In our odd circular shaped basement, you can literally run around! We made the most of this odd shape by using the separation to create different experiences for our children and our guests. We can get some energy out in our indoor ball pit, playing tag or ball. We can put on a puppet show. We can cozy up to a movie under a heavy blanket. How about reading some books? Or imagining and creating the morning away at our nook, with coloring, crafts, and puzzles? The best part is we never have to decide – we can do it all!
Our main goal when creating our playroom: Always have fun! Can you truly hope for anything more than for your child than to be joyous, carefree and always have fun? We have hundreds of toys in our basement. Most of our toys were bought for fraction of the price second-hand; we select those gently used items that can be easily sanitized and safely introduced into our home. Toys are not only for fun but for research, exploration, and learning.
I often use toys to reinforce the primary teaching strategies I am using in my home. I do this with even toys that are not “scholastic”. You can bet that the week of a trip I will have an airplane toy out and I will be discussing with Amani where we are going and how we behave on a plane! Since I work in the corporate world where a leadership style is valued, it is especially important to me that my daughters are not limited to “girl” toys, and are exposed to every option the world has to offer.
Once you become aware of the world of thrifting, a whole world of new options will open up around you. Most toys you see in my Playroom Tour Video were less than $5 each. It is common for larger toys (like a play kitchen) to be extremely cheap at a thrift store since 1) families shopping at thrift stores often don’t have space for these items and they take longer to sell 2) thrift stores often operate on volume and strive to turn over their inventory fast.
Examples of places to “thrift” in New Jersey:
- Red White and Blue (cash only)
- Salvation Army
- Value Village
- Facebook Marketplace (join local buy and sell pages)
- Garage sales (usually posted on Craiglist)
- Habit of the Humanity Restore (furniture)
Safety is the first priority in our playroom. Here are some of the strategies we used:
- Outlet plugs installed every outlet
- Ball pit positioned away from the wall with a mattress behind
- Removable pressure mounted gate at the bottom of the stairs to deter anyone from going upstairs alone
- Wall mounted TV – Amazon offers this now as a Service starting at $120! We mounted our component shelf on the top right of the tv to keep dangerous cables high
- Use of lightweight, collapsible Ikea Skubb boxes on shelves within reach (not heavily loaded)
- Heavy items well out of children’s reach or on the floor. We use Ikea Sortera recycling bins used to keep puzzles and tabletop activities on the floor for easy selection by children. Each puzzle is also individually bagged in Dollar Tree (L) storage bags to keep parts together. These high-quality bags come in boxes of three and fit puzzles perfectly.
- Soft mesh laundry bins used to hold stuffed animals that little hands can easily topple over and sift through
- House alarm installed on all windows and doors and armed even while we are home
We use chalk labels to strategically organize most of our toys. The labels can be easily erased and changed. Each box is labeled for a toy or for a collection of toys that serve a similar purpose such as “colors”. This allows mom and dad to easily decide what to bring down for today’s play and helps us easily select different toys each week to send to our care provider. We hone in on specific skills we are teaching in our home. Our Mr. Potato heads get their own box that we can pull them out when we want to work on fine motor skills!
Side benefits to storing toys this way is that our friends that visit can easily help clean up. We also rarely lose toy parts, even to those toys that have tons of pieces. If a piece is found around the house, it can easily be put right back in its respective box. The way we store our toys keeps playing fresh. Our daughter never stops asking to go play in the playroom!
Most of our storage solutions are in white or neutral color. This helps to keep kids from being visually overwhelmed and keeps the space looking cleaner. Other than our chalkboard, nothing in our playroom is “permanent” so our basement will transform and grow into their teen years.
For those people who may think we have way too much going on in our basement – I can assure you of this: While it was fully furnished for the years we waited and prayed to get pregnant, it was barely ever used. In the past two years, the playroom has brought more joy to our family and friends than we could have ever hoped. I am sure there will be plenty of time, when my husband and I are old, to be sitting in our pristine empty house once again. But for now… pure bliss.