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From the expert: How to create an organized and engaging playroom

independent play organization play play space playroom Sep 20, 2022

From our resident scholar and playroom consultant Connie Huson

For many families, September means the return to school and busy schedules. It’s also a great opportunity to start new routines at home and reflect on what childhood experiences you want most for your child.

The school/daycare day is very structured; full of noise and activity. It requires your child’s full attention and effort to be on their best behaviour. The day can take a lot out of a kid. (If you see many after-school meltdowns, that’s probably why.) As a kindergarten teacher, my wish for my students at the end of the day was to go home to some quiet, where they could play how they liked and snuggle a loved one.

One of the best ways parents can support their children’s learning, well-being and creativity is by giving them the time, space and materials at home for lots of play. Play is how kids learn, relax, make sense of the world, discover their interests, imagine, practise skills, try out ideas, build their confidence...the list of benefits goes on.

Most kids today are not getting as much free play as they need. An article from the American Journal of Play details not only how much children's playtime has declined but how this lack of play affects emotional development, leading to the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems with attention and self-control. 

The following are some of the top tips I share with my playroom consultation clients for creating organized, engaging playrooms that you can apply to your own home:

Location

Children like to be near their parents, so using the main living space works well for kids to get absorbed in their play while keeping you in view. (Basement playrooms often get used most when a parent hangs out down there at the same time.) Plus, have as much open floor space as possible for building, laying down to play and moving around freely.

Storage and organization

Too many toys and no system for storing them are overwhelming for both parents and kids. Make a plan for where things will go and how to regularly edit the stuff you have. One tip is to keep a box in a closet to fill with outgrown or unused toys that you will donate.

When it comes to storage, store toys and materials in cupboards or shelves your child can reach independently. Use furniture you already have, or add a cube shelf from Ikea or Canadian Tire. Make sure you have a home for each toy so it can be easily found and returned to the same place—this also makes clean-up much faster since there’s no time spent wondering where something should go.

I love to suggest storing toys in themed bins (e.g., animals, musical instruments, blocks, vehicles, dress-up, dolls) that your child can pick up or pull out on their own. Label the bins so everyone knows where to put items if/when the bins get dumped out, and I suggest filling the bins only halfway so it is easy to root through and find a specific toy. Lastly, be sure to keep space between the bins and large toys, so the shelves do not look and feel cluttered.

Types of toys and art materials

Be selective in what types of toys you bring into the home when you can. The best toys for kids can be played with in many ways and require the child’s imagination—and they don’t require batteries! They can be used for many years and encourage a wide range of play and learning areas, like building, pretend play, math, drama and science.

Art materials should be included as part of your play space and easy for your child to see and reach, so they are more likely to be used. A small bin or caddy can hold all the essential supplies, or you could create an art cart to hold more materials.

Scheduling

Be intentional about how your family spends their time: When does your schedule allow for play and creativity to happen, screen time and bonding time? Discuss as a family what type of activities are important to you and how you want to spend time together (and remember to include some time in nature as it is also beneficial for well-being and creativity), but also figure out which invites and activities you might need to decline so you can protect that time. Prioritizing what matters most to your family will ensure a childhood full of beneficial play and family connection for your future big kid to confidently go out into the world on their own.

The next time your child is engaged in play on their own at home, remind yourself of what an excellent parent you are for giving them the time and intentional play space to make that moment happen!

Could you use some help planning, editing or organizing your play space? I would love to help. Learn more about my services and playroom consultations at www.conniehuson.com or email me at [email protected]. See my posts on supporting your child’s learning and creativity at home @connie_huson.

***Special: Save $50 on a Virtual Playroom Consultation (reg. $199) scheduled until October 7th, 2022. Use code: HALO50.***

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