This old house of ours has a few sweet nooks and crannies. One of the big selling points for me was the little porch-turned-sunroom just off the kitchen with a door to the backyard. It was a big selling point, though the space is not big at all — just shy of 7 feet by 9 feet. The previous owner used it as an additional eating area (the two photos to follow are of my initial walk-thru of the house), which is a sweet idea, but when I saw it, I immediately thought, “what a fun little playroom this could be.”
Before Playroom 1
Before Playroom 2
When we moved in, this room was painted a very light shady of buttery yellow, and, it being a small doable space, it was the first room we painted our own shade of sunshine — a much stronger, orangey yellow — Benjamin Moore’s aptly titled color, “American Cheese.”
We moved Orlis’ toys in there, along with some other furniture, and the room became a bit hodge podge. For some reason, I was reluctant to let go of a few old pieces of furniture — a dish cupboard and a vintage table with chairs, which made the room, in theory, multi-functional, but in reality, not really functional at all. This embarrassing photo, for example, shows how inaccessible all of the art supplies were to little Orlis.
The 2nd Before, Playroom
I needed to be honest with myself and do the hard work of letting go. Enter: the wonderful online Playful Learning class I’ve been taking this summer that I blogged about a few weeks ago in reference to our new living room Science Station. The genius of this class is that, in regards to setting up useful play spaces for children, where there’s a “problem” the teacher helps you see possibility. And boy does the class help you appreciate small spaces. With the exception of purchasing a few little Ikea shelving pieces, most of what I used to transform this room I already had laying around the house. I learned that all I really needed to do was group things together, label them, and get them down at eye level. That is, 2-foot eye level. I started to see that once I paired things down, got simple materials organized together, and made them accessible to Orlis, he would be able to play more independently.
A bit of shelving, a few hooks, hammer, and nails, several unmatched baskets, and an hour or two of pulling it all together, and here it is.
So, a little tour: The garland I made a few years ago at a Craft Night. There’s a very easy tutorial on the Purl Bee. The little brown shelving area houses many of Orlis’ non-art toys — dolls, little gadgets, a tool set, and some stackers. I envision rotating these quite a bit and really appreciate the size allotted. It’s a perfect amount of toys.
On the other side of the room, I was excited to create another space where we could easily rotate child artwork for display and wanted something different than what we have in our entryway. I revisited the same article that gave me the framing idea and found this somewhat-intimidating-but-actually-easy-to-install cable system. It sits just above a 4-compartment shelving unit that fit all of our large art supplies: paper, paint supplies, collage materials, and the most beloved clay.
I used some old jars, coffee mugs, small metal kitchen prep bowls, and a wooden caddy I had to organize all of the small stuff — beads, pipe cleaners, different kinds of crayons, cotton balls and wooden sticks, chalk, and markers. Orlis is still too young to have open access to scissors and glue, but we’ll be able to fit those things in here too when I’m feeling confident and ready for more mess.
Most of the baskets I found around the house, and once I let go of needing them to look uniform, it was easy as pie to fill in the gaps from what I saw at garage sales and Ikea. I can’t remember where I saw the adorable idea to use old paint chips as labels, but I have enough paint chips to fill a paint chip display counter, and thus decided to use it. (My apologies for lacking an appropriate link and credit here.)
The play kitchen was here from the get-go, but now gets more use as the room feels more inviting and child-centered.
As soon as I finished the room, I let my little monkey loose in there and it was as if he knew exactly where to go — as if he’d been in this room before and knew it well. He went straight for the shelving unit, and discovered the basket of clay and started pulling things out.
Then he indicated where I should sit down.
And so we play. Just as we always have, but somehow, in this little room that fits us so well right now, playing feels a little more magical — almost like entering a different time zone, or maybe it’s a different mindset. In this space, there is only one thing to do: get down to the important business of playing, and the space not only reflects that, but invites it too.
As much as I love the colors and as much as the organization appeals to me aesthetically, what is profound to me about the changes is how effective they are in making play more, well, playful — easier, more accessible, and more creative. Now, with little prompting, Orlis puts things back in their baskets when he’s done playing with them. He knows what his options are, and he’s innovative in combining toys and making his own games. It’s just amazing the effect that a space has.