by Amy Miller
How is it possible, that I, a woman who owns her own business of toy organization and playroom design, can let my playroom look like this (for a little while at least)?
This really drives me crazy. But, I am beginning to embrace the reality that it is a toddler’s method of play and exploration… which is mostly taking stuff out, exploring it, leaving it there and moving on to something else.
My background in education and understanding of the stages of child development have really helped me decide what to have available for our little guy to play with and how to store/organize things I’ll take out at another time.
Having your toys and shelves completely organized all the time is not a realistic goal, nor does it encourage the creative thinking and free exploration that is essential for development of young minds.
There are, however, some tips and areas to include when setting up a play space that can save your sanity and encourage little ones to put toys away.
- Label bins and/or shelves. If you have little ones under two, just getting things out of sight in baskets is a great accomplishment. For the preschool crew, using labels with pictures helps children know that everything has its place. It also builds pre-reading skills.
- Group like items together. Think in terms of developmental skill: dramatic play, cognitive, fine motor, language. I group things together in these categories in bins in the closet. I then can make sure I have a few from each area out on the shelf for playtime.
- Less is more. I really am a firm believer in children not needing all sorts of “stuff.” And I especially shy away from things that light up and have all kinds of bells and whistles. Children are naturally imaginative, smart and creative. Having items out that allow them to problem-solve and explore will allow their growing minds to do the rest. I also think this cultivates a sense of gratitude and discourages over indulgence.
- Include a book nook. Having a special spot dedicated to reading really encourages the development of the skill. Set up comfy pillows, blankets and books that are easily taken out and put back. Don’t be surprised when this becomes a favorite place to spend time.
- Set out writing materials. Crayons, pencils and chalk placed in buckets, always within reach. I also covered an end table, the perfect height for standing and working with chalkboard contact paper which makes the area extra fun!
My favorite quote by friendly Mr. Fred Rogers perfectly sums up why play is so important and is the driving force behind my playtime with my son and my business:
“If we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them find the joy that is to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
I hope these words and tips inspire you to take a real-life approach to your playroom set-up, and most importantly to join in the fun with the little people in your life!