Our playroom transition has begun! But first, we need your help. Let’s dig in and have some fun!
Kicking off the playroom!
Playroom planning starts… now! After nixing our home office last year, and after confirming that we much prefer working from the dining room (or sofa or front porch), we’re ready to turn the now-empty-room into a play area for Lucy. Better yet, we’re treating the entire second floor as one large family room – a space for watching movies, reading bedtime stories, spreading out with the train set or clearing the rug for a quick YouTube workout.
Facing the other way, you can see that we set up our Charly sofa in the second half of the room:
And looking towards the staircase, you can see where we added Lucy’s play kitchen (a birthday gift from us and the grandparents). We’ve also stashed all the ‘stuff’ in that landing, until we can figure out how to organize and store things properly:
We know that a playroom can take on many shapes and sizes. For us – and for all of Lucy’s life – it was wherever we were. It was the snug. The living room rug. Cleared floor space in her bedroom. The coffee table. Anywhere and everywhere has served us well over the years, but this will be the first dedicated play space for the whole family! We. Are. Pumped.
Making small adjustments
Over the weekend, we began prepping the room by moving our massive wall planter. (Ours doesn’t seem to exist anymore, but this is similar!) And by ‘moving,’ I mean that we took the whole thing off the wall (all 10′ of it!) and scooched it to the right by 18″. Trust me when I say that we questioned ourselves before making the move, but in the end, it always drove me a little nuts that we initially centered it between the two windows – as opposed to within this half of the room.
We removed the rigid cacti and instead planted fluffier – or as I like to say, floofier – plants, such as spider plants, pothos and a giant philodendron. The goal was to make the wall of plants feel really carefree and whimsical, which is how we want this whole space to feel, really!
Adding new greenery
We also added a Ficus Audrey! Scott has been wanting a tree in this space for a long time, and while shopping around for a spider plant, we couldn’t resist this gorgeous girl, too. Our second floor receives bright indirect sunlight all day, and plants thrive up here. Still, we’re new to the ficus game, so we’ll gladly take your tips all day long if you’re familiar with these!
Our wishes for the space
With the space staged, our next steps are figuring out how we want the space to function. I mean, a playroom obviously, but also, will we need seating? How much storage do we need? Someone recently sent me a message and said that limited toy storage keeps things under control, and I LOVE that. I always feel that less is more, even in a playroom. Here are our wishes for the space:
- We’d like to use what we have, as much as possible. For example, I pulled the rocking chair out of Lucy’s nursery, and it looks so sweet in here! Now to find an end table.
- We moved our office credenza (similar) underneath the plant wall, and although I initially thought it was too small, I’m not sure she needs much more storage than that. Additional baskets can always corral larger items.
- Internal storage for the credenza so that like-items stay together, and nothing gets lost in the back.
- A big, pretty rug! (Spoiler: We have one on the way!)
- Art that makes us smile.
And a question for you!
What is the one thing that makes you the happiest in your play room? On the other hand, what is the one thing you WISH you added to your play room?
Hi Kim, we don’t have a dedicated play room (smaller house; unfinished basement), but one thing that always makes me smile is how much my 4 year old son loves to play in ‘forts.’ We have dedicated tents for him that break down easily and he also loves to build them the old fashioned way…with blankets and anything that keeps them up. He’ll play for so long in his forts!! Anyway, a cute tent or basket of dedicated sheets or blankets for fort building is a super sweet addition to any toddler play space!
Yes! My kids are older now but one of our few remaining toys is our bin of fort supplies. We have a lot of $1 clamps from Harbor freight or dollar tree in there. . . It allows them to anchor the sheets anywhere. Forts for the win!
This is so smart!
Speaking of forts— we just got our first Nugget. I’m in love! Fort and couch/lounging place to read books all at once. I love how it can serve so many purposes.
We have a basket of white king flat sheets and clips, too and they are well used!
Yes to the forts! we’re also a little bungalow, and have enjoyed using CrazyForts over and over (they are balls with sticks put together any way, then you drape blankets over it)
Such a fun space! The key for a happy playroom is an easy organization system that the kids will be able to use to put away their toys. And when they were little, a soft rug for them to sit and play on that could be easily cleaned! Your playroom needs will definitely change as your child grows so of course keep that in mind!
Absolutely, we know we’ll need to stay flexible, thank you!
We have a wall of our boys’ artwork. It’s just taped up haphazardly, but there’s so much color and texture from their varied masterpieces. It brings a big smile to my face.
So sweet! We keep Lucy’s first piece of art in our dining room. :)
Nugget Comfort couch is hands down the best investment we’ve made with our playroom. Absolutely worth the price.
We also have a large mirror in our playroom, just a cheap wall mount from IKEA and it is used all day everyday by our almost 3 year old.
And of course, speakers for music and all day dance parties!
Yes to the Nugget. Has been huge during quarantine. The best for forts, slides and all manner of things!
So much love for the Nugget couch! We had to look it up (haven’t heard of it before), and it’s on backorder through the spring, yikes! It looks awesome, so we may consider some alternatives. Thank you for turning us onto them!
The back order is worth it! There are some competitors that I’m sure would be as much fun, but Nugget does such a good job being really present in their community, with great hiring practices and an eye toward social justice and COVID-safety for their employees and and and – just following them on Instagram totally cheers me up! And your space is big enough for one, which is a big factor (they’re quite large!).
Yes Nugget is a great company in terms of social action, employee compensation and benefits, manufacturing standards. And personally I can vouch for the quality. It feels like a company who’s ideals would like up well with YBH.
The Nugget is worth the backorder! As others have said they are an amazing company worth supporting.
Another vote for the nugget! We also have a train table that gets so. much. use. Not just for trains but for legos and and playhouses, etc.
We have an art table. Its been used for years by both my girls at all ages. It has storage and lots of top space. Its wonderfully used looking.
My brother built a train table for my nephew that has telescoping legs, so it could grow with him (errr be played with my grown men). I think an art table like this would be amazing!
I wish we had a dedicated play space, but we live in a DC row home, so our living room doubles as our son’s playspace. As someone else mentioned, the Nugget has been great so far. He can jump around on it and build forts with it (Rather than the couch), and it doubles as extra seating. We also have an IKEA Filsat book shelf that he can access and we rotate books. We worked with GrOH Playrooms to help design our space. It’s a women-owned company, based in DC, that can help you design beautiful and functional playspaces. The owners have backgrounds in early childhood education as well, so their designs are centered around your kid’s development too, which I loved. Their IG has some great tips too!
Hi Kim, Scott, and Lucy. I am the design loving Momma of a special needs gal (9), so I have set up and changed up our basement playroom many, many, times, trying to find the balance of what calms her down, sparks her creativity and looks decent along the way. I suggest a hammock swing, lights on dimmers, a play table (over an indoor/outdoor carpet) and some gymnastics mats from IKEA or a corduroy bean bag (which opens in to a mattress/crashpad).
Ooh, yes, I’d like to add a bean bag! We already have dimmers (so important). Thank you for all of this input!
Potentially you could make something similar to fit your space, get some foam cut it to size and shape and cover it. Like giant wooden blocks
Hello! I have two girls, the oldest just turned five and the youngest is Lucy’s age (turns 3 on Sunday!) A few things that have always been hits with our girls are all the art supplies, dress up clothes and books. I seem to think you already have an art area for her, but if you don’t it’s a good addition. Both of my girls will sit for long periods and color, play with stickers, draw, etc. We have a bin for dress up clothes and accessories as those are played with frequently here. Also a small bookshelf or basket for books as well as a cozy area for her to curl up to “read” them.
We have a dedicated playroom on our second floor, but I also store toys wherever they are most frequently used. Art supplies are on the main floor in the dining room since they spread out on the table to make art. Board games and puzzles are in a credenza in the family room because we do those as a family. So I’d make the storage in your play area work for those toys that Lucy will mostly play with on her own and can put away on her own (Magnatiles, stuffed animals, blocks, play food, etc).
Taking notes, thank you. And happy early birthday to your little one!
We just finished our Chicago bungalow basement because with 2 parents and 2 kids home all. the. time. We just needed more space this winter. We are lucky to have a pretty large open space down there now. Our kids are 2.5 and 5 years old. We divided it into a tv space, a small workout area (with a rowing machine weights and a yoga mat) then the other half is for the kids. They share a bedroom that has no toys and then have another bedroom that is the play room. The playroom is a typical smaller Chicago bungalow sized bedroom and with both my daughter’s toddler toys and my son’s Legos and magnatiles and art, it was bursting at the seems. And driving me BANANAS!!!! So for their half of the basement (which is probably similar sized to your area), my husband made a HUGE table for my sons Legos and model trains. We still have a soft cozy rug on the floor. Then we bought a 44” round dining table from target and the plastic molded chairs from article for painting, play dough, puzzles etc etc. I was really sick of having to clear off our dining room table off every night to eat dinner. (We eat in the dining room and don’t have an eat in kitchen). We left more of the “pretend play” things in their upstairs playroom, like dress up clothes, babies, and the play kitchen and their small play table for tea parties etc. if you are thinking of getting a table for Legos, paint, etc, definitely go for a normal sized table. Their projects outgrow the kid sized tables pretty quick. Enjoy the new space. ????
That’s a really great tip! She already has a kids’ sized table, so we may start with that, but definitely on board with upgrading to a full sized table (if it makes sense) as she grows.
I’m so excited for your family. Lucy is going to have so much fun in your new playroom. Someone has already mentioned forts/tents/blankets (always fun), and I see you have a play kitchen (my youngest daughter’s favorite thing in the playroom for YEARS). What you get for the playroom however is really dependent on the child. One will want everything dolly-based – the bed or cradle, food, clothes, etc. Another won’t look twice at a doll. You’ll know your little best so watch watch she gravitates to and build the playroom contents towards those. Key is not to buy things for yourself, or assume she’ll love something. I bought an American Girl doll and all the little accessories because I was enamored with all the little details. My daughter played with it about twice. So don’t buy for yourself or a dream of what you wished you had when you were their age.Some hits over the years with different children:Dress up bins – the more mix and match the better for my crew. Many outfits were a combination of others – I would see a cape wearing fireman with a cat tail some days, a witch with monster slippers and space gloves the next. A mixture of real world costume bits and halloween/fantasy bits are extra fun.Legos, blocks, marble runs and other construction/building toys.
Castle/House/Barn and little people, dragons, horses, dogs, and other animals (Schleich and Papo ones got so much playtime in our house, but also natural wood ones too). Often mixed with the blocks and other things into big fanciful worlds. Similarly, Playmobil fills this role in the playroom – but they take up so much room with all the bits and bobs. You will be finding little cups and swords and cats under dressers and in corners everywhere.
Good luck! It’s going to be so much fun.
This is wonderful advice. Just because we love something, doesn’t mean that it will spark the same interest in Lucy. Definitely keeping this in mind as we decide what to add to this room!
My girls (6, 2) LOVE dressing up so I made a dress up corner for them over the holidays: a cute little rainbow board that has pegs, a hanging canvas wall pocket for ‘purse contents’ and headbands, and then floor baskets for all of the other stuff. It’s so nice to have a dedicated corner and it’s right next to their mirror.
Excited to see how the space comes together for your family!
Lucy is obsessed with dress-up as well! Trying to find a good spot for her dress up clothes…
We have a small house, so every room is a playroom. Because of that, I have baskets and bins everywhere so things can be put away easily. I added clip on hanger labels to all of them where I wrote the word plus a small drawing of the items that go inside (like “puzzles” with a little puzzle piece drawing) so that my non-reading little one still knows where everything goes.
Love that tip, thank you!
Hi! I have a 3yo a week apart from Lucy, she’s going to love the playroom! My top tips: 1) have (a limited amount of) small storage bins easily accessible to Lucy so she can easily identify where to grab toys and put them back with no assistance 2) rotate toys – we have big bins we keep in a closet out of reach with the majority of her toys and only stock the play area bins with 1-2 toys/toy sets each. We rotate as she looses interest or we get tired of cleaning it up ;-) some high use things like duplos enjoy a permanent spot in the play area 3) upholstered floor chairs (japanese or gaming style) are great for giving adults some support during play time while we can play at her level and also make excellent fort supports/reading chairs for the kid. Have fun!
We’ve heard of swapping toys in and out, definitely something we plan on doing as we ultimately accumulate more toys/gadgets over the years. Thank you!
Our kids artwork- some canvas, some framed. Bookshelves with baskets for clean up time and a BIG chalkboard are all favorites.
On it! We already keep most of her books in the family room area (where the sofa is).
My kids love to have floor space to spread out and do anything. So I think leaving a lot of room for whatever play might occur is really great.
Definitely want to make sure we have floor space so we’re not constantly having to move things around too much.
We have part of our basement dedicated to a play area for our two girls. A few things have worked really well… 1) Leaving a lot of open floor space, to make room for forts (“the ultimate fort builder” from Lakeshore Learning gets daily use), our pikler triangle (which has been a HUGE hit since day one), etc. 2) Totally agree with the comments on limited storage! The toys will expand to fit whatever storage you give them :) ans 3) An indoor swing! We hung two hooks from the ceiling and we switch out a regular swing and a trapeze swing bar, depending on the day.
Love these ideas! We’ve talked about a swing, but also want to make sure we leave plenty of floor space. Lots of great things to think about, thank you!
Favorite part: An enclosed space. Our playroom is a lofted area (that is also a pass through to bedrooms) with a side nook, “the lego pit”. It is two steps down from the rest of the floor and under the eave with the tallest part of the ceiling at about five feet and the short side at less than 30 inches. We mounted curtains across it so it can be open to the rest of the loft, or closed in. Particularly when our kids were younger, they enjoyed having the curtains for “big reveals” of crafts or lego designs and making their own home movies. Even now that the youngest is 11 they both still like to use it as a quiet, private space for reading, using their phones, petting a cat that I pretend I don’t know is where it is not supposed to be, or giggling with friends. There is just something about children and being in a smaller, enclosed space whether that is a tree fort, a cloth teepee, or a lego pit.
One of the simplest tips I got about cleaning up toys in a playroom was if you want your child to clean up, store toys in lightweight, easily portable containers and bring the container to your child to help clean up. If a child has to walk a toy on a time to a heavy basket, cleanup will take forever and be less successful.
My kids loved an art area and I kep a limited amount of low mess supplies out and then had messier stuff (like paint) as an activity that I would help with. But crayons and coloring pencils were always out.
We have loved the gymnastics mats from IKEA. (Target sells similar by Antsy Pants) They are great for tumbling, making walls for forts, imaginative play. They fold up and can be a counter for their store, picnic blanket, etc. They are also easy to clean.
Hello Kim! What a fun project. My daughters are grown and now we are pulling down some of their toys for the grandkids. They are 3 & 18 mos, and absolutely love the little table and chairs their size. But when my girls were older the adult size table & chairs got a lot of use. It was a fort base (they had a basket of old blankets, tablecloths, & clothespins), it was an art/craft/homework station, and a place to do puzzles and play games. So nice to have a dedicated place that wasn’t the kitchen table that needed to be cleared.
As much as I hoped the dresser would hold the dress ups, eventually we changed over to a large basket with lid. Though currently in the attic, this STILL gets used, for costumes and RennFest garb.
So many good suggestions here! If you have the wall space I would suggest a big map put on the wall lower on her level so she can really see it and explore it. A globe is fun too! My kids love looking at them and it sparks so much interest and curiosity in the world!
We have a globe that Lucy loves and plan on using it, for sure.
The comments here are amazing, what great ideas about the clamps for forts! We have a small house and our living room doubles as our play room so we add the nugget comfort and go to town jumping all over the place. Our side bench houses all the go to toys inside. I can’t wait to see what you guys do!
I’ve been so in the dark about this nugget couch!
What makes us (and our kids!) happiest in the playroom is ease of access to their toys and tons of open floor space. We recently reworked our room over the holidays to maximize both, now that they are turning 2 they really like being independent and pulling out what they want to play with and even helping to put everything back! Oh and ease of access to a window – they just love playing on the window sill, watching for deliveries, waving to neighbors – it is a favorite spot for train tracks and cars!
Kids love a mirror to check themselves out! I loved a well padded rug for myself sitting on the ground playing.
We just transformed our formal dining room (used to host dinner parties back in the day…does anyone remember those good ol’ days?) into a school room/play room for our two year-old. We LIVE in there! We have a reading nook with a bookshelf and a super-comfy Laz-Z-Boy loveseat (that is still three months out from being done…they have a SIX-MONTH lead time right now!). Reading is a huge part of how learn, so we needed something comfy and able to fit us all, kids and grown-ups. We have a credenza framed with tall bookcases on each side that also have hidden storage below. We have a wall of desks (for our older son and mama) resting on top of nightstands with adjustable-height stools underneath and room for two to work. And in the center of the room, we have an adjustable-height play table! We use all of these things nonstop, but I highly-recommend the play table! It’s great for standing for puzzles, games, trains, and marble runs. It is also great for sitting while coloring, cutting, and painting. The tabletops for the wall of desks and play table match, so everything looks cohesive and intentional. The legs are industrial-strength and extend from 17 inches to 25 inches. It will grow with us for years as our space evolves! I love the tabletops we picked for the color, but I wish it had rounded corners as we walk around it all day. It ended up costing around $180 for the play table, but they can easily cost that with no adjustments! So I knew we could justify the cost for high-quality and something that will grow.
I’m just amazed at how useful this room is, and how much we love spending time in here! I hope you have the same luck with your playroom!
This is the tabletop we picked and love in Sea Salt, and it’s on sale! https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B08FBDD5ZY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1
And these legs make it the perfect adjustable-height table that will work for years. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SJHWSMK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Yay, Micah! I love your passion for how much you LOVE your new WFH space. Thank you for the link – that tabletop is so pretty! And although it can sometimes be hard to remember, I do miss the good ol’ days. I have high hopes we’ll be enjoying the company of friends and family again soon. xx
a table and chair(s) for puzzles, coloring, etc.
I love all these comments! Our play room is constantly evolving. I love our Ruggable washable rug, a simple coat hook rail (spray painted pink) hung low for dress up dresses, and this for easy art hanging: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/dignitet-curtain-wire-stainless-steel-60075295/I bought a set of small Sterilite boxes with latches to keep markers, stickers, tangrams, etc organized and they are great. Also a big fan of YHL’s toy library for “checking out” the more high-supervision activities one at a time!
My biggest piece of advice is to leave lots of empty floor space. My son’s creations (train tracks, legos, marble runs, block cities…) can not be contained by a table. When he was a toddler, he would build around the coffee table in the living room so we eventually got smaller tables that were easy to nest and move out of the way. We even got rid of the area rug in our (now dedicated) play space so he would have a more stable surface to build on. We do have a couple of breakfast tray tables that are tucked away but are great for coloring or games or even a picnic. For toys with multiple small parts, clear zippered pouches (like for cosmetics) are fantastic.You can corral everything while still seeing what’s inside and they don’t take up a lot of space. On the walls, we have a couple of Lil Da Vinci frames that open from the
front and you can pop in their artwork so it is matted and framed but
super easy to change. Our play space is part of our family room so I like things to look neat while still being fun. It’s so much fun to plan for play! I can’t wait to see where your space goes.
Such awesome advice, thank you!
We had the same experience. My son was obsessed with Thomas and the train table quickly became too small. He’d build his layouts all over the room. We also ditched the rug for those interlocking 2′ square foam pads for a more stable play area. Both my kids were big lego builders and my daughter loved puzzles. We put casters on the bottom of a large board–something like 5′ x 2′ big. They’d use that to build on and we could wheel it out of the way to a safe space if they didn’t finish what they were doing. Saved a lot of table space and eliminated any worry of having to move it before it was finished. But definitely take the lead from Lucy and pay attention to what she likes to play with. Every kid has their favorites.
We love our hammock and matching kid hammock swing. They’re used constantly by all ages and guests.
Ooh, PLANTS! My time has come to shine re: the care of your new ficus audrey. She’s fantastic, I have three and I love them all so much. I care for them the same way that I care for my fiddle leaf figs (ficus lyrata) and rubber plants (ficus burgundy) by giving them bright light and watering only when the soil is bone dry.
For my figs, I tend to wait until the leaves droop and then wait another day before watering, but for the audreys, the leaves will curl under juuuuust ever so slightly. A moisture meter helps at the beginning, but you can always stick your finger in the soil. I don’t, because I always end up tracking dirt everywhere, so I check the leaves and then look at the soil. If it’s dry all the way through, bring her to the sink or the bathtub and put her in there (out of the cache pot) and then DRENCH her. Put the water on just above a trickle and then make sure all the soil gets wet. If you want, you can also take this time to shower her leaves thoroughly, because she needs them to be clean so she can photosynthesize better! Once water starts coming out of the drainage holes, stop watering and leave her alone for like 10-15 minutes. Let the water drain through. Then come back, pick her up and shake off any excess water, put her back in her cache pot, and put her back in her window.
If you don’t want to (or can’t, some of the pots get REAL heavy) bring her to the sink, that’s okay too, just make sure you empty the water out of the cache pot. I’ve seen people use towels to absorb out the extra water, a turkey baster (?!), a two-person team to lift and dump… whatever works for you. I just do the tub thing because I have 10 ficus babes and it’s the easiest for me.
The MOST important thing is that they do NOT like having wet feet (I empathize thoroughly) and they will let you know by way of throwing a tantrum by dropping their leaves.
As for light, I’m near Chicago, and I get the same light you guys get through my back window and my ficus babes are all living their best lives like this. I fertilize with the granules in the spring, and then once a month or every other month if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll water them with a watering can of a low strength plant food type fertilizer. Bonide Plant Food is 10-10-10 and it’s like ten bucks and you only need a couple drops per watering can so it lasts forever. I also use systemic granules for pests, because it’s a lot of surface area of wet soil sitting around at once, just waiting for fungus gnats. Oh, and then rotate every once in a while–I pretty much just do it when I look at one of them and am like, oh are you about to fall over?? My bad. Uhhhh I think that’s it! Let me know if you have more questions, I could talk about plants all day!
This is pure gold! Thank you so much for all the info!
Such a cute playroom already! I think almost everything we’ve done has been said, but I’ve noticed that toys my daughter (4) can see are the ones she plays with. So even though I want less visual boise and for everything to be in closed containers or behind doors, if it’s out it’s interacted with. So clear bins and the like are what keep toys in her mind. BUT if there are too many things out she will have attention problems and start flitting from one activity to the next. I believe I read “simplicity parenting” and it’s sort of similar to montessori methods to have toys out and visible but not too many. Anyway that’s my two cents on the whole rotation and storage of toys thing! Good luck!
Yay, play rooms! Definitely open floor space has been most important for us. Our son (newly 3 years old) LOVES his nugget couches and we love being able to let him run, jump, build in the middle of our finished basement. Nuggets are worth the wait! Great company.
The best thing we did was get IKEA Expedit bookcases (now Kallax) that could be configured in pretty much any way that made sense for our kids at the time. Kids grow and change and the needs of the playroom will change too. We had them vertically, horizontally, pushed together for wall storage, jutting out to make small nooks, etc. We also used see through bins and it helped immensely with having the kids pick up and put away their storage. I know it can be overwhelming to see everything but it’s a playroom after all.
Open shelves. Lots of closed storage. Hooks for costumes, play silks, etc!
If/when Lucy gets into Legos, a dedicated little table / surface with a Lego plate on top. And then THIS for storage. I’ve tried it all! Trust me. This is the way.
Lego Toy Storage Basket and Play Mat Durable – 2 in 1 Large for Kids / Upgraded with Zipper Lid – Cleanup Play Mat – Slide Away Swoop Bag – Outdoor Or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08JFZVYCC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apip_VVBHFincdgAtB
Whoa, that container is awesome!
When I was a child, I loved my beanbag chair soooo much for reading and imagination time with my Pound Puppies! I don’t have kids of my own, but I did buy a beanbag for my nieces and they love to laugh at Auntie Trish trying to wiggle out of it after we lounge together to read. It feels low to the ground so when I’m in it, I’m one of them (until my 39-year-old body tries to get out of it!).
Haha, love this!