Friday, August 24, 2012

Ideas For Setting Up A Play Room / "School" Room

When Jonathan turned 6 months old and started to crawl, I really started to feel the "need" for some sort of "play room" for him.  I was tired of my entire house being a play zone.  Tired all the nicks on the walls, things getting damaged, baby-proofing to the 9's and mostly not having a space for him to be a KID and not always have to tidy up cause people may come to the door and see a demolition zone!  We had bins in every room of toys.  What was once our "new home"; professionally decorated to our likes; had now turned into a child's den. It was time to move to renovate!

Now, I totally understand that everyone's situation is different and not everyone has the ability to just randomly create a new "space" in their home.  For us, we had an unfinished basement with some ideas in the back of our mind to someday renovate it.  Apparently now was the time! If you are considering renovating your basement too or another room in your home to create a play room, or for my homeschooling friends - if you are looking for "school" room ideas OR if you even just want to make your regular home space a little more "kid friendly"; here are some things that we did that we are finding is working great!  In fact, I am writing this article as a response to a request from others parents who have been to our home for play dates :)

THE ZONES:    our new play area consists of different areas or "zones" as I call them.

The Kitchen
When Jonathan first took a liking to "kitchen play"; we just didn't have the space or money to invest in one of those really neat / large kitchen play seats.  So instead we just got this little table top mini kitchen :)    I like how it takes up less space and is easily portable / removable.    We have a ton of "play food" and kitchen items.  I took a bunch of plastic kids tableware out of our own kitchen and gave jonathan his own shopping bag, chef's hat and apron to finish off the look

**beware -- the play kitchen food is a huge mess-maker :)  Although its lots of fun, be prepared to be picking it up off the floor all the time :)   (

jonathan cooks in his "kitchen".  This particular table top one was from Costco.
Jonathan sets the table for baby and puppy.  This table couples as as art table.

The Chalk Wall
These are hugely popular.  You can buy chalk board paint at most big box building stores today.  We got this one from Home Depot (  Note that it doesn't have to be black!  you can get it made in any colour you choose.  Also -- there is a magnetic base that you can put on as well if you'd like to also have a huge magnet board *although I hear it doesn't work too great.   **be sure your walls are smooth or sand them.  And great ready to do at least 3 coats :)  To clean our board / wall, we just use a wet microfiber cleaning cloth.  If you are worried about "chalk dust", there is really cool new dustless chalk (Crayola) and chalk paint.   But, once again, remember that this is a kids room so a little chalk mess is not a problem in a designated kids play area.  Id caution more about doing something like this in a bedroom.....

White Chalk, Pkg of 144

The Arts & Crafts Area
Arts and crafts were always hugely important to me!  So we have designated bins and bins of craft supplies alone.  Everything has its own place and is labelled.  I find if everything has a proper spot and you teach your kids to respect their toys, it's not a problem to have it all out like this.  Jonathan is especially good at knowing that colouring happens only on the paper and that markers need their lids back on them.   Only 1 or 2 play doh colours are allowed to be opened at a time (even though I think we have a lifetime supply of play doh in our house!)

Click here to enlarge product image(s)                                                                                    

A Dymo Labeller is my best friend :)  Beware the label tape is pricey :(   

**These go on sale all the time.   Reg $69.99 but I only paid $35 for mine :)

The Play Area
Really this is everywhere, but I do have those foam mats on the floor in designated areas for "floor play."  Once again; every toy has a spot or bin that it goes it.
You'll notice in our home (as part of our homeschooling philosophy); we try to have as little "noisy" toys as possible.  In addition, where possible I try to get wood or cloth toys.  The less plastic the better!

Some of our favourite toys include:

1) lacing beads

Primary Lacing Beads

2) Melissa and Doug wood puzzles

Numbers and letters sound puzzles

3) stacking toys

MULA Stacking rings IKEA A soft stick helps prevent injury. Develops fine motor skills and logical thinking.

4) books  *note that we actually have a children's library in our home that could rival a public library :)  it is not located in our new basement play area as I find too many books in one place at any time leads to less appreciation and inattentiveness.  Instead, we have 1 bin of books in the play area and 1 in our bedroom (that I pre-select based on age appropriateness, the time of year i.e. if a holiday is around the corner, what we are learning i.e. colours, numbers, etc., our interests at the time i.e. trains, etc.)

The Reading Nook
Further to above, we have what I like to call a reading nook under our staircase.  It was an odd shape / space to fill so I thought it would make a great place to throw a bunch of pillows down for quiet time and reading.  This can easily be done anywhere with some foam floor mats and random pillows.  **I have future plans to add a curtain around this area to also couple this as a hide-out / fort area some day.

The Media Area
Yes - this basically means that we have a TV in our play room. But before I get ahead of myself let's just say that this TV is actually not really for the kids :)    We figured if we were going to finish the basement, we should at least put a sofa down there and a TV in case mom and dad ever wanted to hide out down there :)   I can see this being of more use in the years to come.  We have video games hooked up to this tv so we can do our Wii Fit in this space, etc.  jonathan also has age appropriate video games that he is allowed to play on occasion

Some of our favourite DVDs

1) Brother Francis Series

Brother Francis Bundle: Episodes 1-4

2) Character Builders DVD Series

Horizons Preschool Multimedia Set

The Homeschool Area
As a homeschooling family, our needs may be a little different in terms of organizing our day.  Where possible, I try to not "model" a school classroom environment as this is not really what I want to create.  Instead, I model it around functionality and organization; mainly for my sake as the "teacher".

~ The Week Wall
These are little pockets attached to the wall of what we are going to be doing "school wise" each day of the week.  This could be worksheets from our curriculum as well as a multitude of supplemental resources I use

~ The Word Wall
This is what Jonathan is currently working on.  Right now its letter recognition, number recognition, name recognition and his colours.  Right now he knows his letters A-Z, numbers 1-20 and all his primary colours. My goal for this year is for him to recognise each of them at random, know his letter sounds and be able to write his name.  Wish us luck!

~ Mommy's Desk
This is my "cube" of resources and materials for homeschooling.  Jonathan really doesn't touch or play with these items (unless he chooses to grab his flash cards off the shelf for some extra practise of course;)