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!

Ring Ring! Old Phones are the JAM for Play!

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I have a weak spot for old things – people, pets, and play materials included (haha). When we moved into our house there was an old house push button phone, which we immediately put into our kids’ play kitchen space. It has been used 1000 times over since then to ‘call’ all sorts of people. We did the same thing with an old flip cell phone we had, and most recently I bought a beautiful old wall-mounted rotary dial telephone from a yard sale and added that to their play space. What I’m saying is that old phones* make excellent toys. They are the perfect dramatic play accessories that can be used to order food, call family and friends, dial in for a super hero, call the fire department, share spy messages etc etc. So next time you thrift, or you’re at your parents or even grandparents house, see what you can find and bring home with you. Your kids will thank you!

*I don’t recommend using iPhones or other touch screen type phones as a toy, because when dropped the screens can easily shatter and make tiny pieces of glass that are primed to cut skin.

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.

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  • 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.

My Indoor Play Space | Summer 2019 Update

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I love change. My mind never switches off and is constantly thinking of all the different ways I could do things, including play space design (obvi). Not just for the folks I work with but also my own home. Our house is very small and over the last 3+ years we have worked hard towards living a more minimalist life. We aren’t there yet and we (like every other person with children) have junk, but with time, research, patience, and being able to work on so many other people’s homes, we are getting closer to creating a dream space for our family.

My boys (now 2.5 and 6.5) share a bedroom and also have a shared separate playroom. This means we can keep their room a zen toy-free space (with the exception of LEGO, but that’s for anther blog) and I can put all my brain power into creating the perfect play space for them. This room changes a lot – not just materials, but the layout too. As my boys have grown so have their needs and interests. I’ve also learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t for them when they play alone, together, and with friends.

Our current set-up may be its best iteration yet. We added really simple DIY pine shelving around the room, which freed up a lot of floor space for play. I downsized what toys and materials are out, and we also created a gorgeous gallery wall with all the little pieces of art we could never quite find the right place for. It is absolutely my favorite room in the house.

…On a side note, this is how you should feel about your play space too! Children’s spaces should not be messy, junk-filled eyesores. This is not conducive to happy engaging focussed play, and it’s not nice for anyone in the house to look at. Businesses do a good job making us feel like kids need their own specific everything, from rugs to plastic colorful everything, when really all the magic, fun, and color should come from them – not the furniture or decor.