Recently, I realized that my preschooler’s playroom was taking on an aspect of my childhood that I remember so clearly. No matter how often I cleaned and sorted, the playroom was always a disaster. My son would walk in and tear every toy out of it’s bin, swipe all his books onto the floor, and then waltz right out of the room. He wasn’t playing, he was just throwing, and once all the toys were thrown, he didn’t want to be in there. When you are living in that clutter, there is no actual freedom (or room) to play.
I researched different strategies for playroom function and storage, and I kept coming back to the idea that stood out to me, the Montessori method. Changing up our playroom style has been life changing in the way my son plays, and it can be for you too, no matter what age your child is (or how far gone your playroom is)! Here are some tips (and reasons why you should implement them) to help revamp the playroom:
1. Get the right fit – Make sure furniture is the right size for your child. If you have a toddler, keep things low to the ground, and make sure they have access to every item. A low desk and chair is a perfect place for your child to set up an activity. Elementary age children can use taller shelves and drawers. Make sure to switch pieces out as your child grows – yard sales and sales groups are a great way to change stuff out every few years for not much cash. The idea behind having child sized items is that your kid can have autonomy – they won’t have to ask you for help in getting the truck out of the closet or off the tall shelf, they can pick out a book on their own, and they can help to clean up too!
2. Create cozy spaces – Before, I had all the furniture around the perimeter of the room. I thought children needed the large open space in the middle of the room to play, and did not want to hinder that. However, just like kids need child sized furniture, they also need child sized spaces. There is a reason kids love to play in tents and forts and playhouses – those smaller spaces are comforting and more manageable for their smaller bodies. Use large furniture to your advantage, and set up small spaces around the room.
3. Change your ideas about storage – Baskets are your new best friend! Almost every toy in our room is now contained in a basket. Previously, I used opaque tubs and buckets, which were promptly poured out. With a wicker or wire basket, your child can see what is inside, and they won’t need to dump out three bins before finding the animal toys that they wanted in the first place.
4. Make designated play spots – Simplify how your child plays – instead of having them play on the bare floor, it is nice to pull out a rug and encourage them to keep the toys in that area. We have three different rugs, in contrasting colors and different sizes, that we use for this purpose. We also utilize trays, which are a fantastic choice to get a toy or activity from one place to the next, while keeping everything contained and organized.
5. Renovate routines – My son was used to walking into the room and destroying it. I re-styled his entire playroom one night while he was sleeping, so it looked completely different when he went in the next day. I explained that his new playroom was a really fun place to play, and we were going to try to make some new routines around play and clean up. Since the room was new to him, the new routines made sense as well.
With the gorgeous weather we have for 80% of the year here in the East Valley, we do spend the majority of our days outside. But for that part of the day (or the long, sweltering summer months!) when we want to settle in with some books or blocks, we are now able to really spend time enjoying our cozy space, which has made the playroom much more inviting and functional. Instead of a disaster, it is a place that we all want to play in!