Isabel + Molly’s Play Space Makeover | July 2018

Four-year-old twins Isabel and Molly’s sunny play space needed a little sprucing up. The room had lots of wonderful elements but needed more storage, more organization, and some restructured spaces with additional open ended toys.

Their mum was at her wits end with keeping the space clean and organized, especially the art supplies, and hoped the girls would expand their play interests towards the blocks. She also wanted a place the girls could read and a little space for them to explore tiny treasures (something she had seen at a friends’ house and hoped to replicate).

The play space is occasionally used as a workspace when the girls’ parents work from home, so we needed to keep their workspace/desk in the room + their books in the upper half of the built-ins.

BEFORE70d8d525-bbfd-4d5a-a150-8bae3bf2f37bThe play kitchen in the space was no longer being used productively, so we removed both the plastic kitchen and the wooden fridge to make space for a designated spot for the dollhouse (a favorite toy) and a building nook – something the twins’ parents hoped they would become more interested in.

I also created a little fine motor exploration tray (a specific request from the girls’ mum) in the same way I made this tray, only I filled it with little tiny treasures, bamboo tongs, and stacking bowls for sorting them into.

I sorted and organized the food and other accessories from the kitchen, and used two of shelves on the built-ins as a space for picnic play thanks to a picnic basket I found in the basement when cleaning up.

I also used leftover FLOR carpet tiles the family had to create a soft carpeted area for the girls’ to play on, and to designate the play space in the room.

AFTERb0d8441f-e48a-4e16-a111-6d2d0ae3b911bed27007-0a3a-4c41-99de-74b07b775c11

BEFORE53727311-3346-4589-8276-b64d7d86f22eThe office side of the play space was a mix of toys and disorganization, but had huge potential to be a fantastic art area for the budding artists (art is very much Molly and Isabel’s jam!). The first step was removing one section of the wall mounted desk to make space for the easel, large roll of art paper, and the new art cart.

I lowered the middle section of desk to be a height the girls’ that was comfortable for parents and kids to both utilize and I organized fun colorful art supplies on the desk for decoration and use, and activity/workbooks for the girls to sit down and work on. We decorated the front of magazine files with pompoms to tie in with the craft supplies and to hide price tags that couldn’t be removed. 😉

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BEFOREaae1611d-f2ff-4836-9d42-e238cb92a661This half of the playroom was a jumble of dress-up clothes, dolls and stuffed animals, the doll house, and random bits of art and puzzles etc. The entire play space floor was also covered with a foam jigsaw mat (my nemesis – see this blog post).

I took up the foam tiles and replaced with a large gorgeous rug to help define the area. One half is dedicated to dramatic play – there is a new coat rack, hanging storage, and large basket for dress-up clothes + a wall mirror to admire their many awesome looks. And also doll play, which the majority of toys are stored inside the white wooden storage box and then a little crib next to it. The other half is a cozy reading nook placed next to the books on the built-ins  – a specific request from their parents.

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BEFORE6013b332-2ae9-49e2-926c-19e61416937fThe built-ins were not being utilized to their full potential. The top half housed the parents books but the bottom half was a mess of the twins’ books and other bits and pieces.

I adjusted the height of the lower and some upper shelves to give a more even space to the bottom sections (the center shelf is permanently attached). I created a book area next to a reading chair to the right, dramatic play in the center (I removed the girls’ play kitchen which wasn’t being used), and created a music and puzzle shelf to the left. I also added some fun signage next to a basket of play silks + scarves, left a shelf for art display, and an empty shelf for additional toys that were being used by the girls at the time).

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BEFORE2ad0850f-3830-4fcd-ab7a-911e301f3492The orange table in the living room serves as a great place for magnet play because the magnets stick to the metal table. Although not a lot was needed for this little play space, I added storage for the magnetic tiles when not in use, and also added baskets of ‘small world play’ toys like little animals to inspire new ways to play. I also consolidated and organized all the girls’ magnets from around the house, and placed them here too.

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BEFORE1246489d-52fb-4093-8025-a569b9f2804eI also tackled a section of their basement which had exploded with old baby toys, excess craft supplies, and other toys that had made their way downstairs but never up again (we’ve all been there). Although technically not a play space, I wanted to see what materials and resources where available so I cleaned and organized the basement storage shelves too. A lot of this went into boxes for a family member who is starting a family.

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Foam Play Mats – just say NO!

Friends – consider this a play space PSA. We’ve all seen those soft and colorful jigsaw style foam play mats that parents love to buy for their little ones. And I get it. It is an easy way to cover a floor and make it safer for babies and toddlers prone to falling. And they certainly brighten up a room. But let’s get real. Those things are the WORST! They catch all the dirt and muck in the cracks, are annoying to clean, come apart far too easily, get chewed, get thrown, and do nothing for the decor and ambience of your space.

My advice. Say no to the foam and get yourself and your little one a REAL rug. Not a kid rug with bright primary colors and farm animals on. Not one of those rugs with roads to drive toy cars on. I’m talking a real deal grown-up rug that you love to look at and that you’d happily put in any room in your house. There is no reason that your little one can’t have something that makes you happy too! Your space will feel better for it and so will you. And you might be surprised all the ways they play on and with it. The pattern on our playroom rug doubles as islands and rivers and different little worlds.

IKEA has some great options. So does rugsUSA.com (and they always have sales).

Goodbye foam. Forever. And good riddance!

Lily’s Play Space Makeover (outside) | June 2018

We finished Lily’s makeover by installing her outside mud kitchen. Originally the space beside the garage was an overgrown bare concrete slab. But with a little muscle to clean off a thin layer of concrete (thanks Eric) and expose some lovely pavers + a a good old sweep and pressure wash, it became the perfect spot for Lily to set up shop and play!

  • We created a mud kitchen for Lily using scrap wood and an old sink, which can double as a water play station by just adding a sink plug. I accessorized the kitchen with a variety of baskets, kitchen storage containers + utensils, filled with lots of greenery, rocks, water and sand. The perfect ingredients for all sorts of potions and fun.
  • On the walls we added an old mirror for visual effect and a chalkboard where Lily can draw and write out her recipes. 🙂
  • We used an old pallet to create a simple tree shape decoration, which will double as a trellis for a pot of climbing beans to grow up.
  • And finally we added bottle babies – a fabulous open ended ‘toy’ for strength building, color and light play, and pretty much anything else you want to use them for.

Annnnd of course my little assistants were on hand to help make sure the mud kitchen was in good working order before we left. 😉

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Lily’s Play Space Makeover (inside) | June 2018

Lily is 18-months-old and had begun to tire of her slew of store bought baby toys and her parents were at a loss at how to encourage her to engage and play for longer periods. They also wanted to create a play space that she could grow with and that was easy to organize and keep clean. They reached out for ideas/help, and here we are today – with a finished interior play space and an outside play space still to come. Below are most of the updates and changes we made:

BEFOREAFTER

  • The majority of Lily’s flashing, noisy, colorful toys were removed and stored away to rotate into the play space over time or to donate now she is older. There was too much on offer and it had become a sensory overload, so toys weren’t being played with, enjoyed or cleaned away.
  • The biggest thing needed was storage – we built custom opening shelving to fit the space and I thrifted a variety of beautiful baskets and bowls to use to store toys.
  • New open-ended toys and materials were added to the space. This included wooden blocks, scarves, bristle blocks, other building materials, and an assortment of kitchen/cooking materials.
  • I also sorted and organized her pre-existing toys to make it easier to find them, play with them, and then clean them up.
  • The colorful foam puzzle mat was replaced for a real rug – still colorful and fun, but it helps tie the space into the rest of the beautiful home.
  • A mirror was added to her play space to create dimension and for reflection as Lily plays.

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  • Lily is very interested in drawing and writing, so we built and installed a wall-mounted easel with a small basket of art supplies that can be added to and put away when not in use.

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  • Lily’s parents wanted a bench and coat hooks + shoe storage near the backdoor, as this is primarily the door they enter and exit the house by. We custom built a bench + a coat rack with the same stain as the shelving to tie the spaces together.

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  • Finally more storage was needed in the living room area of the house, where a small shelf was housing Lily’s books, the homes electronics on top, and an assortment of larger toys around it. We built the same open style of shelving that we used in the main play space and stained it the same color to tie everything in.
  • The bottom shelf houses small world play items like animal + dinosaur figurines and toy cars. The middle shelf is full of board books for Lily. And the top shelf is for the electronics, with space for some paper/hardback books for Lily. There is also space under the shelves to house the larger plastic toys that Lily still enjoys using.

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).

Organizing Kate’s Play Spaces | May 2018

Sometimes people hire me for mostly organizational reasons, and this was one of those times. Kate’s mum wanted to work together to get Kate’s play space and bedroom reclaimed from the piles and piles of toys, books, and art materials. There was no need to buy extra storage of materials because she had everything she needed. She just wanted help and motivation to get it done.

This was a day’s work together. We started downstairs and worked our way up. It was a matter of:

  • pulling everything out
  • sorting between throw away, donate, store, and use
  • cleaning all surfaces
  • putting things backs in an organized manner (we probably put back about 1/4 of what was originally there).

The end result* – cleaner more organized play spaces with obvious invitations to play, and a system that should make clean-up a breeze!

*There are still a few little extras things to finish up including a mirror over the little tables in her bedroom. We’ll also be tackling Kate’s brothers room in the near future.

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Lego Storage

Lego storage. So often it’s just a bucket filled with a jumble of assorted pieces from sets long disassembled. This however doesn’t work for me or my Lego loving five-year-old. He has big plans and knows the pieces he wants. Finding that tiny piece in a bucket with hundreds of others is next to impossible and causes frustration, upset, and usually disinterest in the Lego itself. It’s also not much of an invitation to play in the first place.

My solution – an organized storage system with pieces sorted by color (in the tall drawers) and by type for more specific pieces (in clear sectioned trays and small drawers).

Does it take time to set up? Yes. Does it require my help at times to keep it managed. Yes. But it has changed the way he plays in such a huge positive way. He’s more autonomous and creative. There is less frustration. And he has taken more ownership of the space and works hard himself to keep it organized and clean. So was it worth the time and effort. Heck yes!

***Gorgeous photo from a recent session we had with the insanely talented Juliette Fradin.