The Playroom Puzzle

March 15, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Giggles, Lollipop | 21 Comments

I said I’d never have a playroom. And now I have one. Kind of.

We got rid of our guest bedroom to accommodate said playroom. The guest bedroom, for me, was about much more than, well, where guests slept. It was a pet-free zone. A kid-free zone. A place to display the lovely, flowery, ribbony things my husband had banished asked me kindly to remove from the rest of the house.

Bonus: In the guest room, I knew these knickknacks would be safe. They would not be drooled on. Lobbed across the tile. Or dunked in the dog water.

Under the couch? 987 more blocks.

Now Entering Disaster Area
Instead of a playroom, we had eight color-coordinated, toy-stuffed cloth baskets and a shelf of books. In our “formal living” area. An area that Lollipop and Giggles formally destroyed. Every day. By dumping out and tromping through all eight boxes of blocks, trucks, cars, animals, balls, jewelry, and the occasional shoe.

What with “clean-up” not yet being a term mastered by the toddlers of the household, Daddy and I spent countless precious post-night-night minutes (hours?) digging blocks out from under the couch, unearthing cars from chair cushions, and duct-taping books back together.

In the name of productivity (and sanity), we decided a few months ago to banish the mess to a playroom. Mommy’s knickknacks packed up: check. New metal shelves bolted to wall: check. Toys categorized neatly in bins: check. Puzzles and magna doodles set out on pint-sized table: check.

Once More, With Feeling
However. My kids do not yet play in the playroom regularly. This is my fault (again).

To me, it looks like a glorified closet. Stuffed with toys. I want it to have personality. To be colorful and inspire joy. To spark imaginations.

I have done some research, as I tend to do. I have consulted fellow Mommy friends. I even ordered the ever-chic (and ever-pricey) Land of Nod catalog for ideas. Still, what I have is a big closet. Not a playroom. Not a place for play.

So we don’t really go in there. Lollipop and Giggles lug two or three things downstairs for a week or two, then swap them out. Every day, I ask myself, why do we have a playroom again?

Good question.

Can you help? How have you made a creative place for play? What do your kids like best? How do you keep it (relatively) organized? How do I solve the playroom puzzle?



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  1. I too, never wanted that room right when you enter the house full of brightly colored plastic. Now, I envy people that have playrooms, or at least the idea that toys might be contained in just one room of the house. We pretty much have them stashed in every free corner of every living space, and scattered all over every floor area. Even though we have a finished basement that is supposed to be a “kid zone.” Truth is, my kids want to be where I am, and I don’t always want to traipse downstairs where it’s chilly, plus I have cooking, laundry and other vital things to do (you know, email and blogs and such) on the main level, so the mess is still pretty much in the kitchen and family room.

    • Yes! It’s the same here. The kiddos want to be where I am and I can’t always be in the playroom. It’s another parenting Catch 22. Arrgh!

  2. I try to keep kid stuff contained to one room on each level. It spreads out of course, but I try. I also like big open bins and buckets so that when I do pick up, things can be scooped up and dumped easily into containers. I’m afraid that I had to let go of the dream of cute and tidy. My children are the opposite of that.

    The good news – my son is 6 and has learned to play by himself away from me for awhile, simplifying life a lot.

  3. Sniffing in memory of our other 2 homes. Both of which were easy to set aside defined toy-free zones. This house is a much more open-floor plan and we don’t have a spare bedroom to designate toys to. Therefore, the toys have managed to reproduce and we now have toys from top to bottom (including the unfinished “toy room” in the unfinished basement that is too scary and cold for anyone to PLAY in). Our first home had a Play Room. It was just off of the kitchen and was the perfect size and location. The kids could see me, but the mess wasn’t within eyesight of the main living space. Ahhhh…. I recommend making a space for YOU in their playroom. A chair, a reading lamp, a small tv, whatever. That way they get used to being in there and MAYBE, someday, you can just leave them there…. šŸ™‚

    Shoot. I’m jealous that you have somewhere to STORE the crap. I mean, Educational Toys that Expand Their Minds….

  4. We are lucky to have a playroom adjoining the kitchen, where I seem to spend every waking minute (harumph), so the kids can be in there and feel like they are with me even if I am doing something else.

    For organization, we have a combination of a few baskets (which I think look messy and I detest), and some plastic cubes with fabric boxes I found at Target. Those are okay; nothing fancy, but they hide everything.

    The thing that makes the playroom, I think, is that we have turned it into a gallery for the girls’ artwork. My older daughter, especially, loves to see her stuff on the walls. We hang some from ribbons with clothes pins and frame and hang the best pieces.

    We didn’t have a playroom in our last place and it was nuts. Toys were in every room of the house. Now, we have more toy-free rooms than not, which makes me feel like I get some living space, too.

  5. Our house always looks like a bomb went off. I totally fail at organizing. At this point, I just wait until the kiddos go to sleep, then I pick it all up:P

  6. Ah, this is a universal dilemma. I know all about “formal destruction.” My friends sans kiddos come over sometimes and see the vast mountains of toys in my living room (fondly referred to by us as “rainbow vomit”) and I think they are petrified of what might befall them in the future. I have no words of wisdom here. Just a nod of recognition!

    • Rainbow vomit! I love it and I hate it all at the same time. Such an apt metaphor.

  7. Unfortunately, our living room is our playroom. I didn’t want this to happen, but for Bub’s second birthday my parents bought him a train table that he LOVES. The only room where it fits is the living room so that has become the “play room” and all of the other toys are stored under, or near the table. It’s conveniently located in that I can see it from the kitchen, but there’s no TV in there, so he does actually play without distraction. Once he’s old enough to play by himself in his room I have every intention of moving his toys there. Until now, it’s Gymboree chic in here.

  8. Er, I mean until THEN…

  9. No matter what enticing decor I set up, my daughter had no interest in her playroom until she was about six. Until then, the playroom was wherever I was!

  10. We need a playroom for the kids. I keep thinking once the office or the basement get really cleaned out, we can do this. Hasn’t happened yet. We pretty much have the setup you described with the toys in the family room. At least my children are now of an age that cleaning up can be part of the night time routine.

  11. Ah toys. Play room. TOYS! Ah! It’s a mess. It’s a nightmare. It won’t ever stop, no matter what we do. We have toys on all three levels of our house. With IKEA organizational storage and bins, shelves, bookcases, the works. We’ve moved the toys from the living room into the dining room and made a playroom out of it. But it’s still on the main floor and super-accessible to the kids. My thought is that if this playroom is on another floor you are going to have to hang out upstairs a lot unless you want to go up and down the stairs nonstop.

    There comes a time when the kids can be expected to hang out more alone (and NOT kill each other). But I haven’t found it’s come for us yet. There are small spurts of play, but they really just like to scatter the toys through the whole house. Sigh.

    It HAS helped ME to get the toys out of the living room, though. At least the TOY STORAGE. It has made me feel like more of an adult and less of a daycare provider. Out of sight out of mind, right?

  12. We have a sun room in the back that functions as a playroom and half of our (small) basement is devoted to toys as well. Yet, the stuff still ends up everywhere. Basically, I have no answers, just the hope that one day my children will be able to play unattended and clean up after themselves too!

  13. We have a playroom and it’s a freaking STY. If you can figure out how to keep it clean/organized, send me the memo! šŸ™‚

  14. Our living room used to be the play room. Our house is 800 square feet, so you can imagine the chaos. We recently moved all the toys into the kids’ room except one bookshelf, a play kitchen and my son’s desk. (Big items that can’t devolve into 853 blocks under the couch).
    That said, of course they bring many, many toys out of the playroom and into the livingroom/kitchen/dining room (where I am). But it’s cool; everything has a place and usually returns by the end of the day. If they have friends over they’ll all congregate in the playroom and trash it (but keeping mess confined to one room is surprisingly unbothersome). I can see if your playroom is on a different floor than you’re on, that could be a problem.

  15. I’m with most of the commenters here: longing for organization, resigned to (mildly controlled) chaos. We have a sun-room off of the kitchen where many of the toys are, but my little guys and their little things migrate out of it and colonize every free surface throughout the first floor. (We’re potty training now so even our bathroom has toys in it now. Eek!) I have gotten better about just letting it go, trying not to pick up as they play, but it’s hard not to look at those Pottery Barn (and, yes, even Land of Nod) catalogs wishing for a bit more serenity.

  16. I’m a big believer in playrooms. And we have one. And lucky for me, I have a sweet, mildly OCD boy who keeps it very, very tidy. (And no, he can’t come live with you!)

  17. We have a playroom. With three kids ages five and younger, we found it to be a necessity. Though they are getting old enough to start to help clean-up, it’s a constant thorn in my side. Luckily, it’s located off of the kitchen in a low traffic area and I don’t really even have to look at it too much…Thank God. It often spikes my Type A blood pressure higher than I care to admit…

  18. Toy free zone? Ha! What’s that?? I keep trying different organizational tactics. Different bins. Different cupboards. Different rooms. Nind of it works for me because in the end. Where I am, the kids want to be and where the kids are, the toys need to be. So in the end, every room, has a corner full of toys. And it all makes me nuts. I just keep telling myself, one day, I’ll miss all the toys around. I’ll miss having my kids under my feet. So I’ll just deal for now with the rainbow vomit and chaos everywhere!!

  19. We have a play room upstairs which does get used but like so many people find, you still end up with effectively two play rooms as you still need toys downstairs so that when you are in the kitchen etc they can play too. The bottom two shelves and all the floor space in my pantry are filled with my daughter’s toys and this is where we put them all in the evenings so that our living space is de-cluttered. For the playroom “proper” upstairs we bought some plain cheap but very sturdy Ikea bookcases which my husband put together, painted to match the room and then varnished. We turned them sideways and bought some Ikea straw baskets and filled the bookcases with those – they make great toy depositaries and cannot be pulled over. Also those colorful play mats you buy in sets of four (Lowes etc) and link together are great – no worries then about your carpet or floor getting destroyed, paint, play doh etc just wipes right off.

    I saw your comments on Mom-101 and followed you here – great blog!

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