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? 🙂

Building a Family Play Space | September 2019

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With the arrival of autumn and my birthday rolling around again, I decided my wish for the year was the creation of an outdoor sunken fire pit with wrap around bench seating (that’s reasonable, right?). Our back and front yards have been created entirely with our children in mind, but I wanted something Thomas and I could enjoy and use without the kids. And a place where we could enjoy the outdoors together and with friends, even when the days and nights get colder.

When creating an outdoor play space plan for a family recently, I came across this fire pit design as an inspiration for what they could build. I loved it so much however, that I kept thinking about it and it was the inspiration for what we built (or I guess I should say, what Thomas built). While perhaps not what I would typically call a play space, I wanted to include it on this blog because creating spaces for the entire family to enjoy together is so important too!

Unlike most of our projects, we bought new wood vs reclaimed for it (we just needed a lot and very definite pieces, plus we wanted it to feel like a seamless extension from our deck vs an add on).

My hope was that we could build it in a weekend (ha!), but the digging down in very hard dry soil took hours and hours, and honestly these things just take time. However two weeks later, after lots of late nights after work and continentally tacking away at it, we have a finished project! It will be stained in the coming weeks now the wood has dried out, but until it is getting quite a lot of use!

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The inspiration photo (source unknown)…

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Add a little personality to your play kitchen!

Want to vamp up your kids play kitchen to make it feel more personal and a little less plasticky? Hit the thrift store this weekend (or even better on their sale days) and treasure hunt some secondhand items for your tiny human. These are some of my favorite thrifted items from my boys’ play kitchen.

From L to R, top to bottom:

  • Salad spinner (this was one of my favorite things as a kid, and TBH after this pic was taken, Pilot discovered the newer clear much faster spinner in the basement and this little vintage yellow one is officially on the out).
  • Measuring cups
  • Folding sieve (these things are just cool)
  • Scale
  • Flour sifter
  • Fondu pot (these are always on the smaller size and often have pretty wooden handle and knobs)
  • Empty tins (vintage ones are so lovely)
  • Tongs
  • Food canisters
  • Cloth and hand towel (perfect for washing and drying dishes and hands)

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.

Sandbox/Mud Kitchen feeling neglected? Just add shade and water!

Our little mud kitchen and sandbox area wasn’t getting much love recently, so I decided to spice things up to entice little friends back in. Step 1) adding some permanent shade over the sandbox with a $25 shade sail from Amazon. Step 2) water! The kids play area is as far from a spigot as possible, so I found a secondhand rain barrel for the area. After a good clean, we popped it on a little table so the faucet was easily accessible, and filled it up with the hose. Voila! And instant water source for my boys! It was a MASSIVE hit and they played outside all morning engineering waterways and making stew concoctions. ☼

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A Little Free Library Space Just For Kids | June 2019

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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.

Revamp Your Sandbox

When you think sandbox, what comes to mind is probably some kind wooden framed box filled with sand and toys like buckets + spades, maybe some cars, sand moulds, and other things you get in those sand toy multi-packs.

These classics are fun and I don’t doubt kids love them, but it’s so easy to take your sandbox to the next level and really create a fantastic open-ended play space with multiple play invitations for your kids. Here’s some ideas how:

  • Look after your sandbox! Your outdoor place spaces should be treated with the same love and respect as your indoor ones. The sand should be raked and watered (if very hot/dry) so it stays fresh and inviting – no one wants to play in a dry dirty desert scape.
  • Find a way to store all your toys and materials when your kids aren’t playing in the sandbox. This will help things to last longer and it keeps your outdoor play space looking nice too.
  • Old pots, pans, and other baking supplies are fabulous tools/toys to encourage lots of cooking and potion making. Just like the toys you have inside, the less plastic closed-ended toys = the better and more engaged the play.
  • Replace your plastic shovels with real metal ones!
  • Get serious about your truck play and use vehicles that can actually dig and move the sand.
  • Think about adding some toys like animal figurines to encourage small world play.
  • Add an old mirror (if your sandbox is next to a fence) for added dimension.
  • Rocks are awesome! One side of ours sandbox is entirely covered in rocks of different sizes. These are not only used in the sandbox, but also as an added element to my kids’ play arcs (in and out of the sandbox).
  • Loose parts – we have baskets of loose parts around our outdoor play space with things like tubing, ropes, yard flamingoes, tools, safety cones bricks etc.
  • Water! If you have water restrictions, even just a little water added to the sand play can enhance the play. If you don’t have water restrictions, don’t be afraid to go all out. In the photos above my boys had the sprinkler going on the sandbox at a very low level. This completely changed the play and was the most compelling play initiation ever. Both my five and one-year-old didn’t want the play to ever stop!
  • Create a platform next to your sandbox which your kids can use as a building surface, staging area, or even just a place to sit (we built a triangular one onto the side of our wooden box frame and have storage underneath it).