Tag Archives: Art Area

The Shed

It was back in the Spring of 2013 that we moved my husband’s tool shed to the side yard.  This plan allowed us to remove half of the backyard shed leaving more play space on the deck and add a second entrance/bridge into the garden area.

15-09-shed01The remaining portion of the shed was then to be used to store the gardening supplies and seasonal outdoor toys etc.  The problem with that plan was that I really didn’t have much seasonal stuff to store in the shed and so mostly it was a big, almost empty, box.  If I did unlock the door to get something the children would all gather in the doorway (blocking what little light I had) and stare into the spooky darkness.  It made me wonder if maybe it could become a more usable space.

So, this summer when we put the new box window in the dining room we also planned to put the old dining room window in the shed.  The shed renovation was one of the projects that didn’t get completed during my vacation but we did manage to work on it on weekends. There is still a small locked storage area on one side but the majority of the shed is now definitely not dark and stuffy anymore.  The West wall has a clear plastic panel for light and a screen door.

15-09-shed02  The South wall facing the garden is where we put the old dining room window to let even more light inside.  These windows can also be opened to allow airflow if it is stuffy and hot inside the ‘shed’.  There are also blinds that I can close if it is too bright and sunny.

15-09-shed03Inside there is a picnic table which the children and I have used for meals several times this summer – fewer ‘bad’ bugs than outside but the spiders really love this space.  We are also able to store art supplies here – handy for outdoor use but sheltered from the rain etc.

15-09-shed04The view from inside is a big improvement over the old spooky dark empty shed.

15-09-shed05I still haven’t decided how I’m going to finish the interior – paint? add more shelves? a magnet board/art display?  I’m in no rush to decide – I think it will depend on how we use this space now that it is so much more than just a storage shed.

The weather was so nice all summer that we haven’t wanted to spend much time inside it but I think it will be a really nice place on rainy or cold days.  It isn’t heated or insulated but it will still provide shelter in inclement weather especially with the Southwest exposure.  It may turn out to be an interesting indoor/outdoor space during our long, cold winter. I also think it may work well as a ‘greenhouse’ for our seedlings next Spring.   The possibilities…..

Making Room

Sadly summer is nearly over and school will be starting soon.  The littles and I have enjoyed having the school-age children here for full days but I’ll admit there was a brief period in the Spring when I was a little apprehensive about having enough space to accommodate the older children.  The dining/art area was originally set up like this;

15-08-room01This arrangement worked OK when the school-age children were only here for a brief period after school.    The school-age table was folded down out of the way most of the day leaving me and the preschoolers access to the toddler table and also plenty of open floor space for group projects, sensory bins etc.

However, when everyone was here it was difficult to have them all in this room.  The toddler table had to be pushed tight in to the corner  when the school-age table was up. It was impossible to have both groups seated comfortably at the same time. School-age children often had difficulty accessing art supplies without assistance.

So, I rebuilt my desk in the corner where the toddler table had been and moved the toddler table to the former desk location.   This switch enabled more space around all the tables AND it gave me more desk space to pile papers on too!

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It looks a little crowded in this picture but the highchairs and school-age table can easily be moved out of the way to open up a large section of floor space when needed.  The old school-age table is still folded against the wall – I brought out the larger table for the summer so the children had room for larger art projects.

The new box window that we built during my vacation now houses all the art supplies, lets in plenty of light and no longer has only a view of my neighbour’s dining room.

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The toddler table now only has one side against a wall so all six chairs are usable all the time.   This means that the smallest children can join the group at the table when they are ready instead of remaining in the highchairs because there is limited space.

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This flexible arrangement has worked well all summer and I’m certain it will continue to once we (sadly) return to the school-year schedule too.

Improvements

Back in April I wrote a post about tearing down the half wall that separated the two main spaces.  That renovation resulted in a smaller art area that also doubled as a dining room.  It looked like this;

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Yes, we no longer had our larger dedicated art space in the sunroom but this new space was much more accessible throughout the day and therefore got used more.  Besides, we also had a new outdoor art area with plenty of space for messy art.

However, this new space was not completely problem free.  The preschool table did comfortably seat three small children for meals but three art trays didn’t fit without hanging off the edge of the curved table.

Also, I had four children that I wanted to sit at the table but one of the 2-year-olds had to continue using the highchair because there wasn’t enough room for four toddlers like at our old rectangular table.

So, two weeks ago I did this;

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Now there is more than enough room for all four of the preschoolers to sit for meals, craft time and other table activities.  The ‘counter top’ is no longer attached to the wall so this new table can be moved when necessary.  The school-age children can sit at the taller table which is attached to the wall and folds down when not in use – saving space.  However, the school-age children also enjoy using the little table too!

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I did have one big issue with this new arrangement – the chairs.  I’ve had problems with these chairs throughout the nearly 8 years I’ve owned them.  I bought them because I wanted stacking chairs but these are so bulky that even when stacked they take up a lot of room.  Bigger children complain about squishing in between the arms.  Also, because of the depth and curve of the seat, smaller children have difficulty sitting upright.

I’ve considered replacing the chairs for years now but they were expensive and replacement chairs are even more so.  Now that the table is a rectangle I considered using benches instead of chairs but I decided against it because putting toddlers on benches = trouble.  So, I went to Ikea 🙂 and now I have SIX new chairs;

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When the toddlers sit here I have one on each end and leave the middle chair pushed in as a divider.  The older children can have all three chairs pulled out to function like a bench;

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This new flexible arrangement has been working very well for all of us.  Meals and art for mixed ages in one convenient space.  Perfect.

Sneak Peek

I’m currently working on two blog posts but both need more input from the children.

One post will be about the changes I made to the art area this past weekend.  Yes, I could just show a few ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the space but I’d like to include some feedback from the children too.  So, for the next few days I’ll be observing and recording how they use the new space.  By next week there should be a post about it.

The other post I’m working on is a secret.  It will involve some activities for the children and I – we haven’t done them yet.  It will also involve a contest for my blog readers – I’m super excited.  This post may take a few weeks to complete.

Here is a sneak peek of both the art area & a hint about the surprise project;

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Art Areas

It was the summer of 2013 that I originally planned to create an outdoor art area on the upper deck but we ran out of time so it didn’t get completed until this summer.  Since our most recent indoor renovation meant giving up the sunroom as a dedicated art area the indoor art area and dining area now share the same small space.  This made creating the outdoor art area very important. This is the new outdoor art space;

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It can be used rain or shine and I even have some plans for wintertime use 😉 and the addition of some woodworking supplies too.  All summer the school-age children spent ‘quiet time’ here while the little ones were napping.

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Of course the little ones like to do artsy stuff too so I had to make sure they had some art space.  The indoor dining/art area is easily supervised – unlike the dedicated art space we used to have in the sunroom – so the younger children have access to independent art activities throughout the day.

However, because our indoor space is very limited I knew I was going to miss having a big art table for group activities with the little ones during the long winter period.  So, of course I came up with another ‘multipurpose’ idea.  This is the bench where the school-age children sit for meals and independent art activities;

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During the school year it is not used between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm – seems like a waste of space to me.  Now I can flip open the top;

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Add a table cloth, and the school-age bench becomes a toddler art table;

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It’s the perfect size for the little ones to paint on;

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Do some lacing;

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Or much more….

Done – Mostly

I am mostly done the big renovation.  There are still a few things I want to modify or update but I won’t be doing them yet so today is the day I show you the new spaces.  This is the main playroom;

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The most noticeable change here is the relocation of the stairs to the library loft.  This was done to increase the usable space both in the loft and in the block area below.  This is the new larger block area;

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This additional space will definitely come in handy when there is a big construction project.

The children (even the bigger ones) used to worm their way under the bottom step of the staircase at the end of the block area.  By turning the staircase there is now a tunnel here that they (and I) can use as a secondary entrance/exit between the block area and the workshop/music area;

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The entrance to the library loft is now located off the nature area.  This is due in part because the library loft and the nature area are now also the two areas that the older children use for quiet time when all of the little ones are napping.  The nature area is now larger too;

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There are two ‘grass’ areas, the ‘water’ area, and a bridge.  The nine little themed shelves are still on the left (not visible) side of this photo.  Revamping those shelves is one of the planned projects that are not yet complete so there will be photos of them after completion.

Back in the playroom this is the view of the housekeeping area which is also larger than before and the laundry/dress-up area is now located where my desk used to be.

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Look, no wall 🙂 just a gate to separate the play area from the office/art/dining area.  I can now supervise both the art area and the play room at the same time!  Some of the older children are unimpressed by the lack of unsupervised space – no more inappropriate behaviour.

This is our new art/dining space;

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There are several different table/seating arrangements that can be used depending on the activity and how many children are participating.  I love having the art area adjacent to the play area – convenient when someone wants to make something for their dramatic play activity.

All equipment and supplies are stored on shelves in this room or in the nature area so I can set up/clean up activities without leaving the children unsupervised or making them sit & wait.

The playpens are located behind these moveable dividers;

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The infants can nap as needed throughout the day without limiting access to the play areas.  I forgot to set up the highchairs before I took the photo but they would normally be in front of the dividers.

This arrangement is more flexible than before and allows me to accommodate varying schedules according to the infants’ needs while still allowing the other children to continue with their chosen activity.

There’s one other space too.  The sunroom used to be the art/quiet time area that was difficult for me to supervise.  Now it is something we didn’t have before – a living room/dining room area for my family.  Private space not used by the children.

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So, what do you think of the new spaces?

My Problem With Winter

I have a problem with winter and it may surprise you that my problem is related to the weather.  I know, that statement makes me sound like a hypocrite since I so often promote outdoor play in all types of weather.

Yes, we do play outside every day and we love it – climbing, digging and building with snow and ice.  However, we spend considerably less time outdoors in winter than we do in other seasons like summer when we spend the majority of our day outdoors.  There are parts of our program that I’d prefer to do outside but in winter we need to keep them inside.

So, my problem with winter isn’t really our time outdoors, it is the increased time indoors.  Day after day with extended periods of time playing indoors and I begin to remember all the things I wanted to ‘fix’.  All those parts of our indoor environment that were bothersome last winter but I put off tackling.  Once spring arrived we again spent more time outdoors and all those thoughts faded away.  Now it is winter again and I remember.  With prolonged time indoors the space issues are becoming apparent again.

For example, the sunroom;

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The sunroom is where we do art activities and other types of messy play.  I can easily move the small toddler table and then there is a 8′ x 8′ open space where I can put down a tarp for messy play activities.  During quiet time when the little ones are napping in the playroom the older children play and do art in the sunroom.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the wall opposite the windows.  The wall that is home to the dog bed and the green house.  The problem is that I have four infants and toddlers who love painting, and playdough and sensory bins – and the dog bed.  The toddlers love every activity that I set out on the table or in a bin for them but after a few minutes one of them decides that it would be even more fun if they moved it to the dog bed and soon everyone wants to join in.  Playdough and dog hair, paint and dog hair, bird seeds and dog hair – everything is better with dog hair! Hey, what if we add it to the dog’s water…

Here’s another ‘before’ view that includes the green house;

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The green house is where we are supposed to put the things we plant but mostly it just collects ‘stuff’.  In the above picture I’ve already started the ‘reno’ so the miscellaneous stuff is all over the room – just like the way the toddlers prefer it.  The green house is actually pretty easy to assemble and disassemble so I’ve decided to put it away until we actually have plants to put in it and that way the empty shelves won’t be tempting me to fill them.

So now the sunroom looks like this;

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There is still enough open floor space for a tarp and messy play but there is no dog bed – I love how the sunlight shines on the toddler’s art table here;

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The dog bed is now on the other side of the filing cabinet by the back entrance – the back entrance area now has more space too – bonus!

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So now we have a better space for art and messy play until the weather improves and we can move all our activities outdoors again – and I can paint that filing cabinet.  The green doesn’t match anything else in the room but I can’t paint it inside and it is too cold to paint outside….