playroom zones

I spent my day cleaning their playroom. To be fair, the beans are good about cleaning up after themselves, but if I leave it to them, everything will be everywhere, always. I label bins and review the system with them, make sure they think it makes sense. They both really enjoy structure and love knowing where everything belongs because it’s one less decision they need to make. Next time things get unruly, though, and if they don’t set things right, with every little Perfection piece in its place… I’m going in with the oversized double-duty trash bags and holding every last toy hostage until they earn them back. I’ll string ’em all up in the garage if I have to.

I don’t want to be remembered for cleaning or organizing, and it’s not how I want to spend my time. But I do want to create a useful room for them to enjoy and in which to thrive, a cozy world left to their imaginations, where they can retreat and relax and reconnect with themselves independently. It’s why I revisited the ZONING OF THEIR PLAYROOM. It’s the same furniture, only now it’s THREE YEARS LATER. These are the organizers that keep on giving. If you know your zones and keep them age-appropriate, you’re always good.

Creating Playroom Zones

Blocks, CitiBlocs (aka Plank Blocks, the same natural wood ones they use at children’s museums), Lego Blocks (so small these itty bitty pieces kill me, even in zip lock bags, they end up everywhere), Ninjago. Within this storage room divider also live the contents of a play kitchen from the pre-K years, used to nourish dolls and for stuffed animal tea parties.

TRANSPORTATION STATION: Wooden train cars and tracks and connectors and risers and bridges and stations and mines, oh hell. At age six, he’s phased out the train table and now doesn’t play with them as often, except to give a ride to a dinosaur. Behind the art center, there’s storage for other transportation (Hess trucks and helicopters, remote-controlled cars, hot wheels) and a bin for all the dinos.

ART IS SIMPLE: Aside from markers, pencils and crayons, I keep the art center pretty basic: tape, scissors, stencils, various hole punches. The beads, rainbow loom, feathers, pompoms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, foam shapes, modeling clay, etc. all exist in clear stacking sliding drawers within the closet (I also store my makeup in these). The beans know to ask me for those supplies, which they’ll choose and add to a non-slip, easy pour tray (to contain the mess and give them boundaries). The homework station and high-quality colored pencils reside downstairs in the kitchen.

PUT BABY IN A CORNER, BETTER YET, PUT HER IN THE CLOSET: Listen Doll, sometimes the doll situation gets out of hand. The horses they try to ride, their wardrobes, their brushes. The babies and their cribs and feeding spoons. It’s all clustered together in bins in the closet. As for the Barbie orgy, the nakeds let it all hang out on the door.

Rain stick InstrumentLook carefully at the photo. Notice in the Reading Nook in front of the LeapFrog books (the best for pre-readers and for car rides!) and beside the interactive US Map (love this!), we have a rain stick. I find the rain stick to be one of those magical elements during story time. One person reads, and the other participates with a shake of the rain stick between the turning of the pages to heighten the drama.
I love the book nook. I love seeing them lounge on their chairs, leg bouncing, as if they’re reading the paper. Aside from the chairs, which I received as a baby gift (and subsequently gave as a baby gift), I also think a personalized sling bookshelf makes a very memorable and appreciated gift, regardless of how much space the family has. City living can always make room for books and shoes, so why not their organizers?

OFFICIALLY WISH-LISTED: A dream of an activity center for more than one child (or a child and a bigger child, like Mama Bear). I want this so hard.

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  1. I think people might give you a hard time about this (too rigid, blah blah blah) but it’s SO important to teach your kids the value of being neat and organized, not just for your benefit (teenagers are SLOBS, trust me, training your kids to clean up after themselves now will be great for you in the long run) but for their own. Learning to be organized will benefit them tremendously when their school years start to get intense.

  2. I agree with Andrea. This is great for teaching the basics of executive functioning skills, and because it looks really cheerful, I don’t see the “drudgery” component. Wish I could make a room like this for my husband!

  3. My boys are older than yours (15 and 11, gah, I can’t believe it), but the youngest still has a reading corner in his room. It’s tucked away in the far corner, barely visible from the doorway, and he calls it his nest, which takes my breath every time he says it.

  4. Also agree with Andrea. As a former pre-school teacher – whose classroom looked as calm and orderly five minutes of the day – zones are so important, and not just to teach about organization and cleaning. You can really see where a child spends a lot of his/her time, and either encourage or re-direct, if a need arises. It’s a great space!

    And Monica, YES. If only I could do this in my husband’s “space”…

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