When we moved into our new home my darling husband was thrilled to see that it had a dining room. A "real" dining room – not just space for a table and chairs off the kitchen (although it has that, too). Unfortunately, we do not have a dining room table or chairs or all that other fancy furniture that looks so nice in a "real" dining room and we probably won’t be spending the big bucks to buy any soon. So I had a whole empty room to find a use for – YIPEE! I thought immediately of making a playroom for my two (soon to be three) little toy junkies. There were just two problems. The first was that the room is attached to our living room, which is where we sit at night and where visitors sit when they come over – very visible. The second problem was that this room was also the only place for my computer and "office" (also known as Home Base). These problems both worked out to be good things. I motivated to keep this room very organized and attractive and I can work in the same room with the kids while they play so with a spin of my chair I can discipline or encourage – or stop everything and play.
I started by dividing the room into stations – just like a preschool. The first station is my desk and bookcase. The book case holds our Levi’s school supplies that he needs permission to get, library books, my file folder of magazine articles that I’ve pulled out for future reference, phonebooks, my "office in a basket" and –most importantly – my homekeeping binder. That’s everything I need to do any deskwork during the day. The station next to it is his little table and chairs. This is where he does what we call schoolwork – coloring, pasting, cutting, putting together puzzles, etc. He’s within arms reach of my chair so I can stop and help (or see if he drops the glue). Under his table is a big piece of clear vinyl to keep the carpet clean.
The next station is his bookcase – turned on it’s side so that the three shelves turn into cubbies. He keeps books in one, puzzles and a tub of little books in another and a stack of shoebox size rubbermaid containers in the last. The containers hold little toys – cars, blocks, and his musical instruments. We pasted pictures on the ends of the boxes so he knows what goes where and can pick up the toys and put them in the right box himself. On top of the bookshelf are Brenna’s big toys so that she can see them and reach them. The only thing I have to get down is the Little Tykes farm – it’s still too heavy. There are also big pillows on the floor nearby – a little reading center. We’re in the planning stages of redoing this section with raingutter bookshelves – I think these will make a big difference since he’ll be able to see the books and put them away.
On the other end of the bookshelf are all the building toys – legos, lincoln logs, etc – in bigger rubbermaid containers. We also have a crate full of dinosaurs here since Levi plays with them with the legos. And the tonka trucks. We keep a large toy box in the playroom, too, that my husband made for Levi. It holds the out of rotation toys – out of site, out of mind. Every few months I rotate toys so that they can play with the ones they haven’t seen in awhile. This is also a good time to give some toys away. I have a theory that too much (of any material thing, anyway) is not good for kids, so I actively try to make sure that they aren’t swamped. But you can’t tell Grandparents thatJ But a little spoiling by Grandma doesn’t hurt.
The last thing in our playroom is a small basket of Brenna’s little toys – rattles, baby blocks, stacking rings – all the things that keep her busy for a few minutes while I’m on the phone.
I’ve had a really great time putting together a play space for us and the kids have a great time playing in it. We’re doing a little along to decorate with framed pictures Levi drew or crafts he made. We’re going to do a chair rail border of old-fashioned alphabet cards that I just found. I can leave the molding and change the border when we have a dining room. The best thing, in my opinion, about the room is that Levi can get to the toys himself and can put them away himself.