We love the idea of our kids having their own playroom, but not all of us has an actual room to spare for play. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice half your living room or give up your dining room table. There are so many ways to create an amazing playroom for your kids in a small space, whether you’re an apartment dweller just in a home with smaller rooms.
So, we’ve put together 8 simple tips to help you set up a playroom for kids, especially when you don’t have a lot of space to spare. Think of the end result as a gift for your kids, and yourself.
Hello, sanity saver.
1. Everything needs a home
When you’re dealing with a small space, it’s super important to follow the mantra of many organizational gurus: Everything needs its own home. A lot of clutter occurs when you simply don’t know where to put anything or when it feels like it doesn’t “go” — so crayons are left on the bookshelves, books end up in stacks on the living room floor, craft supplies are everywhere. Sound familiar?
At Making Home Base, we love how she specifically turned a corner of a living room into a dedicated play space for her child, making it clear that all children’s toys and items go specifically in this area. Of course she has a very small child without a ton of toys just yet; and for that dilemma we turn to bins.
Lots and lots of bins.
We’ve always been big fans of using labeled bins as a resting place for toys, craft supplies, doll clothes — nearly anything at all.
At Love Grows Wild, her solution includes color coordinated rows of labeled bins — complete with a tutorial on how to make those gorgeous wooden chalkboard labels. This can be a great idea for small spaces since the color-coordinated, symmetrical rows of shelving keeps everything looking unified, and the clutter of tiny items remains hidden behind the bins.
That said, this solution looks great but can be less practical depending on your needs, since nothing is in immediate eyesight. Some kids need to see what they have to be more inclined to reach for it, in which case, labeling clear bins of some kind is a smart alternative. Check out these affordable modular translucent storage drawers at the Container Store for one affordable option or just stack some basic translucent storage bins.
We also like the playroom organization idea from An Inviting Home which is incredibly realistic for the way most of us live. (As in, our homes don’t look like they’re made to be photographed for a design magazine.) Click over and you can see how she maximizes the use of a wall shelving unit.
(Look at all those bins! Our inner organizational fiends are drooling.)
With multiple kids using this space, the parents smartly arranged everything based on age, with the items for smaller kids on the bottom, and toys and games for the bigger kids up top. We also love the colorful graphic labels marked with images of game pieces or puzzle pieces — perfect for toddlers who aren’t reading just yet.
Another trick is to color code the bins so kids learn that trains go in the blue bin, blocks go in the green bin and so on.
Whichever method of organization you choose, just be sure you make it easy enough for kids to know what belongs where, so that they can do more of the organizing and putting away on their own.
2. Use all of your walls, even the corners
If you don’t have a ton of floor space, get creative and work up! A terrific tip is to display and store items going all the way up the walls. Shelves can never be too tall (just make sure they’re safely anchored) since you can use the uppermost shelves for storage or decor; just because kids can only reach so far doesn’t mean your storage shelving has to stop there.
It’s also smart to maximize corners. If all you have is a corner of a living room or dining room for your child’s play space, corner shelves are a brilliant solution for books, stuffed animals, small toys, or to display artwork.
3. Hang it!
You can always hang items to get them off the ground and give your child more play space. Especially if you don’t have a lot of floor space to spare, and there are a few ways to do this.
We love this hanging toy bag tutorial at Craftaholics Anonymous, and the results look so cool and graphic. Hang the bags on sturdy hooks along the wall, so kids can just pull down what they need, then hang them up again for easy clean-up.
If you’re feeling crafty, check out these hanging baskets from Thrifty and Chic which, while displayed in a nursery, would be perfect for holding stuffed animals or craft supplies you want nearby, but maybe out of reach of the kids so you don’t end up with more glue stick mishaps than necessary.
The behind-the-door storage trick is one of our all-time favorites. We wish we could find the original source for this fantastic look at how much a hanging shoe bag on the inside of the door can hold!
Just keep a kid-friendly step stool nearby so kids can reach the top bags — or as with hanging baskets, maybe that’s where you keep your permanent markers and acrylic paints.
4. Look for items that do double duty
Whether it’s a desk that converts to a play table, or an ottoman that flips open to reveal storage under the cushion, we are tremendous fans of items that do double duty, especially when you’re working with a small room.
Take the new VTech Activity Desk Deluxe (a recent sponsor) for example, which is a terrific space saver. You’d never know that tiny, kid-sized desktop is filled with activity pages with over 200 touch and learn spots, plus fun graphics to explore kids to explore and discover while fun sounds help reward their curiosity. You can also purchase expansion packs so it grows with your kids as their skills and interests change. But then, flip up the desktop and you’ve got a chalkboard or an art station for more freeform creative play. We love the 3-in-1 idea so much.
Plus, look at all that storage for chalk, crayons, paint and more. Bonus: when you flip the desk back, it’s all out of sight. Whoo!
5. Rotate toys. Start yesterday.
When you’re accommodating a small space, there’s just no way you can keep a growing child’s growing collection of toys out in its entirety. Or at least not with your sanity intact if you need some semblance of organization and order in your home to function.
We’re huge advocates of rotating your kids’ toys — it’s a trick we still use, even for our tweens. Essentially you stash some of their toys, games, or craft supplies in a closet, basement or other storage area. The rest you keep in their play area. This way, they’ll be less overwhelmed with choices, and when they need some “new” toys you can just shop your own closet, and bring out that board game they got for their birthday or those coloring books that never got used on the last road trip.
It feels exciting, and yes, it saves immensely on space.
If you visit Playful Learning, they offer a pretty specific system for rotating your children’s toys, which is helpful when you have lots of them. But as a shortcut, you can also just grab a bunch of plastic bins (yes, we know — again with the bins!) and toss in a handful of items that your kids haven’t played with a while to store.
You don’t even need a “cute” storage solution — any heavy duty storage bin will be fine.
After a couple of months, make another swap, keeping out only the toys they’re still playing with on a regular basis; and while you’re at it, donate or resell anything in good shape that your kids have outgrown. We promise, it’s a great trick!
6. Use modular flooring or a bright carpet as a divider
When you don’t have a separate room that can be used as a playroom, a bright carpet or a series of floor tiles can be a fantastic way to designate it as a dedicated play area. It also keeps a smaller room feeling open, as opposed to using a screen or a wall unit as a divider.
While a rug works fine (especially as your kids are a little older), take a peek at HGTV.com where this colorful kids playspace is set apart from the living room with soft, foam tiles. It has the added benefit of being cushioned, keeping babies and toddlers safer when they play. You can also use the modular FLOR tiles, which are so smart for kids’ play spaces since if one gets stained, you can easily pull that single tile up and replace it.
7. Let your kids’ own artwork serve as inspiration
When you’re creating a children’s space specifically meant for creating, discovering, and learning through play, think about it: the greatest inspiration might not be a poster with a beautiful quote about play — but the results of your kid’s own creativity.
There are lots of cool ways to decorate with their own artwork that isn’t too precious: Hang with clothespins from string, banner style. Tuck it into clipboards which you can nail onto the wall. Pin it onto corkboard. Or use magnetic hanging frame instead, like the ones from Stiicks (very affordable on Amazon). They’re designed to make it easy to change up the art it’s holding.
It’s a sweet way to make a child’s space decidedly theirs; plus, it’s a great way for you to get all of the art pieces off your fridge (and perhaps, strewn about the rest of your house) and consolidate them into one very welcome area of the house.
8. Make sure everything in a small playroom is meant for play
As much as you might like your child’s playroom to look like a gorgeous, Instagram-ready masterpiece of decor, filled with fabulous antique toys and gorgeous framed artwork, it is…well, a playroom. And especially if it’s a small room, there just isn’t a lot of room for the precious stuff that may look great online but isn’t so practical in real life.
In other words, you’re not furnishing a museum here! So be sure your child’s play space is filled with the toys and dolls they really play with, books they really read, crafts they really use, costumes they really wear, and electronics they really enjoy. They are kids after all.