Room to Play

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Photo by Jan Stittleburg. Design by Design Inspirations

To a child, the playroom might be the one place in the house to have fun, relax, read, perform, paint and just be a kid. Parents may aim to create the playroom of their childrens dreams, but they dont always know what a kid really wants. Luckily, the best source of information usually is the child. The most exciting part of designing a playroom is working as a team with your child to take some of the mystery out of making this room a youthful haven.

I love doing childrens rooms. The most enjoyable part of it is getting the children involved, says Tammy Vaughn of Tammy Vaughn Interiors. Even young children can get involved in the decision-making process. One way you can do that is to narrow a color down to three very close colors and allow them to choose the one they like. At the toddler age, they really dont understand enough to have independent input, so it is helpful if you give them options that are essentially the same.

Photo by Jan Stittleburg

Sometimes, the response from the child will not be one that is altogether practical. There are ways to work around that, too.

[Children] know from 3 years on what they like, says Pattie Trumbull, owner of Design Inspirations Inc. When you ask, you might hear something like, I want a Strawberry Shortcake room with sparkly colors. Even with these simple requests in mind, you can start designing the room; just dont completely give in to the childs desire for fictional characters and sparkles. Instead, begin with a neutral room with a solid wall and fabrics and add accents. For example, including a Strawberry Shortcake pillow can satisfy the child, but it will not overpower the room. This is particularly important when multiple children share the playroom. It will also allow the room to grow with the child, since the pillow can be changed more easily than a wall or window.

Another benefit of a simpler, more neutral palette is that it allows the toys to become the decoration. According to Daria deGolian of Daria Designs, a playroom by its very nature will tend to be cluttered. Having a solid backdrop helps make it less so.

Once the background colors have been selected, the next step is to fill the room. Depending on the ages of the children, a playroom should have furniture that is on a smaller scale. Include tables and chairs that are easy and safe for the child to use, and keep hooks, pictures and other wall accessories at a low level so that the child can see and use them.

For a toddler to have an inviting playroom, it is important to keep a room that allows the children a lot of mobility for creative play, Vaughn says. Particularly at the toddler stage, the function is for the children to be able to play in small groups and pairs, and at times alone, so flexibility in furnishings is key. You want furniture that is of course kid-sized, but you also want it to be easily moveable and lightweight enough so that the children themselves can move it around as necessary.

Just like preschool or kindergarten rooms, playrooms at home should also be organized and divided into stations or distinct play areas, according to deGolian. Divided areas also are helpful for accommodating multiple children of different ages. One room can contain toddler areas and more grownup areas too.

One way to create natural divisions in the playroom is to consider the architecture. A playroom can mean so many different things, but almost everyone agrees they want storage, says Dale Contant, owner of Atlanta Design & Build. Whether its bench-seat storage underneath a window or a built-in desk for a computer, storage is a No. 1 priority for playrooms. It makes cleanup easier, Contant says.

Built-ins are common in playrooms since they make an ideal place for TVs, video games and DVD players. Also, bonus rooms and lofts above the garage are ideal for playrooms, with their shorter ceilings and funky roof lines, he says.

Photo by Jan Stittleburg
Design and renovation by Atlanta Design & Build

One thing Contant has learned about playrooms is, when its possible, a short set of stairs leading from a bedroom to a loft is perfect for kids. A small space is created behind the stairs, which lets kids feel like they have their own secret area. It gives them a private place, to create a fort or whatever, and they absolutely love it.

Within the play areas, try creating specific themes. Children like a sense of structure even in play areas, Vaughn says. You may want to have a kitchen area, an art area, a video area, a reading area, [etc.]. For an older childs playroom, Trumbull included areas or nooks with themes like reading, lounging and watching television. She also put a stage and karaoke machine in the room so the child could perform her own at-home variety show.

Whatever the ages of the children, the most important issue, of course, is safety. Rounded corners and edges are always a good idea. Furniture should be safety-approved for the right age group, and since kids often prefer to sit on the floor anyway, large pillows and beanbags are a good idea.

It is always best to get down on your knees so you are at the childrens level and make sure there isnt anything that they could danger themselves with, Vaughn says. Cover electric outlets, keep window-treatment cords out of reach and make sure windows are securely shut. For younger children, the room needs to be completely baby-proof. Since the children may spend time alone in the room, it might be beneficial to hire a baby-proofing specialist to inspect the completed room.

A playroom presents a fun chance for parents and kids to create together, and children are excited to participate in the design. When the childrens tastes and activities are combined with common sense and safety, the playroom can become a wonderful place for children to get away from it all. Whats better, with the kids thus occupied, the parents might even get a few moments to relax, too.

Take the time to get the playroom organized so it can stay that way.

Purchase or make boxes, baskets and bins

Label these so sorting is easy. For children who can’t yet read, attach photos of the items that go in the boxes.

Start teaching your toddler to put away the toys after play.

Make a game of it by rewarding your child as she/he puts things back.

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