A little over a year ago we moved across the country. Then we spent 6 months in temporary housing. Once we finally found a house, we moved again. It was a really long year! One of the reasons we fell in love with our current home is that it has a bonus room right off the living/kitchen area. It is a smaller bonus room than the ones you sometimes see on the second level of some homes or a basement recreation room, but I thought it would be perfect for a family playroom that would grow with our son. My goal was to create a space that would be functional for play, homework, and hanging out with friends.
Looking for a play area for your baby that will fit right in your living room? Check out this post.
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How to Create a Playroom That will Grow With Your Child
1. Invest in toys that will grow with your child.
Think about your child’s interests — which toys or activities will they love for years to come? My son was three when I designed this space. He loves “going things” and building things. We’ve focused birthdays and holiday presents on building his train collection and various building materials. Keeping this in mind, I designed the space to accommodate the train table. The older he gets (he is now just turned 4) the more he designs the tracks himself. I imagine that track design will hold his interest for a few years more. I made sure the extra tracks and trains are easily accessible and interchangeable. (Don’t miss the train wall organizer my post on Playroom Organization).
For his interest in building, I wanted to store bricks and blocks in a way that would be easy to organize and easy to find even those tiny pieces. The IKEA TROFAST toy storage units work great for this. Now those drawers hold bricks, blocks, cars, trucks and other things. But as he grows, I imagine it will be taken over by school supplies, Legos, science kits, rock collections, model planes and Erector sets.
2. Create a workspace.
We attached the IKEA LINNMON table top to two of the IKEA TROFAST storage units to create a desk space (thanks to my Husband who is Swedish and grew up building Ikea furniture, it’s like second nature to him!). For extra storage, we attached two of the narrow TROFAST units with shelves on either end.
In his preschool years, he is using this space for art projects, Lego projects, building cities, playdough, kinetic sand, puzzles, and so on. As he grows I imagine more complicated Lego and Art projects as well as homework happening at this desk. Right now the desk is about 22″ high, which is really about right for the average 1st-grader and it works well with this chair.
It works for my son now (who is tall for his age), but I also think he has some room to grow into it. As he grows, I have two plans to raise the height of the desk. The first is to build sturdy square legs and attach them to the bottom of the Trofast. The second is to eventually purchase the matching legs for the tabletop to make a desk as well as a desk chair. We would move the TROFAST to one side of the desk for storage.
The LINNMON table top is easy to clean also. In a few of these pictures you may see some crayon marks. There has been much worse on this table and a magic eraser has taken it all right off! All of the components of this workspace are anchored. The desktop is attached to the two bottom TROFAST units with brackets and screws and the TROFAST units themselves are all anchored to the wall. It is very sturdy. I have attached some images at the end of this post showing how the units are secured.I have attached some images at the end of this post showing how the units are secured.
I also love having a bright paint color and a colorful rug to anchor the room. This (aff link) rug is an indoor/outdoor rug, which I recommend for playrooms because they wear well and are easy to clean. Also, when it’s colorful like this you don’t notice the dried playdough as much!
3. Create Play Areas that will Keep your Child Engaged for Years to Come
Dramatic Pretend Play Areas. This is a type of play that will last until about the age of 11 (1) and is well known to promote language and social development (2). We have a (aff link) play kitchen and a dress up area. The kitchen has pots and food, keys, an apron, one of our old cell phones and a (aff link) cash register. Most of the dress up stuff are homemade items or Halloween costumes. As our son grows I am sure the pretend play props will evolve as well. Click here for my tips on encouraging creative and independent play.
Blocks and Building Materials. Simple blocks provide another avenue of imaginative learning which includes problem-solving skills, practicing physics and divergent thinking (3). We have several kinds of blocks, but my son’s favorites are (aff link) Duplo and at age 4 he is starting to also love (aff link) Lego. I imagine those TROFAST drawers will hold different kinds of building sets as my son grows. (I show more about organization in these drawers in my post on playroom organization).
Nature Area. This is a way of connecting outdoor play to indoor play. Playing outside is absolutely essential throughout childhood and I’m excited to share some of our outdoor play areas in other posts. In our playroom, we have a plant which my son chose himself (and named spidey as it’s a spider plant). The weatherboard I made from a piece of felt. He has a little watering can he uses to care for spidey.
We also have a tray we use to put leaves, rocks, seed pods and other things my son picks up on nature walks. I have a (aff link) field pocket guide to animals and creatures in our geographical area that we keep in his nature journal. After our walks, we identify some of the things we saw and I print out coloring pages of that animal or plant for his nature journal. As he grows I imagine the nature journal will include written entries and perhaps sketches.
Art and Music. We have a few instruments in one of the Trofast drawers that are appropriate for his age. Maybe when he’s older a guitar or some other instrument will have a home in this room. We will have to wait and see where his interests take us. I keep our art supplies in a closet just off the playroom in easy to carry bins, (aff links) caddies, and trays. We also have this art paper holder which I love– easy to get just the size paper you want. Art and music are timeless and will easily grow with your child.
Places to Hang Out. Originally we had two places adults can sit comfortably, a chair and a pouf. The pouf is great because I move it over to the desk for art projects and to the train table for playtime– anywhere I need it.
We have now replaced the big chair with a hammock swing similar to (aff link) this one. This is a great place to let off a little steam and is especially great for highly-spirited kids, kids with sensory issues, or any kids who find swingng relaxing. It has become a place where my son self-regulates and resets often!
After having moved twice in a year it is so great to start feeling settled in our home. Now if only I could come up with a clever solution for my office space…that will have to be the next project!
Update: I’ve had a few questions on how we attached the Trofast units. I’m attaching a picture of the back side of the units. The units are secured on both sides with a metal plate like this and the bottom units are secure to the wall. The second picture is how we secured the table top to the bottom shelves.
The rug is from target- update- no longer available at target. It is available from time to time on Amazon. I included the link above.
The paint color is Sherwin Williams Watery (SW 6478)