crafting a meaningful little project at a time

Thursday, September 6, 2012

little playspaces, BIG IDEAS: Workspaces in the Playspace

Welcome back to my five part playroom redesign series, {little playspaces} BIG IDEAS! You’ve spent some time dreaming and planning the perfect playspace to meet your child’s needs by Planning an IntentionalPlayspace and you’ve thought through your desires for the Atmosphere of the playspace , and you’ve thought through your vision for the Aesthetics of the space … Today’s focus is on the workspaces in your new playspace.

Whether you have a large space to work with or a tiny nook, you’ll need to select functional furniture. Ask yourself: what will facilitate the work your child will do in the space?

I wanted to provide four areas of possible play in our itty bitty study: reading, sensory play, art, and kitchen. My two big challenges in making this part happen were space and budget…as in small space and an even smaller budget! Here is what I did to pull this off…

Reading Nook

Here is the reading nook in my dream home but in my tiny study in my real-life house, that just ain’t gonna happen! Keeping that in the dream file, I looked at how I could work with what we had. We have had this giant overstuffed armchair in our living room for over five years. It takes up an obscene amount of space in a small living room, no one in my family ever sat in it, and it looked like an elephant. I pulled this beast into the study, set it at an angle, and saw the monster in a new light when my kids immediately scrabbled into it…apparently moving the hulk into a new space made it interesting to them…and I never even thought of it as a possible reading nook. But guess what? It’s perfect! With a few comfy pillows, a basket of books, and one of my patchwork quilts protecting the ottoman, it has become a cozy little spot for the kids to snuggle up and read or play. It also makes a great place for me to tuck in with my laptop to work while the kids play. And it turns out that the ottoman, with a little chair pulled up, is the perfect height to serve as additional play space. It’s no hanging wicker seat with a round window behind it, but it works great and didn’t cost a dime! Perfect!

Sensory Table

My kids spend more time building scenes in rice with pinecones and pipe cleaners than they do messing around with toys, so I knew I wanted a sensory table in the new space. But my study is carpeted, and I despise cleaning up spilled rice and dry bins on carpet. Until I talk the hubs into pulling out all of our carpet in favor of wood floors, the rice and beans really needs to stay in the kitchen. As a tidier alternative, I came up with this idea that I wanted to build a curiosity table…I snagged an old wall shadowbox display at Goodwill for about $4 and figured I’d attach some legs to the bottom somehow so the kids could sit/stand at it and use the small spaces to organize, sort, and play. The challenge? I can barely hang a picture, let alone actually build anything- and we don’t have any workshop and woodworking space here either. So I tracked down a friend who had just built some furniture for his living room and commissioned him to attach some legs for me. Instead, he blew me away with this creation- wow! (If you’re interested, check out his other work here.) The children were equally amazed, and love to sort out whatever will fit in the little spaces: rock collection, tiny horses, clip-on earrings, Hot Wheels, sea shells, pom poms, play coins and dollars, figurines, you name it! The Plexiglas lid lowers to protect the collections and doubles as an extra surface to work on. Love it!

Art Table

Both of my little ones are big into arts and crafts, but they come by it honestly! Ha! An art table was a must for their play area. I would love to try making this DIY craft station from Martha Stewart someday, but my study will only support something, oh, a fifth of that size! So I had to ask myself, what do they really need? A table. A chair. That I can do! The tallest of an old set of nesting tables turned out to be the perfect height for the kids. One of the unused chairs from their dinner table pushes in very nicely. For materials storage, I covered some old frosting cans with some cute scrapbook paper and filled them with crayons, glue sticks, and safety scissors. We picked up a “real artist’s” wooden art kit with an easel at a garage sale for $3 (what a steal!). A stack of white drawing paper on top with my beautiful red clog full of colored pencils on top of that…this has been my daughter’s number one hang out since I set it up. First stop after waking up in the morning, before she hits the breakfast table: we added a little basket behind the chair for her to store her notebooks and works in progress, and she couldn’t be happier.


This was a big, unexpected, added bonus for our playspace! I was trolling garage sales, Goodwills, and secondhand shops for a teeny tiny shelf for the playroom, when I saw the back of what looked like the perfect-size bookshelf sticking out from behind an old couch. But when I turned it around, it was a gorgeous little preschool-grade kitchen set…for $9! Score! The finish was a little worn and totally the wrong color for my taste, and the stove top was a little scratched, but for under $10 it is absolutely amazing! I decided to get really crazy and try to refinish it myself…it actually turned out pretty great, if I do say so myself! The kids helped sand it, so in their minds, they “made” this new kitchen set themselves- which of course increases the kid appeal a hundred fold.

So there you have it: I rearranged, thrifted, and refurbished my way into creating all the workspaces we need for our new playspace.

Your turn! Go back to your Dreaming and Planning Sheets and your Atmosphere Sheet.  What do you need to buy, beg for, borrow, or build to create the workspaces you need for YOUR new playroom? Get busy planning and searching, and we’ll meet back here to focus on setting up and maintaining your new playroom!

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