The playroom is finished! (For now :D)
Here are the before pictures:
Here are my dream goals for this room:
Focus on the level play my kids are at right now, but make it comfortable for all ages, including us parents.
Use fun, bright colors.
Set up a system that is easy for the kids to maintain and clean up after themselves.
Leave plenty of open space for free play.
Here is my to-do list:
New ceiling fan / overhead lighting
Stage with microphone
Play kitchen / art supply storage under kitchen window (think inside refurbished entertainment center from craigslist)
First up was the folding table. Cadence had been saving her money from Christmas and Birthdays to get a 'special table just my size', and was very excited to go to the store and spend her money.
We found a glider at Aldi for less than $50, that has turned out to be quite comfortable. I was not spending a lot of money on anything, and fully expected to have to make pillows/cushion myself. Then we found these in a little kiosk at Wal-Mart for less than $5. Hmmmm.... $5 for fabric, plus time and effort, plus waiting till I unpack my sewing machine? I think not. So we have "circle and stripes!" pillows in our play room. I love them!
Next I ordered cubby shelves from Target. Did you know, if you have a Target debit card, you get 5% off everything, in store and online, with free shipping on everything, even heavy shelves, plus their online prices are the same as in store??!! Ok, commercial over.
We happened across the awesome (sturdy! light enough for babies!) buckets at the dollar store, as well as the oversize tote bags. I was determined to have only bright, primary type colors in this room, and these were perfect!
I thought I would have to wait to buy a bench for the door. I wanted something low enough for the kids to sit on to take off muddy shoes, and the extra set of cubby shelves was too high. Then I started unpacking upstairs, and guess what? The previous owners left this shelf in the closet up there! Yay! It was either free, or the most expensive shelf in the world... I choose to look at it as free.
I wanted to display the kids artwork in here. I bought frames (dollar store again!) and painted them bright colors, then put the kid's paintings in there. We will add to this gradually, and maybe put the clock over here.
James had to do his first fingerpainting so he could have some art in here, but Cadence had painted some pictures for the new house before we ever moved. James is in the blue frame, Cadence in the others.
These hooks are working great. I got them to hang the tote bags from, and they have held up to Cadence and James tugging at them to get them down. They stick to glass, metal, and the fridge, but did not stick to the roughly painted walls or the brick.
We have spent so much time in here - most of our days actually. It has been so fun to have a playroom (something I thought I would probably never have)... like a dream come true :)
Read on to see how we've kept toys nice and neat in the past and plan to do it again now... it's a system that works well for us, and keeps us OCD parents from feeling overwhelmed all the time!
1. This step is most important. Do Not Skip This Step! Get rid of most of the toys in your play space. This doesn't mean you can't have a lot of toys, it means most of your toys are not out all the time. We have three sets, and trade them out as the kids get bored. This limits the amount of mess that can be made in the first place, and keeps kids from getting ho-hum about their toys.
2. Set up a system that is easy for kids to maintain. Toy boxes and other large storages are not easy for kids to maintain. You can't see all the toys easily, so kids dump the whole thing out to get the one toy they want from the bottom. Of course they're not going to stop and pick up all the extra toys before the start playing with the one they want.
The same thing can happen with small things like our buckets. Those buckets? They're not full to the brim of various assortments of toys. They each have a different 'set' of toys - one for little people, one for cars, one for baby doll stuff - and the kids know they can only have one bucket down at a time. One bucket is even empty, since Cadence likes to 'pack my suticase to go to Tulsa.'
Keep age appropriate toys eye-level and easy to spot. This way the desired toy does not require digging, and is equally easy to put away. All of James' toys are on the bottom shelves, all of Cadence's are on the top.
They know the rules - one toy / set of toys out at a time, clean it up before you reach for the next. Since everything is easy to reach, and since clean-up really just means shove it back on the shelf or in a bucket somewhere, this is manageble for them.
3. Play with your kids while you train them to clean up as they go. This can be the hardest part for a lot of people I think. I know it is for me. "They're playing so nicely, this is my chance to get something else done! I'll just clean up the mess when they're done rather than go in there and help them remember to do it as they go." Except, this leaves a huge overwhelming mess at the end of the day, which doesn't ever get cleaned up, the kids can't even really enjoy their toys because they are stepping on them instead of playing with them, and so they fuss and need you more because they can't play. Downward spiral. I know from experience!
It is more fun in the short term to play with your kids instead of putting them off to get other things done, and it is more rewarding in the long run because your constant vigilance and direction for the first little bit - even if it is just a few minutes at the start of each day - reminds them to clean up as they go.
No, I am not saying you must be hovering every moment your child is playing. No, I am not saying you should constantly interrupt your child to harp at them to clean up. Just go in there and be with them while they play for a while. If you notice they are abandoning toys everywhere, say something like "Oops, there are more toys out than you are playing with. Let's clean up so you don't step on them." And help them quickly chunk the ones they aren't using back on the shelf. Trust me, even a two-year-old can keep their toys neat if you make it easy enough!
Then, after they've learned how to do it, you won't have to work half as hard. So while it takes more effort at the beginning of the training process, it is well worth it, because your kids' play will be self-cleaning :D
Disclaimer: Kids will be kids. This doesn't mean your playspace will always be spotless. And frankly, some days kids need a break. Some days, I clean up for them. Some days, it doesn't get cleaned up at all. But most days, this works for us. Most days, the kids clean up after themselves - and don't even really notice they are doing it.