25 In All About Your Child's Development/ Kid Spaces

How to Create A Playroom

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.

Tips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget-- everything is from Ikea and Target! Ikea hacks!

This post contains Amazon referral links. See my Policies for details. 

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 things, 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.

Tips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget-- everything is from Ikea and Target! Ikea hacks!

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

Imaginary & Pretend Play. This type of play will last until about the age of 11 (1) and is well known to promote language and social development (2). This area of the playroom has evolved over the past few years. We started with a play kitchen and dress up hooks. We still have the hooks, but now they have superhero capes and the kitchen was replaced with this gorgeous Teepee. This, by far, the one thing my son plays with the most and it gets the most use on playdates. Santa brought a Teepee for Christmas when my son was 5. Then later I was sent this one pictured below to review (all opinions are my own). This one replaced our other one as the favorite — because of the windows! The windows add so much potential for play. And they have sturdy, one-piece wooden dowels that hold up to all kinds of play. Teepee Joy is a family run company, I receive a small commission if you purchase through this LINK and you will also get  through that link you will also get $20 off!

Click here for my tips on encouraging creative and independent play.


How to Create a Playroom Teepee

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).

I love the storage in this playroom. So many good ideas on how to create a great play area! Ikea hacks!

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.

I love the idea of having a nature area in the playroom! Great tips on how to create a playroom that will grow with your child. Ikea Hacks!


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.

Tips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget-- everything is from Ikea and Target! Ikea hacks!

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.

A place to hang out. Great tips on how to create a playroom that grows with your child. Ikea hacks!

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 swinging relaxing. It has become a place where my son self-regulates and resets often!

How to Create a Playroom that will Grow with Your child

We have this attached with a weight-bearing carabiner so we can take it down whenever we need more floor space. How to Create A Playroom

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!

Happy Playing!

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 secured to the wall. The second picture is how we secured the table top to the bottom shelves.

Tips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget-- everything is from Ikea and Target! #IkeahacksTips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget-- everything is from Ikea and Target! #Ikeahacks









Decor Notes:

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)

Tips from a child psychologist on creating a playroom that will grow with your child. She also discusses essential play areas all playrooms should have. All on a budget! Ikea hacks!

1. Smith, E. D., & Lillard, A. S. (2012). Play on: Retrospective reports of the persistence of pretend play into middle childhood. Journal of Cognition and Development, 13(4), 524-549.
2. Lillard, A. S., Lerner, M. D., Hopkins, E. J., Dore, R. A., Smith, E. D., & Palmquist, C. M. (2013). The impact of pretend play on children’s development: A review of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1.
3. Behold the Humble Block! Tools of the Trade. Retrieved from NPR

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  • Janine Halloran
    June 18, 2015 at 9:58 am

    What an awesome playroom, it makes me want to hang out and play too! The nature area is awesome, you’ve inspired me to set one up at our house too!

  • Danielle Reeves
    June 20, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    So great! As much as I love remodeling, I’d love it if their rooms grew with them longer 😀

  • Veronika | Tickled Pink Confetti
    July 19, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I agree with every point. It is really important that a child’s space grows up with her and that she loves spending her time there. There is another this that should work for me, too. I have to like the way it looks. 😛 Your play room is beautiful. I love it that your son’s desk actually faces the window and he could look at the garden while he works. I wish I have a window that is low enough for this. Thank you for sharing 😀

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      July 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you Veronika. I do love that window, it is one of the reasons I fell in love with this house. I’ve always liked having desks facing windows when possible, I think it’s good for the mind.

  • Jessica
    August 21, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Where did you get the train table with storage?

  • Candace
    November 12, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Hi Ashley!

    Love this!! Did you use the glossy white or plain white linnmon table top?

    Also, how did you secure the two tall narrow trofast units?


    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      November 12, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Hi Candace,

      Thank you! We used the plain white Linnmon table top which has a little light texture to it but is easy to clean. If you are using it for kids I don’t recommend the glossy finish, I think fingerprints show up too easily. I added a picture to the post above of how the Trofast units are attached.

      • Stephanie E Hanson
        February 6, 2016 at 9:20 pm

        Hi Ashley,

        Love this! I think we’re going to do the exact same thing in a playroom for our son. Did you secure your table top to the shelves at all? Thanks!

        • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
          February 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

          Hi Stephanie!

          Thank you. If you do a version of it in your playroom I would love to see a pic– you can come back here to the comments and post it. We did secure the tabletop to the shelves and I would recommend that you do that so it is sturdy. We used a small L bracket. I added a picture of this above in the post.

  • Debra Richardson
    January 1, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Ashley, what a great read! I’ve been working on slow updates to my son’s playroom so I’m glad I caught this post before I made too many age-restricted changes.

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  • Alex Hestilow
    July 27, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Hi, Are yo able to tell me what the length of that wall is where you have the awesome storage?

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      July 27, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Hi Alex, It is 9 feet and 9 inches — but you could do it in a smaller space if you got a smaller version of the shelves.

  • Joy
    August 8, 2016 at 11:18 am

    What is the length of the tabletop that you used?

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      August 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Joy, It’s the 78 3/4 inch Limmon table top. Hope that helps!

  • Hillary
    August 28, 2016 at 7:55 am

    What a fantastic room. I am hoping to recreate some of these same pieces in our basement playroom for our almost 16 month old. What size rug is that for reference? Thanks so much!

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      August 28, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Thank you Hillary! The rug is 6’7″ X 9’6.” I love this rug, it is soft, yet so easy to clean. It looks brand new and it’s about 2 years old now. http://amzn.to/2buMbbq

      Good luck creating your basement playroom, come back and share a photo when you’re done!

  • Hillary
    September 5, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Thanks for the response! We purchased the trofast units this weekend and the countertop to make the little area too but did you cut it down to be the same width. There’s an overhang and wasn’t sure if that’s how it’s meant to be set up. Wasn’t sure if that’s secure having the lip hanging over. Thanks so much!

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      September 6, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Hi! I know what you mean — we did not cut the tabletop down. We have it somewhat centered so that there is a bit more of the overhang in the back and a less in the front. Are you flush against a wall? Our overhang is in the windowsill area. My sister built this as well and they built wooden stands to fit under the tall bookcases to give some more space on top of the bottom trofast– again with most of the overhang behind. She just finished hers and I will post some photos of her space too. You could cut it if needed on the back side and then you wouldn’t have any overhang.

      Good luck!

  • michelle hiser
    September 24, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    I can’t seem to click on the link where you talk about seating for parents or hang out chairs, can you repost this link?

    • Ashley Soderlund Ph.D.
      September 25, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      Good call! Yep, those items were no longer available. We actually no longer have that big chair in our playroom. We replaced it with a hammock swing. I updated the links above– hope that gives you some ideas!

  • James S. Bowman
    December 19, 2016 at 9:20 am

    This is so cute!!! I love that mini kitchen very much! I guess I will make one for my nephew. He will love this very much!

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