Three years ago we transformed our guest bedroom into a cute PLACE TO PLAY for Eliana and Lia. They were both toddlers with big toys and we needed one space to put it all. We loved our playroom but over time, as the girls (and our family) grew, so did our needs change. It was time for a DIY kids playroom revamp!
Step-by-step we created the perfect DIY kids playroom for our family
1. Sort, select and purge
The first step in most of our home decor projects usually begins with a sorting, selecting and purging session. Getting rid of the unwanted, unused and distracting clutter that fills our home and disorganises our living spaces is very important. “Spring cleaning” any time of the year is good for the soul.
For toys we have a very specific system:
– Step 1: Create categories to sort the items into.
1. Favourite things to play with,
2. Future play (items that might not be age appropriate yet),
3. Sentimental toys,
4. Broken and unwanted toys (unwanted toys are the toys the girls show little to no interest in) and
5. Toys that can be used for future siblings.
– Next step: Decide what to do with the toys in each category.
1. Favourite items will be stored in easy to reach places in the playroom.
2. “Future play” toys, puzzles, books and boardgames are put out of sight. I’ll reevaluated them after about 12 months.
3. Sentimental toys, like baby’s first rattle etc. gets put away somewhere safe or moved to their bedroom for them to enjoy exclusively.
4. Broken and unwanted toys will be repaired (if possible) and donated.
5. Toys that the girls have outgrown BUT can still be used by our next or another baby goes into the baby keepsake bins in our garage.
This usually takes the most time and effort and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re getting nowhere BUT keep at it and take your time going through every single puzzle, toy and book.
2. Organise the room into play areas / zones
Now that the toys are sorted, it’s time to look at the space you have in mind for your DIY kids playroom. Consider the purpose of the playroom and how you can go about creating a functional (yet pretty) space.
Questions that may help you:
– What are the ages of the kids playing in the playroom?
– Does it need to have more than one function? (Our playroom needs to include a home office space for me and a study corner for Eliana to do her homework at).
– What type of play would you like to encourage and what type of toys do you need to store? Maybe you are a family of crafters needing a dedicated art zone… Or maybe you’re raising an up and coming movie star that would love a stage and dress-up zone.
Once you understand the needs of your family it will be easy setting up each zone.
Our playroom includes the following:
A storage zone
Three kids, three different ages – our girls have lots of toys. Some toys need to be kept away from Ava due to potential risks, either Ava hurting herself or little missy destroying something. Think beautiful story books, pages torn… Puzzles with missing pieces; most likely eaten and more.
Everything has a place as follows:
– Big woven baskets right at the top for “future toys”.
– The shelving unit on the left, from top to bottom stores:
- Craft supplies in adorable Dovetail wooden “houses”.
- Educational toys and games just underneath.
- Family boardgames and giant floor puzzles next.
- Second shelf from the bottom is for wooden puzzles.
- The basket at the bottom contain LEGO Duplo and other “random toys” such as puppets, dress-up items and so forth.
– The unit on the right, from top to bottom:
- The top shelf is off limits to little people. That’s where I keep my own books and work files.
- Just underneath it you’ll find soft-cover and busy books.
- Then a shelf with Eliana and Lia’s favourite reads, as well as a basket for kids magazines.
- The second shelf from the bottom is open, creating a great “reading” surface for Ava to use. It also has a basket that’s always full of paper for drawing.
- Right at the bottom are all the hardcover baby books. The books that can “take a beating”. Ava’s favourites!
Eliana’s study / homework space
Eliana is grade 1 and she needs somewhere calm and quiet with minimal distractions for afternoon homework with mom. The wooden desk (made and installed by dad) with a comfy Dovetail bench works perfectly. I just included a chalkboard and pink Bunni wall pocket (from Clever Little Monkey). These are available in Misty grey and Seafoam green as well and are great stationary organisers.
A corner office for mom
We don’t have a home study so I needed to create a little office space for myself within the playroom. Most of the furniture and accessories are items purchased from @Home, years ago during our 1st DIY playroom project but having more kids and a new, growing business means becoming better organised hence the addition of a “family command centre”. (* More on this and the stunning Ma Petite Acrylic Calendar in a future post.)
“Free play” zone
Children need opportunities for independent play, choosing what to play with, deciding how to play with a specific item and being able to complete a chosen task at their own pace. I knew the Kallax shelf from Kids Living would work great in creating a “free play” space filled with some of our most loved independent and open-ended toys like LEGO and the Moluk range. The girls can pick-and-choose anything that looks interesting to them and don’t need any help or instructions on how to use the toy. They can simply play to their own imagination’s content. I simply add and swop activities ever so often, just to keep things interesting.
Floor play area
An open space is another MUST – preferable with an easy care carpet. Somewhere to unpack every toy, to empty every basket and to lie on the floor…
Be careful not to waste space with unnecessary clutter or big, bulky furniture. One of the best decision we made 4 years ago was knocking out our window wall, rather adding a door. Opening up those big door (especially during summer) makes our playroom bigger and more fun!
Include a cozy reading nook
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS include somewhere comfy and cozy to enjoy story time. Fostering a love for reading is a top priority and we want our girls to have fond memories of us getting lost in new adventures, meeting interesting friends and enjoying stories together.
It doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy. A wooden balancing board doubles up as a relaxed rocker. Add a soft, lush WoolVreign rug and it’s all you need to create an inviting reading corner. (Our board was a gift but these can be purchased locally from Thornwood Treasures.)
3. Find clever storage solutions
Finding a space for every toy isn’t easy but it starts with selecting the right shelves.
– Three years later, our large storage shelves from Cactic Manufacturing are still a classic. They can take so much and never go out of style. These will be apart of our home decor forever. We did however need something extra. Something smaller, more accessible to the girls….
– The IKEA Kallax shelf is a staple in any kid’s interior. It can be used horizontally, vertically and later as part of a desk unit. You’ll find endless Pinterest boards dedicated to styling and uses for this shelf. It was the versatility of this piece of that sold us. Along with it’s minimalist design and variety of square storage boxes to choose from.
Baskets and boxes
These are always useful and come in many different sizes, designs and textures to suit everyone’s taste and budget.
– The square Kallex fabric boxes are completely collapsible and come in denim, canvas and loads of other finishes. They obviously fit perfectly into the Kallex shelves but so do other fabric boxes, like the pink alphabet one, also found at Kids Living.
– The big, wicker baskets mentioned above are from Biggie Best and keeps toys, books and puzzle that can’t be enjoyed at the moment safe while adding beautiful natural touches to our playroom.
– Don’t underestimate the functionality of a pretty cardboard gift box (I bought some from mrpHOME) which come in very handy. Definitely an affordable option to consider.
– Use soft pots from ZANA for smaller items and even crayons and other stationary. If they get dirty simply pop them into the washing machine.
What about odd items?
– A fabric stationary organiser that can be hung on the wall, out of sight (like behind a door) keeps potentially harmful items far from little hands.
– Save surface space with a Melissa & Doug Single Wire Puzzle Rack. Wooden puzzles are stacked on top of each other. Any one can be pulled out and enjoyed without having to unstack them all. Selling at the moment for only R225 from Takealot.com. (*Most A4 wooden puzzle work well with this rack but not the bulkier, sound wooden puzzles.)
– Once again baskets and boxes are best for LEGO and other construction play toys that are impossible to keep tidy.
– Puzzle boxes drive me crazy! They take up so much shelf space and can never look tidy. Putting them away is like playing an impossible game of Tetris.
Finally after months of scrolling Pinterest and Instagram I stumbled upon @misskyreeloves sharing the A4 plastic file boxes she uses for her kid’s wooden puzzles. I had a lightbulb moment knowing these would work just as well for cardboard puzzles! I bought all the A4 file boxes I could find at Crazy Plastics, got myself a label maker of Takealot.com and I was set!
These work wonderfully! We store 2 puzzles per box (although more can fit). Each puzzle has it’s picture as reference inside as well (do not throw them away – use a Stanley knife if needed to cut them out). The girls can now take their puzzles along anywhere, simply building inside the plastic box.
4. Add special touches
Make it a fun space
We have also recently discovered the incredible benefits of essential oils so I decided to include a diffuser too.
The smell of lavender and other wonderful oils contributes to the happy atmosphere we want to create in our DIY kids playroom. (Currently we are using the Young Living Essential Oils and Teardrop Diffuser available from Hello Essentials South Africa).
Plants aren’t just a pretty extra
It another fun learning opportunity for the girls. They help water and trim it and actually enjoy this extra responsibility – taking care of another living thing. Let’s hope this one stays happy and growing.
Usually a playroom gallery wall consists of kid’s artwork, cheerful slogans and decorative posters
With my strong love and history in the arts I felt it necessary to expose our girls to more. We enjoy family visits to art exhibitions and galleries so I knew the girls would appreciate some “out of the ordinary” pieces…
- An original print purchased years ago at OppiKoppi. I was worried that the “fishy monster” would scare them but after showing the piece to Eliana and Lia and disguising what the artwork could possibly mean – “man’s negative impact on the world around him” or “a fish that eats everything it cal find” – they really liked it and I often find them looking at it, finding new, interesting details.
- The woven rainbow by Woven Whimsy showcases another medium.
- And of course the centrepiece of it all, our treasured family portrait. A watercolour work by Puli Prints.
Don’t forget a rug, actually don’t forget a Lorena Canals Rug (from Clever Little Monkey)
This is our second rug from this brand and the only rugs I would buy for kids. Handmade from natural cotton and dyes, these rugs are safe, eco-friendly, toxin-free and easy to care for – simply pop it into the washing machine. Ours have been washed over and over again and is still as beautiful, durable and soft as the day we first unrolled it.
5. REMEMBER: Leave “room” to grow
Don’t fill every single basket and every single shelf. Leave yourself some space to breath. Birthdays, spoils from friends and family, school projects… All these need a place too, sometimes only temporarily – wouldn’t it be nice to know you have somewhere to put it all?
We spend hours playing, learning and working in our new playroom. All the toys are easily accessible which makes them easy to put away too. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll need another revamp but for now, this is everyone’s favourite room in our home.
For more room inspiration check out:
PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana van Dalen from Madison & West Lifestyle Division.