In part one of this series we went over beginning to pare down children’s things, not involving them at first to make some tough decisions about what stays and what goes. We brought the children in in part 2, starting at the beginning with things coming in in the first place, and talked about how to involve them in the simplifying process. Lastly I’d like to talk a little about setting up a child’s space to make what things we do decide to keep orderly and inviting for play.
A child’s play is his work. I feel it’s very important to take my children’s play very seriously as this is where they follow my example and mimic the adult world. The play space is where they work out things they’ve seen and taken in, where they bring life to new thoughts and ideas. I can see their growth ‘played out’ in their play, as they take on and delegate roles. Instead of keeping their things ‘out of the way’ in their bedroom or a separate play room, I’ve given them a key room in the house that is very nearly the central room. It’s a little room just between the living room and kitchen and open to both of these rooms. While I make breakfast I can see them in their own kitchen and they bring me bowls full of ‘cookies’ and mugs full of ‘coffee’. As I work in the living room they play happily with their animals or their dollhouse, and can see me all the while.
Now, just up front, before you say that that’s all fine and dandy if you’ve got the room, you should know that we have a very, very, very small house. We have a living room, kitchen with a tiny dining area, bathroom, two bedrooms, and this room in the middle of everything that is probably the biggest room in our small house (and it’s not a very big room). So, if we’re so hard-pressed for space why did we give our girls the central room? Sure, I could have used that room for my business space or an extra bedroom. But, like I said,I take my children’s play very seriously and my observation has been that their play is more plentiful, more peaceful, and more focused when it is close by the adults. Previously all of their things were kept in their room. They made huge messes, they fought incessantly, they scattered their things about the house in an attempt to bring their play to where everyone else was and many, many things were played with very little. Now, the bulk of their toys are in this main room. In their bedroom are just some of their personal toys they prefer not to share and the box I spoke in the last part of part 2.
In this main room we’ve set up a little round table and chairs that’s just their size, the kitchen set up you see in the top photo, the shelves seen here with the bulk of their little toys on it, topped with our nature table, and their dollhouse (also seen here). Just a little about each of those things;
•The table and chairs we purchased at the beginning of this year and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made for them. Before, they would bring their coloring to our big table, just a few feet away and play food, as well. But now they do these things so much more. Now that they have their own sized table it feels like part of their kitchen, just like mama’s, and they just love it. They’re constantly setting up meals for their dollies and each other. Just beside the table we keep coloring books, paper, crayons and pencils on a shelf shorter than them, so they can sit and draw when they want and put things away on their own.
•My husband turned a bedside table into a kitchen for the girls and we found a weird little chest that works perfectly as a refrigerator. Everything in their kitchen is real (other than the food, of course), either cast offs from my own kitchen or purchased in thrift shops. I looked for things that were on the smallish size and natural, yet sturdy materials. The whole thing was put together very inexpensively. We decided not to paint it (though, will paint over that ugly green on the chest) . My feeling is that there is no need to over saturate a child in garish colors, but begin early to highlight subtle beauty. This is only my own opinion…
•The shelving holds many baskets full of small toys. All peg people in one basket, animals in another, scenery in this one, a large basket of silks underneath. Everything has a place and once you set that place, they will remember and they will want to put things back just where they belong. Sometimes my girls let me know if I’ve misplaced something when I help them clean up. The shelves are open and within easy reach, inviting the child into play.
•The dollhouse is quite large, open, and super simple. My parents made it for my girls Christmas before last, to my specifications. I desired a dollhouse that was open on all sides so that all three of my children could put their hands and heads into it without getting into one another’s way. Plenty of space for everyone. I kept it unpainted and unadorned so that the space could become anything they need it to become. I keep the furniture set up all the time, once again, to invite them to play.
•In the photo above you can see a few things set out. A toadstool house and gnome (purchased from Natural Kids own Rjabinnik) a basket of shells, one full of pine cones, a treehouse and empty basket. I rotate these things out with various toys every now and again, perhaps adding a little tree and a fairy. Again, I set these things out to invite the children into play.
I can’t stress that last sentence enough. You could say the whole room revolves around that thought. If play is the work of children we must give them an inviting space, close by, where they can carry out this very important work. If you’ve gone through their things and parred down, gotten them to join you and encouraged them to simplify their own things, then all that’s left is to make a space where play can flow easily, where everything has a place, and where large pieces are made to handle lots of play. Keep things simple, your children will add their own color and life to a space. And if their things are kept simple and natural there is no concern about this area ‘clashing’ with your main living space. Children live in your home (I’m assuming, if you’re reading this post) and that is more than OK. It’s right as rain for their things to be right out where everyone ‘lives’ and shows that they are treasured and respected and their ‘work’ is important to you.
Being so out in the open like this does mean we keep things picked up throughout the day, not a bad thing to teach, though. I sing a song to begin the tidying process and I begin cleaning up. For me, it’s very important to keep my space tidy and I just function best in an clean space. That’s on me and I tidy much of it myself and encourage them to pitch in. You may see things differently or be able to have things lying about much of the day without it bothering you, and that’s OK. This is just how I personally deal with having a child’s space out in the main living area. Do what works for you and your family.
Giving over an entire main room may not work, or be desirable for you. But perhaps you can find a space in your kitchen for their kitchen. or a spot in the living room for a shelf of things and their dollhouse. Wherever you can bring their space into the family space will open up their play and allow them to mimic and play out right by you, which is where young children crave to be.
I do hope that you’ll find something in this three part series to inspire you to bring simplicity into your children’s space and a little more space and harmony into your home. And I invite you to leave any questions or tips you use in your own home in the comments below.