladder has been made, hooray!

DIY combo light table/train table/coffee table (aka, the furniture dream).

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Light Table
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Train/Play Table
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Coffee Table

I am forever getting these big ideas, so it’s rather lucky that I am married to someone who is willing to make them a reality. Case in point, when our oldest was a baby I decided he had to have a light table, that also doubled as a train/play table, and that we could also use as a coffee table. It needed to be beautiful and affordable to make too. Easy right?

With lots of planning, some tool lending from friends, and lots of tweaking to get the lights just right, my darling wonderful husband built me this! Four years and another baby later, it still gets used daily. The light table element is definitely the most popular layer, but it is used in all its iterations. Don’t you kind of need one now too? 🙂

Play space PSA | Sharpen those pencils!

Play space #PSA: Keep your children’s pencils sharpened! Splash out on an electric sharpener and I guarantee your kids will fight over who gets to do it. Remember the materials you set out for your child are play invitations. You can’t expect your child to want to sit down and engage in art if the tools you put out for them are subpar and broken. Spend a minute each day checking your child’s art materials to make sure pencils are sharpened, markers have lids on and are working, glue isn’t empty etc. Value their work and play and they will learn to value themselves too. It really is that simple.

Lillie FoulĂ©’s Bedroom/Play Space Makeover | October 2019

Lillie FoulĂ©’s bedroom doubles as her play space (and at times as a play space for her baby brother too). Her mama reached out to me because she was feeling overwhelmed by the space, which had become cluttered and wasn’t fostering independent deep play. After an initial consultation it was evident that the main issue was LF had too much stuff.

Being her bedroom, the room needed to have a bed and a space to store all her clothes. It is also the access for her parent’s bedroom door, which is in the finished attic. Being her play space, there was a lot of toys, stuffies, art supplies, and lot of miscellaneous. Lillie FoulĂ© is a vivacious creative four year-old, so finding a way to create a calming sleep space as well as an inviting play space was the challenge.

BEFORE and AFTER

Continue reading “Lillie FoulĂ©’s Bedroom/Play Space Makeover | October 2019”

Play Invitations.

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party. You’re setting the table and laying out the food before your guests arrive. Are you going to a) throw everything into a big pile in the middle and call it a day or b) carefully lay things out in a way that is aesthetically appealing for your guests? I’m going to take a wild guess that everyone will choose the latter, because no one is going to want to sit down and eat a meal that resembles a junk site. This reasoning and thought process should be applied to your children’s play spaces too.

Just like in the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy that considers the environment the ‘third teacher’, the way you lay out your child’s toys and materials changes the way they play and interact with them. You are essentially setting up play invitations. Stop and go and take a look at your child’s toys. What sort of invitation are you giving your child? Is your space set up in a way that looks inviting to you? No? Then your child probably won’t be interested either. A lot of folks contact me because they are desperate for their children to play and engage independently in their spaces, but it’s never going to happen if you don’t spend the time creating beautiful, interesting play spaces for them.

So the next time you’re cleaning up and organizing their play space, instead of just dumping everything into a jumbled basket of toy soup (this goes for LEGOs too), spend the time to think about and create an environment that will invite and entice your child in to play and engage!

It’s The Little Things (but like, really…)

Just a little in the moment PSA while I thought about it. Jars. They’re super useful and it always feels good to reuse vs throw them away. I love me a good pretty jam jar for art supplies or storing materials in for the play kitchen. But here’s the deal folks, you’ve got to remove the label properly. Unless you’re keeping it intact for play kitchen purposes, do not partially scrape it off and then call it a day. Aesthetically it is awful. To touch it is awful – so sticky. And it just catches dirt and dust. You wouldn’t want your lovely things displayed in something that, let’s face it, looks like rubbish, and neither do your kids.

Go that extra step and soak/scrub that puppy off. Still sticky? Invest in a product like Goo Gone – it will change your life AND remove all that icky gunky glue. I use it all the time to remove the tape and price tags from things I thrift, to remove the labels from bottles before I make bottle babies, as well as to remove the glue from jar labels.

Side note – here’s a link to some other DIY sticker removal ideas for those who prefer not to buy plastic/use chemicals.

Remember to think about your children’s environment as the third teacher and be thoughtful about the materials you add, including the storage vessels. This idea is a staple of the Reggio Emilia approach, the philosophy I was inspired by when teaching and that still permeates into the work I do now.

Drowning in STUFF? Just get rid of it.

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It’s funny how much anxiety ‘stuff’ can give you, and when you have kids you seem to always have a lot of ‘stuff’. Take the PlayMobil in our house. I had never heard of it before moving to the US and for awhile I would find (and of course buy) bags and bags of it from thrift stores – especially the vintage stuff. I organized it beautifully and placed it out for my oldest to enjoy. And he did love it, but the way he played with it was ALWAYS tip it all out and ultimately leave a trail of pieces all over the house, with ‘junk piles’ of PlayMobil placed in vehicles and other various places. I’m all for toys being played with in open-ended ways, but this game made me miserable. And trust me, it’s not worth being miserable over a toy.

So one day when his interests had shifted, I packed up 99% of the PlayMobil and donated it. Just like that. Did my son ask for it and miss it? Not really. I kept the few key pieces I knew he loved, and by removing the rest of the pieces, he actually started to really engage and play with the PlayMobil vs just exploding them like a volcano. Click HERE for a great article about why fewer toys will benefit your child.

So often I hear from parents that they are hesitant to give away toys because 1) their child might miss it, or 2) it was given by a friend or family member and they worry about upsetting that person. Let me tell you, 1) your child will thank you for creating a cleaner more organized play space. It’s overwhelming for them to be surrounded by so much stuff and it’s hard to focus and play when you don’t know where anything is. Nobody needs 30 stuffed animals or 100 broken crayons. Do yourself and them a favor and purge! I know it’s good practice to get your child involved in the process, but for most kids, giving away their toys is next to impossible. My advice, and what works well for my family, is to find a balance. Continue reading “Drowning in STUFF? Just get rid of it.”