Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spaces for playing and learning in the home for a Preschooler, Toddler and Baby


I thought it was about time I shared the spaces for playing and learning in our home.
Having three young children, aged 6months, 2years & 4years who are at home full time means having practical, fun, open ended, inviting and safe areas to suit all their different ages, interests and needs.
The other important factor for me was our budget. Being a single income family with a large mortgage means we live off a tight budget and luxury items are off the wish list. The furniture and resources I collect are always well thought out. My children are very very blessed with highly generous Grandparents, family and friends who have given them many lovely toys for Birthdays and Christmases over the years.  
I am constantly altering and rearranging these spaces for my children, I can't help it, the teacher in me needs an outlet lol and I see so many possibilities, however, following is how I have set up our play areas currently.
We are so blessed to have a games area in our house, which I made sure was on the plans when we were picking houses to build.
View walking in to our 'play room'.
This area is suitable for all three of my children, however it is toddler and baby friendly and the toys and resources chosen are suitable and safe for my boisterous 2year old and soon to be on the move 6 month old. The fact that Bubba will soon be crawling around is very much in my mind and I have made this space as safe as possible. I would always supervise my baby while playing, especially when the older children are also playing. My older children are able to play independently in here with me in the next room- this room comes off our open plan living area including kitchen and lounge and is visible from two wide door less entry points.
I love having large clear spaces of floor so the children can spread out their play. I love watching them laying down absorbed in their play as it grows and spreads across the room. We are lucky to have the space in our house.
The Construction Area
Plenty of uncluttered space to build whatever takes your fancy.
I picked up this rug on clearance. My Husband worked out that it had been cut the wrong way for the repeating pattern on it, but you'd never know. To be honest, my children only occasionally acknowledge what is even on it and I actually prefer the blank surface for imagination. The rug does provide for a different texture but I'd be happy enough with a plain one. Hman loves cars so I always have a selection of vehicles amongst other bits and pieces I rotate depending on their interests.

On these shelves we a basket of 'jenga' blocks $5 from K-mart, these cute little wooden bug skittles I found at a market, our beautiful sensory light and sound rainbow blocks and our Home Made Familiar Block People. On top I have out some African animal figures for small world play and dramatisation. We swap things around as often as suits the children however, I try not to do it too consistently as sometimes it may just take them a little while to fully discover the toys or how they can use them in play.
Our Small World Table

This is a train table that came complete with a full train set, tracks and accessories such as bridges, trees, signs, vehicles etc. I like to rotate how we use the table depending on the children's interests or disinterest. When I noticed my 4year old was no longer playing with the trains and my 2year old was constantly destroying any attempts at building the train tracks I decided it was time to use it differently for awhile.
Miss M was very lucky for her first birthday she received a number of fisher price       Little People sets including zoo, farm, fun park, airport etc that we get out and play with sometimes and can be used on this table.
I like mixing it up a bit every day or couple of days to keep their interest and perhaps encourage a different way of playing. For example, I might add a few toy dinosaurs to this scene or a lion etc and watch with delight as their imagination comes out!!
Other ways I use the table are by adding,
*Animals- wild, zoo, farm
*Duplo or other construction materials
*blocks, small parts
*Our Home made block People
*matchbox cars, planes, trucks or similar and ramps
*other toy sets like octonauts or princesses
Changing things around keeps things interesting and inspires kids to extend on their play. My kids love seeing what is on the table and even make their own suggestions of what they would like now!

We also have a sand and water table for small world play outside which we also love!!

Using Closed Containers and Storage to encourage Speech 
Throughout the room I have a number containers that close to store toys in. Most are clear so the contents and be clearly seen. I like to put Hman's favourite toys, or toys I know he wants daily. I do this to encourage two things from him, firstly his speech. Some of the containers he cannot open himself. This requires him to seek out assistance and ask appropriately for help. I also store favourite toys on high shelves- in sight but where he cant reach so he must ask for them. (note- all our shelves are securely fastened to the walls to prevent any tipping in case of climbing). Secondly, some of the containers he can open however they require two hands working together to get the job done. This is another skill we are working on with him.

I do have one container that is a solid colour and they are unable to see inside. I like to put a surprise item or items in their daily. Hman can open this one with some help but twisting the lid.

Lately I've been putting sensory things inside for exploring!

I think this is one must have item for all children. An easel provides such a diverse range of experiences for young children to not only get creative, play and learn but develop essential gross motor and fine motor skills as well. This easel has a paper roll holder, magnetic whiteboard and blackboard.
A child sized table and chairs

For any number of play related tasks a child sized table is invaluable. We did have a round one in here however, ikea had on an amazing offer so we ended up with another and the round one is now in our outdoor play space.

The Baby Zone

I love this mat. It is reversible, non toxic, easily cleaned, soft and grippy. Perfect for babies to roll around on and learn to crawl. So many people have asked me where I got it from. I got it from a baby expo and took it home that day.
You can see I've put out some baby toys on the bottom shelf, some things for Hman and Bubba on the next one up and the rest of the levels are basically just for storing things I rotate around or that I know Hman will want to play with so he has to ask for help to get them down. I also store some of the everyday tools we use like crayons, stickers, stamps, playdough, pencils for quick easy access for when the inspiration strikes.


A mirror is a great addition to any baby area.
Babies love to look at faces even their own. A mirror helps baby to learn to focus, track things with their eyes and explore faces and bodies.

This mirror is securely fastened to the wall and sitting low to the ground making it perfect to encourage tummy time and crawling.
Tent or Hiding Space

Sometimes things just get all too much and children seek the comfort of small secure spaces to unwind and calm back down. I know myself how it feels to just want to hide away for a minute or ten!! Since taking this photo I have removed all the balls as initially the balls were a fun sensation for my kids to lay on however that was rather short lived as they worked out they just weren't that comfy. In our hidey tent we have a comfy mat, some cushions a selection of soft toys and a basket of books. Perfect for taking five! Of course you don't need a tent for this and there are all sorts of ways you can construct little hideaways for kids.

Book Area

A little peaceful corner dedicated to just reading. I have to admit I am a bookaholic and have more children's books than I can possibly display or even store for that matter. All my children have bedrooms full of books. I do try to keep the books in this space displayed nicely and rotate them as necessary.
I have a couple large storage tubs of popular books tucked behind in their for easy rotation of the books and the best bit is on the other side is one of our family couches so we can all snuggle up on the big couch and easily reach books to read.

We have some hand puppets and soft toys who just loved being read to by little girls and boys!!

Just off this area we have another little space in our house that the children's bedrooms and bathroom come off. This space is more designed for my toddler and preschooler.
This is it in it's packed up state. Sometimes it's a house (well rarely a house usually it's a palace ;), sometimes it's a café and we add table and chairs, sometimes it's a shop or shops- whatever they come up with is how it transforms.

The kitchen area
I love this little Tinkerbell kitchen which was a gift.

My little window scene. Of course I want to change the paint here so that it's only blue out the window hehehe but that's my little creative streak!

The baby doll role-play area

The dress-up area

Storage Drawers
Inside these hold all sorts of resources for play!!

Writing Station
Miss M's own little space.
Read about how I set up her writing station here.
Our spaces for playing are always evolving rotating and changing however I feel I've managed to cater to the interests, abilities and individual needs of all three of my children at their different ages. It does get tricky and I'm sure once Bubba is really crawling and toddling around we may have to make a few adjustments. Please remember to secure all furniture such as shelving securely to walls.
I look forward to showing you all our outdoor areas which are by far our favourite!!
Play and Learn

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