The ‘Thoughtbarn’ Playhive you’re going to NEED!

Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset

Many many years ago before we had kids, I discovered Thoughtbarn’s amazing ‘Playhive’. It was love at first sight and I always dreamed of building it at one of the schools I worked at. Fast forward to life as a mama at home with a toddler and I decided that now was the time to make that dream a reality for us. Enter my lovely husband who makes all my crazy dreams and aspirations come true, a few months of tacking away at it (because every single piece needed to be cut and sanded by hand) and finally we had our very own Hive. And the best part – you can build your own too, because Thoughtbarn is insanely rad and shares the plans for FREE! Download them HERE.

Update – over the years we decided to pimp out our Hive a little, by adding a slide and also most recently a play telescope. This created new invitations to play and has revigorized how our boys and their friends use it.

Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset
Processed with VSCO with kk2 prese

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

c0b8cab5-d801-4296-92a1-ed01dc1f2b3b
Light Table
f31eb521-3d95-4f48-9794-0ec7c339d997
Train/Play Table
e3144cda-12e6-4a52-bae0-d1328d3d49a3
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 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!

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

Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset

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!

There’s more to life than crayons.

Crayons. I’m going to be honest with y’all, I just don’t like them (writing this feels so un-American, like saying I don’t like apple pie or puppies). But it’s the truth. They aren’t satisfying to draw with, they break easily, they often end up as a toddler snack, and you always find 100s of them not being used in buckets and bins at people’s houses. There are other ways to live, people. Let me shed some light.

  • First up, it’s obviously OK if you don’t share my controversial feelings. But I do ask that if you’re going to go down the crayon path, at least invest in good quality ones. At the most basic, go with Crayola. Throw away all those random crappy ones that come from restaurants and coloring kits. They’re beyond rubbish.
  • Even better (and actually crayons I CAN get behind), get your tiny human some beeswax ones. They make a lovely rich mark and are environmentally friendly. Stockmar is a brand that does some great ones.
  • If you have a lot of broken Crayola crayons, consider melting them down and creating something a bit more visually appealing. I know using broken crayons can be great for encouraging pincer grip, but nobody needs a gazillion tiny pieces of crayons laying around their house. I have a gem shaped silicone mold I use for this, and I use similar shades when choosing what colors to melt together.

IMG_9055

  • Finally think outside the box and invest in something other than crayons. My favorites include Kwik Stix (tempera paint sticks), CrayPas (oil pastel/crayon hybrid), and oil pastels.

An Outdoor Play Space Plan for a Family of Seven | July 2019

I was hired by the loveliest family to create an outdoor play space plan. Their children’s ages ranged from teenagers to still in utero, and they were desperate to create a place in their backyard for everyone to be able to enjoy. The husband in the family is super handy and able to do all the work, so they just needed help with the vision. After a visit to their home, we mapped out the section of garden we were going to use for the space and I got\ work. It was really fun researching and spending too much time on Pinterest 😉 to come up with the perfect set-up.

Their backyard BEFORE

In the end I created a plan and detailed document, laid out with photos and suggested materials etc. I wanted to share just the design sketch here to give you an idea of what we did. Drawing may not be my greatest strength, but this along with a detailed breakdown of what they should do, has set them on their way. I am getting regular updates on the projects and it is looking amazeballs!

img_0852

CURRENT update from the family (September)…

20190928_093758.jpg

A Little Free Library Space Just For Kids | June 2019

img_0853

When we bought our house six years ago, the backyard was a jungle of weeds, dead trees, and a dilapidated chainlink fence. Over the years we have transformed it, including very early on erecting a six-foot wood fence (because as much as I love my neighbors, I need privacy and to feel like I have my own oasis). We live on a corner and our home backs an alleyway, and so permitting wise we had to caddy corner the back corner of the fence. This left a little triangular section of garden outside our perimeter that needed something other than dirt and weeds.

Rewind again, and six years ago my dearest friend’s baby passed away during childbirth. As a way of honoring her son, she asked friends to give books away in his name. This led to her sister establishing library shelves of children’s books in places of great need, under the name ‘Charlie’s Books’. I decided I wanted to honor Charlie in the same way, so we created our own Little Free Library just for kids in this space.

Over the years the plants have changed and grown, and this year we decided to create bean teepee over the reading bench, but it’s always been space where the neighborhood kids and folks passing by on their way to soccer or the playground, can stop and read, take a book, or leave some to share. And although this may not be a typical play space, I wanted to share because it’s something you could build for your front yard too as a way to create a space for all the children in your neighborhood.