How to Create an Inviting Play Space
“EEEKKK! My kids are running around like crazy people and there is CRAP everywhere!
Yep! I have too. WAYYYY too often.
It seems like no matter what you say the entire house becomes a playground full of kids toys, craft and stuff!
I don't know about you but I find this so challenging and frustrating, and frankly having a mess everywhere stresses me out.
So, I went on a mission to find a solution, and today I'm sharing my 6 top tips that helped create a playspace that saved my sanity and will hopefully save yours!
OK, are you ready? Here goes.
STEP 1: Choose a location that works for you.
There are countless areas where you can set up a play space, but think about a convenient place that works for you, and gives your kids a chance to play independently, a space where you can perhaps read a book or keep an eye on your children whilst making dinner. For me it was the corner of the lounge room.
STEP 2: Designate the space with a rug or play mat and make it cozy
Knowing that this is a space for play, mess and toys will help keep your stress levels down and all the “stuff” in one area.
Placing a rug or play mat down helps show your little one the boundaries without the need to put up a gate. Adding soft cushions or a tent can make the space feel safe and cozy. I used a rug and a single arm chair so I could sit but not necessarily be part of the play.
STEP 3: Set up shelves and storage tubs at their level
When you are selecting items to put out for your little one, put them at a level at which they can independently retrieve them. You want to minimize their need to rely on you, thus fostering their independent choice and child-led play.
Keep things on the floor or on low, open shelves. Then, at the end of an activity, (if they are old enough) get them to help you put everything away in the storage tubs.
By having a place for everything, your little one knows where to find it and where to replace it. Tubs and baskets without lids seemed to work best for me.
STEP 4: Display 6-8 toys at a time, and rotate the rest each month
Keep a few toys and books in your play space and a few more in your storage tubs. Then hide the rest away. Having only a few toys to choose from will help your little one focus as they play. An uncluttered environment helps them build an internal sense of order and calm. With the burden of overstimulation lifted, they are free to learn from and appreciate each toy they endeavour to engage with. This really was the key to success and it made pack up so easy.
STEP 5: DO A CLEAN OUT and aim for open-ended toys
This is really the big one. We get given so much stuff, especially when our babies are just born or for their birthdays. Once a year, aim to do a clean out. When surveying toys, consider whether they inherently provide opportunities for your baby to use their imaginations, creativity or problem solving skills — or if, conversely, they essentially do the “work” for them. Many toys capture kids’ attention at first because they are flashy and make noise, but after just a few minutes, they’ll get tossed aside because there is not much else to do with them. Let these ones go.
Blocks and stacking toys, kitchen play, dolls, arts and crafts, nature-based toys, and puzzles are some examples of open-ended toys that tend to provide for more learning experiences and extended periods of quality play. I literally donated 3 bags of toys to our local Toy Library of plastics and what I call “quick fix” toys - those that do the work for them. Providing my kids with only open ended toys has made play much deeper and more creative.
STEP 6: Set up invitations to play
Whenever possible, use your Happy Little People Activities to set up invitations to play in your play space.
You could do this when your little one is having a nap or ready for when they first wake up in the morning.
This gives them something to look forward to and also fosters some time for independent play. I still play our play every morning even though my kids are older. It is a saving grace as I know I am giving them the 10 minutes of undivided attention they need each day to feel loved, valued and seen.
Creating this designated play space was a real game changer for me and my family. I found the kids soon got the hang of packing away at the end of the day and they enjoyed feeling responsible and proud of their space. They also knew where to find everything so there was a lot less “MUM, Help!”
Let us know how you go with creating your space.