Organising a play space.
January 24, 2008 7:26 PM   Subscribe

What options are there for tidying up a child's play area and creating a 'play space' within limited area?

We live at the top of a duplex, two-bedrooms and our son is one. Toys are everywhere and he has the run of the living room and dining room during waking hours. What can we do to tidy-up the toys and maybe create a space where he can call his own? (the lounge is pretty big and the dining room is a decent size).
posted by Frasermoo to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I like dual storage, such as storage ottomans. You can use them as foot rests/extra seating/coffee table/ and store toys inside. Covered storage is always a good idea. I don't have a traditional coffee table -- I have two cube storage ottomans side by side. I now try to look for furniture that has storage. End tables should have cabinets, or at least a shelf or one drawer. We all need more storage in our lives and a flat table top on two legs doesn't offer much except to house a lamp.

Another option is to carve out a corner for him. I would buy an attractive, not child-size, bookshelf or armoire and place toys on the shelves or hide them behind closed doors. Also, a large buffet in the dining area could house toys if you have room. If you go for a tall bookshelf or armoire don't forget to tether. On the other hand create a real kid space for him. A table and chairs, and colorful bins for toys. Mount the bins on shelves on the wall. You can free up floor space this way.

Also, never be afraid to eliminate toys. My kids always had too many. I try to cull on a regular basis. Too many toys is overwhelming for kids and parents alike.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:57 PM on January 24, 2008

thanks Lori, I'm gonna show these to Mrs.frasermoo. and we here ya.. not afraid to do a toy cull...
posted by Frasermoo at 8:02 PM on January 24, 2008

Also, consider storing some toys out of sight (either in storage as Lori mentions, or tucked up in closets, the garage, etc). Then you can rotate the stock every now and then, so things don't get boring. This also makes it easier to "disappear" things as they get outgrown or drive you totally batshitinsane.

When your son is a teensy bit older, it's good to include him in toy-culling, as part of his philanthropic education. My daughters take a lot of pride in sorting out their toys for donation.
posted by padraigin at 8:07 PM on January 24, 2008

Agree with all of the suggestions above, particularly the toy rotation strategy.

Another option that we've used for our little boy is an Ikea 5x5 Expedit bookshelf with a heap of either their translucent Lekman boxes (these fit the Expedit perfectly) or similarly sized woven boxes. It's his up to whatever height he can reach, and it's easy enough to keep things tidy without too much effort. It doesn't even look too bad!
posted by Cods at 8:26 PM on January 24, 2008

We have a couple main areas for 1yr old mini-true. As LoriFLA mentions above we have a storage ottoman - It's small, but one benefit is that it can flip the top over to function as a snack tray for the baby. I have plans to make additional tops as she gets older - (block sorter, train table, etc).

Her main area is the corner between the couch and side chair - instead of a traditional end table it's where all her living room toys live. She also has a small "staging area" in the kitchen and one in the middle room. Each of them has a small pile of whatever she's been interested in - books, toys, pots, etc. Generally they live in a basket or on the bottom shelf depending on the area, so when she goes to bed we make one 5 minute pass to relocate things to the nearest permanent location. After a while things that she never plays with disappear into a retire or rotate toy box so we don't have too much out at any given time.
posted by true at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2008

What we've done since our first was that age is:

1) get a lot of bins or other toy storage; shelves of bins is what we do
2) sort all the toys by type into bins, culling/rotating toys as you go (all the Lego together, all the people figures together, all the stuffed animals together)
3) train child to clean up his/her own damn toys

We had a very small apartment when we had our first so it was absolutely necessary to keep the toys contained; therefore I established a few rules. One was that I wouldn't read him another book until he put the first book back. Kid brings you book, you read book, kid puts book back on the shelf, kid brings another book, rinse, repeat. Another was that he couldn't pull out more toys until he put the toys he was already playing with back in their bin (and of course when you need to, you help, show them how, and where everything goes). And you continually do sweeps when you change activities. Time for lunch? Clean up. Time for nap? Clean up. I'll sit and color with you but you have to clean up first, etc. Start it when they're walking and before you know it they'll be doing it on their own. Really. Mine don't complain about cleaning up (yet) because it's just part of the routine to them and little kids love routine.

Toddlers really enjoy sorting things and putting them "in their place", so you're actually helping them develop age-appropriate skills while keeping your house clean. Win-win! I have to say it's pretty awesome at the point when you let your almost-3-year-old dump out every single bin of toys and put together a massive living-room-wide "sculpture" out of all of them (hey, it kept him occupied for three hours, no kidding)... and then he cheerfully puts everything back in each appropriate bin when you say it's time to clean up for lunch.
posted by Melinika at 8:58 PM on January 24, 2008

We use something like this which stores tons of smaller toys.

We like it a lot because when she wants to play with her animals, she takes out the animal bin. Wants to play with her learning games, puts animals back in bin, places it back in the shelf and grabs her bin of games. Great for storage and organization. I am sure you can find one cheaper than the one I posted.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:13 PM on January 24, 2008

When I worked at daycare, we had a two shelf bookshelf all along the wall coupled with some big bins. At the end of the day, it was easy for the toddlers, assisted by the adults, to pick things up. We didn't try to keep anything separated, we just crammed them on the shelves and into the bins. In the rooms with babies, the double bookshelf was perfect for toys and for infants to hang on while learning to walk. In rooms for kids over 3, we had them try to keep things separated.

You would think that open shelves with random toys crammed into them would look messy but it never did. Just don't over-stuff them or keep things that are broken.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:00 PM on January 24, 2008

My son is 18 months old, and, despite the size of our house, we face much the same issue.

I bought two large fabric-lined wicker baskets (in size and shape very much like the smaller of the two baskets marked "Laundry" in this photo) which we use for main toy storage. Its just about the right height for him to be able to fish toys out of now that he's standing and walking, and sturdy enough that when he was smaller he could haul himself up on the edge without tipping it over. Ours happen to be sorted into "wooden toys" and "plastic toys" but that's mostly an accident.

The great thing about these baskets are that I can move them around -- into the dining room when I'm making dinner, then toys back in the basket. After dinner, I can pick the basket up and move it back into the living room. I can even take it upstairs with ease if we're putting away laundry and I need him to have his toys handy.

Best of all, the baskets slide away in a corner of the living room when no toys are in use (they hide behind a chair, actually) and no one is really the wiser.

We also got a toddler-size chair and created a little reading nook for him next to a bookcase in one corner. There are also some stuffed toys in there, and good light, and he often goes in there and sits and leafs through books or whatever.
posted by anastasiav at 10:52 PM on January 24, 2008

thanks everyone... all should be marked 'best answer' !
posted by Frasermoo at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2008

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