Play is such an important part of a child's early life and by ensuring they have access to a variety of play spaces they feel comfortable to explore each day, i believe they will get the most out of their time with you at home. You don't need fancy, just some small spaces!
Setting up play areas for my girls is something i really enjoy...perhaps a legacy from my days working in childcare! Unfortunately, i am also a bit of a perfectionist and love a tidy home, but this had to be revisited a little when the twins came along!
To me it is more important that the girls have lots of little spaces to explore and areas to play and be inquisitive toddlers rather than worrying about a messy house all day...this has taken some work on my part though (did i mention i am a bit of a perfectionist!)
We don't have the space for a separate playroom as we chose to give the toddler twosome their own room each instead as they are such different sleepers and this decision has made life a lot easier for everyone!
So what do you do without a playroom? We are lucky to have a large lounge area which has really become the girls playroom during the day and i have everything organised so we can all pack away at the end of the day and it becomes a family space again at night.
The key though is organisation...everything needs a place and this way the girls have learnt to help pack up or choose what they want to play with. Toddlers love to help tidy and if you give them the right tools they will often suprise you with how helpful they can be!
We decided to utilise a cube storage system with baskets to store the majority of their playthings. We have separate baskets for blocks, farm animals, wooden playthings, balls, little people, fine motor toys, dressups, our toddler band toys, different balls, dolly props and many others.You don't have to be that specific about it..use a system that works for you. I like to group things together but you may like to make mixed boxes, there are no rules!
The shelves are used for larger toys and items of interest for the week (often the latest find from the op shop!) and the girls choose what they would like to take from the lower shelves...i rotate each week and then put some things away in their bedrooms so i can bring them out in a few weeks time as a 'long lost friend!' I always have board books located on the lower shelves as well as in baskets in a 'quiet area' as the toddler twosome love to read and have their own favourites they like to choose for themselves! Most of the puzzles, felt stories/puppets and a basket of craft items are left on the top shelf for me to access when needed. I keep the rest of their craft items, paper etc in another room in a drawer system.
As well as being able to choose from toys on the lower shelves i like to set up quiet areas where the girls can go to be on their own, have some space, read a story or just 'hide' with a favourite toy...i have found this area most important with twins as they do like to retreat from the other at times!
I include lots of cushions, baskets of books, the feltboard sometimes, soft blankets and favourite chairs....i move this area around every few weeks.....sometimes it even ends up under the change table! I encourage you to look around and see where you could fit a few cushions and a blanket...somewhere a little away from your main play space if possible. Even in a small lounge or dining area there is usually room for a little spot just perfect for a toddler retreat!You might have fun lying down and reading a story there too!
On the other side of the room i have set up a mini kitchen area with the kitchen cabinet, dolls (note the box cot...it's homemade favourite!) and a little child sized table and chairs which we were fortunate to find at a garage sale for a small price. A little mending and it is as good as new!With some foam mats and plastic spread underneath it also doubles as a playdough/ indoor craft area!
The toddler twosome are only just entering the imaginative play stage so the dolls and their box of props are really a new addition to the area...i'm sure it will grow in time though if they are anything like their teenage sister was with her dolls!
I usually set this table up differently each afternnoon so that when they get up from a nap there might be a tea party to enjoy, a dolly to bath and wrap, some playdough, a few puzzles, some drawing or a basic indoor craft activity. It is one of the first areas they rush to!
No matter how small the area in your house you can usually turn it into a fun spot during the day. This area is near our front door entry and is kept clear when everyone is home...but during the day i like to set up a few little baskets and toys for the girls to discover...it's another area they can escape to and yet i can still see them!
This wicker toy basket usually becomes a story seat or bed for the dolls!
The middle of the lounge area has a large mat and we mainly use this space to play with wooden blocks, cars, dress ups etc....the other day it was home to an obstacle course...
I set up the areas before the girls get up in the morning and then we pack up before our middle of the day nap....i then set up a few different things for afternoon play. We do spend time outside morning and afternoon to so that adds to our play area!
Before bed the area is packed up as best we can and the mat area is again free for family time. For the time being our lounge chairs are pushed back to the edges of the room to leave as much play space available as possible. Of course the toddler twosome are by no means limited to play in these areas...toys and play cross over to the different areas which is how it should be...but the areas are a starting base to build from!
Everyone has a different way of organising the spaces within their home....for me it is important to provide a quiet area, a messy area for craft and imaginative play, a free play space , nooks and crannies for discovery and a system for storing play things so that the toddler twosome feel confident in helping to pack up and arrange their play items.They need to know where things are and how they can access them to build their independance, creativity and individuality.
As adults we like to organise the spaces with live and work in...it's only fair to give a toddler the same opportunity...you don't need a fancy room for that...just some patience, a little organisation....and imagination!
Where is your favourite play area? Perhaps cast a fresh eye over your living area and see what you can create!!