When I was a teacher, classroom design was really important to me. There’s a great concept in the Reggio Emilia style of education that the environment is “the third teacher”– how you set up children’s learning environment affects how, and what, they learn. It felt important to me to have a nice space for my students to spend their time, but also one that would support their efforts to focus and learn.
(My former classroom before the first day of school in August 2015)
Now, as a stay-at-home-mom designing a playroom for my twins, I have the same goals and principles that I did in my classroom.
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What makes a good playroom design?
(In my opinion?)
It should feel calm
Neat and free of clutter, lots of open space, neutral colors, lots of blues and white.
Kids have enough energy of their own- busy, overstimulating environments just encourage them to get wild. A good playroom is a peaceful place where they can relax and focus.
This one is obvious but bears repeating. In the photo above, you can see a little basket hanging on the wall near our changing table. It holds the baby wipes, diaper cream and hand sanitizer well out of the reach of climbing toddlers. Outlet covers, cabinet locks, and other babyproofing measures are so important if you have young children. Don’t forget to secure furniture to the wall!
Decorations are sparse
There’s a lot of new research about how overly decorated classrooms actually decrease learning. People often make playrooms super colorful because they think kids will enjoy the whimsy, but children actually do best when the room is relatively neutral and has lots of blank space. It eliminates distractions and allows them to better focus on their work and play.
That’s not to say we don’t have anything on our walls!
The best decorations are meaningful to the children in the room- photos of them or their own artwork. Although my children are still babies, we actually have a few paintings that I did with them- find out how to make your own here: Paint With Your Baby!
Use toys as decor items
We have some gorgeous and colorful toys! Instead of buying decor items that would add visual clutter to the room, I left some of our nicest toys in view and let them be our pops of color. Celebrate the beautiful toys you already own!
(The toys on the top shelves are the Grimms 12 Piece Rainbow , Melissa and Doug Nesting and Stacking Garages, a hand-me down pounding toy (in the background, our DIY Mirror Box), Uncle Goose Constellation Blocks, Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker and Melissa and Doug Xylophone.)
Everything is organized- and labeled!
I love our cube organizer because it holds so many of our toys and looks clean and neat from the outside- but it can be hard to find toys in identical boxes, so they all have labels with photos. This will also help my children know what goes where when it’s time to clean up! Find out more about how I keep my toys organized and get your free set of printable labels here: Organize your playroom like a teacher (and get your kids to clean up like they do at school!)
There’s room for active play
As a teacher, I learned that children have energy- and you can either fight it, or embrace it. We have a toddler slide indoors, a ball pit, and space to move around so they boys can burn energy as necessary!
(Make sure to check out Have More Fun with your Ball Pit if that’s something you’re considering!)
There’s room for building and other projects
Our train table was secondhand, and it’s huge, but so versatile and useful for so many things! I painted it with chalkboard paint and it’s been awesome- find out why here: 5+ Ways to Play with a Chalkboard Activity Table!
I’ve also left lots of floor space open for building and playing.
Books are celebrated
Reading is so important for many reasons. The way they are displayed communicates to my children how much they matter. Our books are beautiful pieces of art in their own right, and we treat them like royalty. Find out more here: Tips for Storing Books so Your Kids will Want to Read Them!.
(This display bookshelf is my favorite piece of furniture in the whole room! It makes our books look so exciting, and the extra storage underneath is a great bonus. Find one here.)
There’s a little bit of magic
Playing with lighting is a great way to make the ordinary feel magical. When my boys were little we had a DIY Baby Stargazing Box for them to wonder at.
Now that they’re older, I use my Fort Magic kit to make them beautiful little play forts.
This one has a starry sky tapestry as a backdrop, a string of battery-operated Christmas lights around the top, and inside the boys have their EASY DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin and Colorful Play Mats.
Pictured above: our Guidecraft Jr. Rainbow Blocks, which are a bit magic themselves!
You can add magic to your playroom through lighting, sparkles, small worlds, or cozy spaces. When my boys are older I plan on adding a black light play fort as well (find out why here)
You can also add fun and magic with DIY toys for kids to explore. Check out some of these options;
How will you make your playroom magical?
Leave a comment and let me know!
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out my related post, Organize your playroom like a teacher (and get your kids to clean up like they do at school!)
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