May 23, 2015

Creating a Safe Baby Play Area in a Small Space

One of the first things we stressed over when we found out about the twins was where in the hell we were going to put them and all their stuff. Our apartment is itty-bitty. It was perfect for just the two of us but we could not picture how to fit two more people plus all the gear that comes with them. We sold a bunch of stuff, got a storage unit and are constantly rearranging to make things fit.

When they were newborns they obviously didn't require much space so their play area was a corner of the living room with a playmat and some bins of toys. Once they started rolling and getting mobile we needed to expand. We thought about using our dining room but it's right in the middle of the rest of the house, it's dark and it's where we keep all our crap that we can't store away, carefully piled up and out of the way. Don't worry we've got it barricaded most of the time by chairs!

So we cleared out a bookshelf and chair for the living room and  and although it took some time and serious reorganizing of all the junk I've acquired they finally have the perfect baby-friendly, safe, "yes" space that they can grow into for however long we are here (which I pray is only one more year). I've always loved the use of centers to organize playspaces in childcare settings so I definitely wanted to do that at home. I found that when things aren't organized and everything is easily accessible kids can get overwhelmed and actually bored very easily. I kept this in mind while organizing their space and it's really working out well!

Main Play Area:

We picked up a neutral colored rug and used an old bookshelf to define their area and organize their toys. The bottom shelf is for easy access to their favorite toys like stacking cups, soft shape box, wooden rattles, rings, etc. I rotate out two or three of the toys each week but the cups and rings are always there, they love them!

Above that is the less-used toys or things that come out when they're bored of their accessible toys. There is a bin full of all the teethers, rattles, small stuffed animals, rings, etc. we have that we use to rotate with a few toys on the first shelf every week.  I keep their play computers that make music, a box of blocks and a rainbow wheel up there too.

The top shelf is where I keep our loose parts so they're easily accessible for me but not for them. They have two bins of stuffed animals and baby dolls too. They can reach everything that's safe and that they enjoy and I can facilitate other play easily and seamlessly if I want to.

Physical Toys:

Opposite the shelf across the rug is the push walker they love and a chair. We don't have any stairs in our apartment so they use these to practice pulling up on. Sometimes I'll turn the push toy on to keep one busy while I'm changing the other's diaper. I also have a ball drop and a one of those push mowers that I'll rotate out when they are ready. I'd love to add a rocking boat or foam climbing toys someday too.


One of the first things I did after they came home was set up a mirror. Although it was months before they actually noticed it they still have fun playing in front of it, looking at themselves and each other and now they interact with it, "touching" their faces and banging toys on it. I recently decorated above it with decals to add another visible element.

In front of the mirror I keep their ball basket and a small bin of random toys to discover that I rotate out weekly. Lately it's been filled with caps, shakers, squeaky teethers and rings. Eventually I will stand the mirror up and add a dress up box and play kitchen here whenever we get our hands on one.

 Learning Center:

They love to sit at their name stools like little desks and bang and chew on the letters so I've turned this into a sort of learning area, where eventually I will set up invitations to play and learn. Even now at times I will add a puzzle, wooden blocks, play animals, or loose parts on a tray for them to discover and manipulate.

I keep things under the stools for them to discover and rotate them out monthly. This month it's crawling helpers like cars and a rolling thing and the peek-a-boo block shape box that they're loving lately.

Cozy Corner:

I recently created a reading nook/cozy corner opposite their play area, next to the couch. Vivienne kept crawling over here and pulling my books out from under the side table so I moved that and laid down a bookshelf for easy access for them. I put the baby-safe cloth books in the middle where they can reach them and our reading books on top along with the stacking boxes and alphabet and of course the cat. I added some stuffed animals to discover and snuggle and have caught them a few times rolling or crawling over and looking at the books.

So far it's working out great. We're working on the rest of the living room this weekend. So far we have taken out anything that could hurt them and put it up high, bolted our power strips to the wall, are tethering the tv and shelf and adding random books and toys on our tv stand in place of the pictures and dvds that used to be there. They now have one whole room that is a baby safe "yes" space so all I have to do is barricade (working on getting a gate too!) them in there and I don't have to worry about them getting hurt or getting into something they're not supposed to. Plus there's lots for them to explore and discover, things to pull up on and scoot around and the big bonus is they're not confined to a separate playroom so I can clean, fold laundry, do the dishes or even just relax all while they play safely and within eye and ear shot of me.  Turns out this big-family in a small-space living isn't half bad after all!

How did you organize your child's playspace?


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