As an elementary school teacher, my classroom was always described as organized. Friends who came over and happened to see my pantry couldn’t believe how food was in labeled containers. If a family member or friend needed help getting an organizational system in place, they asked for my help. As I approached forty, it became clear that it was time for a new career direction. Later that same year I left the classroom and launched a professional organizing company to do what I’ve always wanted to do – help others get their living spaces in order.
With two active preteen daughters at home, I understand the importance for kids to have space, too – a place to play, be imaginative, and hang out in a space that’s all their own. At our house, the playroom is just that. Here my girls can be with their friends, get crafty and creative, play ping-pong, play on the Wii, watch a movie, read a book, or just chill out alone.
How can you get a fun and functional playroom in your home? Here are five simple steps I recommend.
1) Use color as a springboard.
First, find a fun, bright color to paint the playroom. Let’s use orange as an example. Many of the color choices in the orange family are too soft or sophisticated for a playroom, so consider a bright orange, like tangerine or juicy cantaloupe. If you’re concerned that the color might be too bright for a small playroom, don’t be. Depending on your decorating style, contrasting or coordinating colors can be used for furniture and accessories. For example, black and white furniture in the playroom will balance and complement a dramatic wall color. An area rug that incorporates the wall color can help to ground the playroom and tie all the colors together. A multicolor area rug with the bright orange in it, as well as other accent colors from the room, will be just right.
2) Think zones.
For practical purposes, divide the playroom into zones where specific kids’ activities will take place, and put all materials and supplies for that activity into its own zone if possible. Fun zones for a playroom might include: the Wii system or other gaming equipment, TV watching, arts and crafts, family games, and floor time with room to spread out and play. Without a lot of space, you can still achieve a lot. Using furniture that is smaller in scale is an effective way to streamline the room. Keep an eye out for furniture pieces that could be moved back and forth to create different zones, when needed.
3) Less is more.
Playrooms are often the busiest place in your home with lots of toys and game pieces. In an ideal world, for creative play the space should be clutter-free while still offering your kids plenty to do and enjoy. One way to do this is to put out three to four favorite games or activities for a few weeks at a time. After a while, introduce new games into the mix, but put away the others, offering the same number of games but a different variety. This can be done for Legos, Barbies, blocks, craft kits, video games, and the like. The postholiday timeframe is the perfect time to do this. Now might be the time to say good-bye to some of the older things for good.
Effective storage systems can make all the difference. For example, there are gaming consoles made especially for the Wii with a drawer for the remotes, shelf for the guitar, a nook for the Wii component, and cubbies just for the games. Art supplies can go into a cubby wall storage unit with colorful fabric drawer organizers that hold art supplies, keeping them organized and accessible for little hands.
4) Find functional furniture that can serve more than one purpose.
When shopping for playroom furniture, think of at least a few ways it can be used in the room. As your children grow and their interests change, the furniture should change and grow with them. For instance, a low coffee table might be pushed up against a wall and used as a drawing table for the youngest child. When the family wants to play a board game, pull the coffee table to the middle of the room, gather around puffy beanbag chairs, put the board game on the table, and get down to business. The beanbag chairs can be used as seating, pillows, and even for fort-building if the right kids are involved. When not in use, they are easily stashed in the corner, to open up floor space. Framed corkboards or magnetic panels display current artwork that can be updated in a blink of an eye after new artwork is created
5) Ask for input.
If you want your children to enjoy their playroom, you should really ask for their input. Their requests might surprise you! It might be something as simple as a wall color, or a more practical direction like the kinds of activities a child wants to enjoy in the new space. With specific feedback, you can give your kids the perfect area to play and make the playroom their favorite new place to hang out. Above all, have fun with the color and design of the room. Remember, this should be the happiest place in your house.