Tag Archives: Play spaces

Indoor Space

My list of summer renovation projects was two pages long – more than 3/4 of the items have already been completed 🙂 Revamping the outdoor space (see previous post) was the largest project.  Many of the indoor projects just involved sorting and reorganizing stuff but that takes time.

Of course there were some storage units that had to be re-built to fit in different locations but no ‘new’ pieces were necessary.  In fact, a horizontal storage unit became a vertical unit and the items in two other units were consolidated into one so we actually gained a fair amount of extra floor space – bonus!

Much of the work was done to areas that are off-limits to the children so they are completely unaware of the  changes but I am certainly pleased with the results.  When you’ve only got 1200 sq ft to work with and you want to make it usable for a dozen people every little bit helps.

I felt there were several issues with the arrangement of the playroom and I definitely wanted to address at least some of them.  First, this was the old storage space for the workshop tools and musical instruments;

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The problem I had here is that the floor space allocated for constructive play and music activities was just 6o square feet. When most of the toys are stored on one shelf unit on the longest wall the play space becomes a very narrow rectangle.  I wanted to make two smaller storage spaces – one at each end of the long, narrow space which would result in a more usable almost square play space. So, the above corner now looks like this;

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Just the tools, puzzles and stuffed animals are stored here now.  The musical instruments are stored separately on the other end of the play space;

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There used to be a basket of old phones, remotes, and walkie talkies in the space under the cash register.  The children often dumped everything out of the basket when looking for a specific item but no one liked to pick up all the leftovers.  Now the items are stored like this instead;

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This is my new view of the playroom from my desk if I was ever inclined to sit down to do any paperwork;

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And this is as close as I can get to showing the entire playroom in one photo;

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Housekeeping, dress-up, library and quiet corner on the left, entrance to nature area on far wall, blocks, tools and music on right side.

I’m not particularly fond of the way all the housekeeping toys are currently stored – some items are too high for the children to easily reach. I can’t complain if children climb when I’m the one who put things they are allowed to play with on a shelf that is too high.  Reorganizing that storage space is one of the not-yet-completed items on my list.  I am still not certain how to address all the issues there so until I’ve devised an acceptable plan it will have to stay as is.  Sigh.

Winter Yard

Last summer I rearranged the stumps in the yard to create a path to and over the rocks on the little hill/tunnel.

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At that time I wasn’t thinking about winter but now that the snow is here we have been creating a BIG hill in the yard by piling all the snow inside the stump circle.

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This picture was taken before the recent snowfall.  Yesterday we spent nearly two hours adding more snow to the pile so now the hill is much bigger 🙂 Watching the children play on this hill makes me dream of permanently filling that stump circle so we have a big hill in the summer too – but I would miss the inner stump circle and the tunnel too.

With all the snow piled up one side of the tunnel is now blocked so the ‘tunnel’ is actually a ‘cave’.

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This cave is now a favourite – not so secret – hiding spot.

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Found you!

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Another favourite space is inside the tipi.  In summer it is nice to be able to see through the tipi and into the lane beyond the fence.

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In the winter I pile snow behind the tipi and it becomes a wonderful place to sit when you want shelter from the wind.

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We love our winter yard.

Play Room

It was back in July that I wrote about removing the loft from our play space.  At that time it looked like this;

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I liked the way the block bin looked when it was placed diagonally across the room but it did not function well.  There was limited room in the block area and the angles were causing issues with my plans for replacing the old rubber floor tiles.

So, a few weeks ago I moved the block bin back towards the cozy couch.  This move makes the reading nook into a smaller, quieter area that is less prone to active play and heavy traffic flow.  It also provided a much larger space for block building adjacent to the workshop/music area.

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Love the new flooring now too.

I added an another shelf between the back of the block bin and the dress-up clothes rack.  This adds stability, provides extra counter space for the housekeeping area and creates a ‘tunnel’ so the children crawl through to the cozy bench instead of running and jumping 😉

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The larger, combined block/workshop/music space has also allowed me to incorporate the new-to-us/second hand ‘science table’ that was donated to our program – thanks Jamie!

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I certainly had no intention of restricting the use of the table to only science activities.  With all the tools in the workshop area beside the table I thought it might make a good workbench. So far the children’s favourite use for the table is another tunnel – they much prefer to crawl under the table to get to the nature area instead of walking (running) around the table.  They also like to use the spaces in the table as tunnels for the toys;

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Maybe it is the new room arrangement but dropping – and catching – objects through the pipes has been gaining popularity again too.

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We’re loving all the new activity with the old stuff.

By Design

Many, many years ago I had a large plastic kitchen in the housekeeping area;

15-08-design01My biggest issues with this kitchen were that it was bulky, a horrid colour and it was unstable. It was so easily pushed/pulled over by small children leaning on it or trying to open the doors that I always had to have it strapped to a nearby wall or heavy object.  The thing that amused me was that the children often used the microwave as a washer – stuffing dress-up clothes inside the teeny tiny space to clean them.

In 2009 I replaced the plastic kitchen unit with wooden appliances built into the housekeeping area.

15-08-design02a (2)Along with the fridge and stove I also included a stacking washer/dryer and the dress-up clothes were conveniently located nearby;

15-08-design02I had designed this washer/dryer unit because the children had previously shown interest in doing laundry during their dramatic play activities.  They did use the new washer occasionally to wash clothes but the dryer was rarely used to dry clothing unless I suggested it.  Maybe it was because the children were not familiar with seeing a dryer stacked on top of a washer but from the day it was first introduced the children used this ‘dryer’ as a microwave oven.

When the playroom was rearranged a couple years later I created a separate dress-up area and moved the washer/dryer away from the kitchen area and placed it in the new space.  The children diligently continued to bring their food from the kitchen all the way to the ‘microwave’ in the far corner of the play room.

15-08-design03During my most recent playroom renovation I was unable to find a good location to put the washer/dryer unit.  I wasn’t concerned about eliminating it since the children rarely used it.  However, I did disassemble it and reuse some of its pieces.  The ‘dryer’ door was added to a shelf in the housekeeping area to create a new ‘microwave’.

15-08-design04The children were thrilled.  For weeks now they have been using this new ‘microwave’.  Occasionally they cook food in it but mostly they think it makes a great garage for parking the cars which they bring here from way over from the far side of the room.

15-08-design05Maybe I should design a garage – I’m curious to see what that could become 🙂

Loftless

Only one more day before my ‘vacation’ begins and of course I have some big projects planned.  I am usually very busy during my vacation and often go for several days without turning my computer on even to check email therefore it is highly unlikely that I will be writing any blog posts. So, before I get too busy to write I wanted to briefly tell you about a ‘little’ project that has been keeping me busy for the last few weekends.

You may remember back in December I wrote about the various lofts we have had in our play space over the past ten years.  In that post I explained that we were no longer using the loft as part of our play space but would instead use that space for additional storage.

15-07-loft02Admittedly it was a very convenient spot to store cots, bedding, books, toys, and other bulky items.  In fact, it may have been too convenient to store things in the loft.  As more and more things got tossed into the loft it was becoming apparent that getting anything out of the loft was going to be a major ordeal.  So, although it was not on my list of ‘fun weekend projects’ I resigned myself to the task of cleaning out and reorganizing the loft storage space.

Then there was another interesting development.  My oldest still-living-at-home son decided to move into his own apartment and took a bunch of his stuff leaving empty space.  So, I reorganized the basement toy storage area along with the loft storage area and when I was done there was nothing left to store in the loft!

An empty loft doesn’t really use up any floor space but it is an awfully big item in a small room and if it is not needed why not take it down.  Now, taking it down is not a simple project when there are other items in the room that are attached to the loft.  Once I had decided that the loft was going my first step was to make a plan for how to rearrange the items that were going to be remaining.  Things like the block bin which was constructed between the upright supports for the loft – it was going to have to be rebuilt as a freestanding unit.

It was a somewhat slow process that was done in small phases over several weekends.  The playroom went from this ‘using the loft for storage’ space;

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15-07-loft03-1And it is now a completely loft free zone;

15-07-loft03-2Here is another view of the new loftless space;

15-07-loft04-2There is still a lot of finish work yet to be done and I have to decide what to do about the flooring – that was going to be a separate blog post but this renovation forced me to remove the old mats earlier than planned and I still don’t know what I’m going to replace them with.  For now we’ll just have to make due with what we have because I have bigger things planned for my vacation. 🙂

The Window

When I first opened my childcare home I had used the dining room of my home as the main play space.  In 2009 I rearranged the spaces so the living room became the new and improved play space.  This renovation gave the children access to the North-facing front window of my home and a whole new world of things to observe. Watching neighbourhood events like cutting down the old tree became a favourite activity.

The play space by the window is our indoor ‘nature’ area – here you can read more about the evolution of our nature space.  Due to the placement of the shelves containing our mini nature scenes some of the toddlers were not tall enough to see out the window so I had created a wooden stool which looked like a stone bridge over the imitation river;

14-08-NS00Over the past few months the bridge has caused some issues.  The toddlers who are tall enough to see out the window still like to stand on the bridge.  Those who are too short to see out become upset – there has been a lot of pushing and jostling for the premium spot.  The bridge can accommodate three cooperative toddlers but not all toddlers are cooperative and I have more than three.

As much as I like the design of the bridge I’ve been working on a plan to eliminate the need to use it to see out the window.  Two weeks ago I completed another small renovation so the shelves are no longer blocking the lower portion of the window.  The North wall now looks like this;

15-05-nature00The shelves have been moved to the East and West walls;

15-05-nature01Access to the full six foot window ledge is now level.  Most of the toddlers are thrilled.  Some are still adapting to the loss of their ‘power position’.

The Loft Evolution

It was back in 2005 that the first lofts were added to our play space. These lofts were only one foot off the ground so that we could store toy bins under them and still have useable play space. The ‘puppet loft’ provided storage for blocks as well as a stage for puppet shows;

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Inside there was also a cozy bench to sit and read or relax;

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On the other side of the room was the original nature loft which provided a nature-themed play area with storage for dress-up clothes below;

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At the end of 2008 when we relocated the playroom to the front half of the house the old lofts were disassembled. The new play space only had one loft – a larger nature loft with two levels play space. It was slightly higher than the original lofts but still low enough that all children enrolled at that time could use both upper and lower play spaces. I wrote about it and our other nature spaces here;
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It was only a year later that the nature loft was replaced by library loft. This fourth loft was nearly four feet off the ground and the entrance was gated to prevent toddlers from climbing/falling on the stairs. This loft was intended as a quiet space for the older children to go read or relax – it was not a ‘play’ space.

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The space below this loft was used as the block area. The floor of the loft created a lower ceiling in the block area which limited traffic through the construction zone. Both the block area below and the quiet area above were popular play spaces for many years.

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In fact, these areas were so popular that last year we moved the staircase and expanded the loft. The expansion made both the block area and the library loft larger and more comfortable for several children to use at the same time. We loved it. You can read more about that renovation here.
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However, over the last six months, although the block area continued to be a popular play area, the library loft was rarely used. At first I assumed this was because it was summer and we were spending most of our time outdoors. However, in the fall when the older children returned to school the library loft received even less use – sometimes no children ventured up there for a week or more!

Most of the children in my preschool group are too young to traverse the stairs or read independently. For story times I always brought books down to read to the group. I started to feel the loft was wasted space – so of course that got me thinking about renovating again. Was there a better use for this upper loft space? Was there a way to make the library more interesting/accessible? I started making a list of all the things in our space that caused me angst.

  1. the loft stairs block part of the entrance to the nature area and create traffic flow issues
  2. to enter the block area you have to go through the kitchen play space which is always crowded with people and toys – more traffic issues.
  3. the block bin is too deep – some toddlers have trouble reaching all the blocks without climbing in the bin (discouraged – safety concern)
  4. the block bin crowds the music/dance space – all the children LOVE to sing and dance – a larger music area would be appreciated
  5. there is no good place to put the new cash register – I bought it months ago but haven’t put it out for play.
  6. We need a divider on the back of the kitchen area counter – the children get frustrated when their toys keep falling behind the counter.
  7. My filing cabinet is in the storage side of the nature area – two rooms away from my desk – my excuse to NEVER do paperwork – also means there a huge ‘to be filed’ pile on my desk.
  8. the cribs are usable for napping infants when children are playing in the play room but not when other children are eating lunch or doing crafts/table activities
  9. non nappers can use nature area at nap time but have few toys available and must navigate around cots to enter/leave play area – disturbs napping children
  10. reading and crafts are perfect quiet time activities but library and indoor craft areas are not currently useable at nap time – lighting is an issue in both areas due to children napping nearby.
  11. We don’t have a good indoor space for group sensory bin/messy activities.

If I was going to renovate to make better use of the loft space then I wanted to address as many of these issues as possible at the same time. I briefly entertained the idea of using the loft as a nap area – both the compact cribs would fit up there with space between. After more thought I decided that the biggest issue was the loft stairs – they took up so much valuable space. So…two weeks ago I removed them and changed a few other things too.

Now;

  • the cribs are in the nature area
  • the music area is larger
  • the kitchen area is self contained with no ‘thru traffic’
  • there is a ‘store’ area
  • the library is portable
  • both library and craft areas are useable during nap time
  • there are many more quiet time toys available
    and….
  • the loft is used for storage.

Since I am the only one who needs to go into the loft there is no need for a bulky stair case – I just use my step stool. Yes, this is the first time in nearly 10 years that we haven’t had a lofted play space but so far there haven’t been any complaints. Besides, you never know for sure, there might be another loft in our future….