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.

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.

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.