This post was first published on MakChic.com.
Play is an important part of a child’s development.
Carving out a space in your house to create a designated play area not only helps organise toys, books and keep the clutter off your floor, but also creates a space that allows your child to tap into his or her energy, creativity and imagination.
While outdoor fun offers its set of benefits, a playroom is an urban solution for rainy or hazy days, and can even host play dates.
Where should I create my child’s play area?
Integrate the play area into the main living room, or create an open plan area rather than an enclosed one. You must be able to supervise your child in the play area from other areas of the house. Remember, when your child is too quiet, he or she may be up to some mischief!
Separate the play area from the bedroom as the bedroom should be a clear zone for sleep. Avoid mixing both sleep and play areas to establish good sleeping habits.
Don’t worry about creating a mess in your living room. Including storage in your play area can have the opposite effect of de-cluttering!
How do I start designing the area?
Objective & Theme: Identify the purpose or common theme of each station in the play area – this will guide you in setting up. For instance, do you want to organise the toys, or create a conducive place for your child to work on his puzzle? Would you want a rainbow theme or a neutral look to blend with existing furniture?
Mat to define the space: A soft mat brightens up the area and most importantly, offers protection for your little one.
Lighting: The play area should be bright and sunny!
Storage: Having storage space for the toys allow your child to return items to their respective homes.
Tables & Chairs: Playing with toys on the floor is great for infants, but child-sized table and chairs are more ergonomic for toddlers. It becomes your child’s workstation, and it’s also less backbreaking for parents to sit at the table and partake in the activity. My children love Lego so I create a Lego ‘work-station’ to facilitate their play.
Reading areas: Consider a shelf where book covers are displayed outwards. Children are visually stimulated and are more likely to grab a book to read this way. We tend to read before bedtime, so I position the bookshelf near the bedroom.
Wall of pride: If your child has started attending school or even art classes, consider setting up a display wall. It shows you value their work and inspires them to take pride in their future pieces of work. This can be set up easily with some 3M hooks, strings and paper clips!
What kind of toys should I get?
This depends on your child’s age group but this doesn’t mean you should be restricted by the age suggestion on the box. Invest in toys that can withstand the test of time (and your child).
Babies: blocks, rattles, musical instruments, or create your own play equipment that allows sensorial exploration. Accept that your baby likes to place items in her mouth and avoid small choking hazards.
Toddlers and beyond: I’m a firm believer of learning through play and early years stimulation so I tend to gravitate towards educational toys such as pretend toys (kitchen play, dress up etc), puzzles, IQ teasers, Lego, and sensorial play like sand or Play Doh, art and blocks.
Toys can be expensive, but who says play should be limited to toys? Get the real apparatus at a fraction of the price.
When will my child play by herself?
The play area you painstakingly put together will not be a silver bullet to restoring your pre-child me-time. Few children can play independently from a very young age, but most children are sociable and desire someone to interact with. This is normal.
Parents frequently tell me that their child gets tired with a toy after 5 minutes. You can stretch that when you sit down with your child and prompt them along. Offer some guidance but allow room for your child’s interpretation.
How do I organise and keep my child’s toys neat?
Design your playroom seating keeping in mind the reach of your kids
Do sanitise your toys at least once a week
Books are best displayed with covers facing outwards
Chart organisers with transparent holders are excellent for storing small knickknacks.
How do I make the play area safe for my child?
Ideally, the play area should be away from a staircase. If there is one, make sure there is a gate at the bottom and top of the stairs to prevent any mishaps. All windows should be out of the reach of baby, and cords on blinds shouldn’t be dangling to prevent any possibilities of accidental strangulation. Cover sockets and ensure that heavy but moveable furniture are secured to the wall or fixed on spot with blu tack.
Change things up every couple of months to rejuvenate your child’s interest and accommodate your growing child’s preferences and needs.
Have fun creating this dedicated space of fun!