Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Raising Children Without a Playroom

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      A parenting trend has emerged within my generation- the playroom. It would appear that to parent in this day and age a playroom for children within the home is a necessity. I get it. The children have a little world of their own in which their imaginations can develop. Toys and play have a centralized location which limits the mess spread through the entire house. Also, Mama can have the opportunity to accomplish her desires or simply gain a little space from the demands of little ones (because at the youngest ages everything is a demand and immediately needed). Truly, I get it. I've seen it many times over. (And wondered if we're still the only ones functioning without one!). However, these rooms can also be rather disadvantageous. For some of us, a playroom simply isn't available or desirable. In those cases there must be alternatives for play areas and toy storage. After all, generations past have successfully raised children without a room full of toys or space specifically for the child(ren). How did they do it? I don't know precisely their methods, but I can share our approach to raising children without a playroom.

*Note: This post is not intended to be in condemnation of the playroom. On the contrary, it is to simply demonstrate strategies for raising children without a playroom. We've now raised our children in two locations, and have encountered a playroom-less home to be a rarity. When seeking ideas and strategies for managing the children's day without such a resource, I've found very few. Therefore, I hope the following will be helpful for anyone in a similar position. These are ideas that I have sought out, implemented, and have worked well for our family. 

      For the first two years of our parenting journey, we lived in a small townhome. The two bedroom, tightly-configured space didn't leave any options for a play area. This home, however, provided inspiration to find alternatives for toy storage and play. For instance, we kept all toys in a hall closet upstairs. (It was previously a linen closet, but after some shifting of items to other locations of our home it provided a perfect space to store toys!). We would select a few toys to bring downstairs and stored them in a large basket that fit within our entertainment unit. Periodically, I would rotate the toys available in that basket. The children came to know this system as the only means for toys and play, and were perfectly content! When we would visit places with playrooms abounding with toy options, it was evident that they were intrigued but highly overwhelmed. (And, honestly, the sheer volume of mess overwhelmed me!). It can be difficult to fully explore an individual toy, learn to take proper care of the item or space, and be calm and content in such an environment. This, at least, has been our experience. 
The toy closet

Top shelves
Bottom shelves
   We've maintained this approach to toys and play. Though we have purchased and moved into our own home now, which is more spacious and even has an "extra" room in the form of a formal dining room, we have chosen to not create a playroom. (We chose to create an office/school room/guest room instead). We still have the same approach of storing toys in a hall closet. The children ask or I select a few bins for play. Once that playtime is done, we put the toys back in the bins and back in the closet. We do have a few toys elsewhere in our new home, but those are very purposeful in placement.

     Each child has a wooden crate in their bedroom. The crate houses just a few of their favorite toys or some of the more gender-specific toys. They are welcome to play with those items anytime they are in their bedrooms but not sleeping. The limited quantity allows the clean-up to be quick and manageable for little ones. 
Annelise's crate in her bedroom

     We also have a few educational toys in our office/school room, which we use as part of our "tot school" and "tiny tot school" curriculum.
Bins in the school room 
    The children may play neatly in any room, but often play in the living room as it is larger and central in our home. Within that room, we have a pack n' play and play yard set up. Unless it's specifically playpen time in our daily schedule (typically while I'm nursing the baby), the play yard is left open for the children to enter and play at will. Toys are required to stay in that area instead of being carried and left all over the living room floor. 

Play yard in the living room

      Of course, outside is also a wonderful option for a play area! We love to get outside as much as possible. Fortunately, where we live it's warm enough to play outside most days of the year. We store outside activities and toys in a similar fashion in bins within our shed. 
The dirt pit!
Activities and toy storage in the shed
      Yes, being without a playroom does take a lot of hands-on attention and guidance from Mama. My children are very activities-driven versus toy-driven. It's been a conscious decision on my part to learn to be "all in" in my parenting in this season. There will come a time in which the children will need less hands-on and less guidance. Learning to play well with their toys and in their space is a benefit of our approach. I'm sure there are other approaches that achieve the same goal. This has been ours, and it has been wonderful for us. 

*Note: I apologize if the formatting of this post is off. Our computer is still struggling to function properly. :(

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