Living Room Play Corner for Small Spaces: Tour and Tips
There's something really enticing about watching a child create something with their little hands and it's even more enticing to see the finished product. It's amazing o see how these fairly new humans learn to manipulate items like scissors or glue or paint. How they hold their tools in curled fists and how they see the paper and projects before them transform with each brush stroke or glued pompom. It's clumsy and sometimes without direction but with each creative movement, they're learning.
That's what inspired me to finally create a little art section for Maddox in his play area. He's a wild boy, yet when he's sitting down creating: his eyes are glazed over, his tongue is out, and I can see the wires moving in his head. And I like things to be in front of him and at his level, allowing him independence and the ability to make his own choices. That can be hard given the lack of space we have. So I utilized the play corner in the living room and used the window sill as his shelf. I was nervous at first. Paints and glues and tiny pieces openly at his disposal. If I went into another room, all chaos could break lose. Googly eyes sprawled on the floor, rainbow paints splashing our white walls, pieces of feathers we would be finding for weeks. This is what a mother's nightmare is made of. Yet, he loves it. Loves it. And I love it. And there have been no nightmares. He lets me know if he wants to play with something. Having it all out in front of him, lets him pick and choose. Before, it is in our cupboards, sloppily placed in a bowl. Occasionally he would come up to me and ask to paint. But most of the time I had to initiate it.
Living in a one bedroom with a child and two adults can be difficult. However, I find such satisfaction in it. Our apartments are beautiful with high ceilings, high windows, gray cabinets, an open concept, and all the fixings I love. Those rare moments when I start to feel cluttered, I take that as a test to see what I can get rid of and find out what I've been unnecessarily hoarding. This space never feels like too much or too little. As humans, it seems we are always searching for more: more space, more money, more time and we forget how to work with what we already have. When I find myself dreaming of something bigger, I remind myself we're content where we are right now and something bigger will come into our path when necessary. Right now, this is a perfect living situation for our family even as our two year old grows older.
Admittedly, I sometimes get bummed we don't have a separate play area for Maddox. And I think that's because I feel like it's necessary even though logically I know it's not. He's got a little section in the bedroom next to his bed with his bike, his books on his shelves, and some stuffed animals. In our walk-in closet, we have a basket full of toys we rotate out from the living room. He's got another bike and his helmet in our hallway closet, some beach toys, a beach chair, and a soft bat + ball. The key is to keep things simple, rotate toys out, and go outside.
Arts + Crafts Supplies We Love
- Glitter Glue
- Paints (sometimes we make homemade but we have a bunch of paint from gifts)
- Paint Brushes
- Stamps + Ink Pad
- Feathers (we also use ones we find outside! I leave them in the freezer for 2 weeks in case of any mites)
- Googly Eyes
- Safety Scissors
- Simple cards with envelopes (for notes!)
- Paint Sponge Letters
- Play Clips (for fort building!)
- Peg Dolls (great for open-ended play + to decorate)
- Beeswax Crayons
- Play-Dough (we make our own)
- Buttons (thrifted)
These items are so versatile and gives children endless options to create masterpieces with. I have two trays, one wood and one wicker, that I use for sensory and learning activities. We also have a shelf with a sketchbook, paint pad, small set of papers, and cardboard trucks.
Toys We Love
- Play Silks
- Wooden Blocks
- Rock + Sea Shell Collection (thanks to Mother Nature herself)
- Lock + Latch Board
- Play Kitchen
- Cleaning Set: Play House
- Cleaning Set: Squirt + Squeegee
- Cutting fruit
We try to use open-ended items as it allows imagination to flow freely and open their senses. The silks can be a fort or a cape or water and rocks and mountains. The blocks can be a high tower or a castle or a boat. The rocks can be a phone or a castle's stepping stones or a car. Peg dolls can be family members or knights or a grocer. It's amazing what we can come up with in a day.
Small Space Tips
- Give Everything a Home: don't allow anything to be left loose. It keeps clean-up simple and keeps clutter to a minimum.
- Don't Crowd It: Minimize your stuff to maximize your space and mind. A small space can't be overzealous with toys because it makes it more difficult for a child to choose what they want to play with and there's a higher chance they'll make a mess instead.
- Understand Your Limitations: A play kitchen may be able to find a space in your home. However, a play kitchen AND a water table, may not. A small teddy bear may be fine but a huge 2-foot bear may not. Understand what will fit in your space and don't go overboard. Your child is more than likely content enough with what they already have.
- Storage Space: These Ikea Shelves have come in handy. Instead of having the books in a little basket, he's able to see them and it frees up room on the floor. Also, small shelving units are great in corners to place toys into. It keeps things organized while simultaneously allowing your child to directly see the toy options.
Do you live in a small space with children? What tips can you give? Do you love it or are you itching to upgrade?