Monday, February 28, 2011

Creative spaces for toddlers

Over Christmas L learned both how to walk and how to climb up onto chairs.

Then over New Years I made a resolution to declutter our house.

Putting those things together, I realised it was time to declutter and reorganise L's play area in the lounge so it would better suit her new-found abilities.

When we moved to Wellington I dedicated the bay window area in our lounge to L. It's perfect because it's out of the way, and at night time I can pull the curtain in front of it to hide her toys out of sight.

Before my New Year's zeal took over, L had a playmat on the floor, a basket for her toys and a stack of books. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of it, so I can't do an awesome "before and after" spread for you. But you can see the "after" at least.

Now Lily has a little table and chairs, a bookshelf for books and stackable toys, and a toy basket full of toys she loves.

The process
First I went through all her toys and boxed up those she doesn't use any more. I'll bring them out again when bubba two arrives (in about three months).

Then I rearranged the space so it would be more user friendly for her and easier to keep tidy for me. I bought two small wooden chairs at our church fair a couple of weeks back and matched these with a square coffee table we already had. Voila, a new space for L to do puzzles, read stories, draw, roll out play doh or have fun in whatever way takes her fancy.

Note: I keep most of L's puzzles and all her drawing gear on a shelf in her bedroom out of reach. I only bring them out when I can supervise her.

The chairs are a tad too high for her and the table, so we're going to cut about an inch off the bottom of them. It will happen; We just need some kind of cutting device to do it with. *Update: It happened! We bought a saw and hubby sawed the ends off both the chairs. Now they're the perfect height and we've kept the little bits of wood he cut off as blocks for L to play with.

On the other side of L's play area I've put a small bookshelf (cleared out from our bathroom when I decluttered it) and her basket of toys. On top of the bookshelf is a shallow basket for all her musical instruments.

I got the funky giraffe xylophone at our church fair too, for a dollar. Bargain! It didn't come with a hitty stick (what are they called?), so we're using old formula scoops instead. Her music box also contains a couple of shakers I made with plastic bottles, other shakers she's been given, bells and two coconut husks to use as drums.

On the top shelf of her bookshelf you can see a stack of takeaway containers. Four of these contain homemade play doh I also got at the church fair.

I already had a whole lot of stencil cutters I bought years ago for baking, so I chose a few big ones for L in the shapes she's been learning about and bagged them up with a cute wooden rolling pin I got from a children's' store. She brings her play doh and stencils to me several times a day to open up for her. I'd say they're a hit.

The other three containers hold natural items we've been collecting. I wrote a while back that I had been inspired by this post about Waldorf-inspired real play. I've kept that in mind and tried to buy toys made of natural materials like wood. I've also recently started collecting things from nature for L to feel and play with.

We've got a box of river stones, a box of drift-wood sticks and a box of sea shells, stones and sea-glass we collected at a recent beach outing. L especially loves the last box, possibly because it has more variety in it, or possibly because she was with me when we collected its contents. She likes to empty things out, sort them, show them to mummy and daddy, and put them back in their box.

Her toy box contains various puzzles and toys to develop her coordination, eg. a Tupperware shapo, a stacking ring, a pound-a-peg, a wooden train set, a wooden trolley, etc.

She's also got a couple of colourful scarves and a handbag in there for dress-ups, and some puppets.

One last toy is an old formula tin full of magnetic objects like numbers. The tin serves two purposes - it stores the magnets when L's not playing with them, and it gives her something to stick the magnets to when she is playing with them.

I'm so happy with how this play area has turned out. My goal now is to try and get L to put various toys away before pulling new ones out. 

For example, if she's playing with play doh, but wants to do a puzzle, I first get her to help me pack up all her play doh things. It works if I'm there supervising, but if she's free playing, the lounge soon looks like it's been hit by a tornado.

Other creative spaces
In case you didn't see it the first time round I posted it, here's what I've done with the bay window area in L's bedroom. It's a teepee hut for her to play in, made with sarongs.


  1. Love the creative spaces idea! I have 10 children, 4 or whom are 5 and under and we could really use this! Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  2. Wow! 10 children. I think I should be taking pointers from you!


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