It’s our turn on our first blog train ever – Mama Justina’s (http://makingmum.blogspot.sg/) Small Spaces at Home blog train and I’m so excited about it 🙂
I’ll be sharing (as I have a few times already) on Sophie Rose’s play area at home, and how we’ve tried to turn our pretty tiny living space into something fun and interactive for her.
It’s especially timely because from mid-July, I will be a full-time Stay At Home Mama 🙂 and we will probably be spending quite a lot of time together, at home. Our current care arrangement is that she spends a large part of each day (9-6pm) at my brother’s place so a lot of her “best” toys are there. We’re planning to start moving them back but space has been a huge headache. Right now, we’ve brought back maybe a third of her toys and this is how we’re keeping things organized!
First up, let me introduce you to our “kids”. There’s 15-month-old Sophie Rose, our cheeky little cherub. Her new nickname is Hurricane Sophie because she is always dancing, running, twirling or otherwise trying to escape the desperate grasp of her hapless parents. And then our furkid, Benjy, who is about the opposite in temperament – sweet, patient, a little needy and generally terrified of his new sister. He’s four 🙂
I thought about putting Sophie’s stuff all in her nursery but she spends most of her time playing in the living room where we can supervise her, so until she’s a bit older, our living room has been almost completely taken over by the little terror >.<
Here’s our “Space” early in the morning before Hurricane Sophie has escaped her nursery and run out to start the destruction.
We stay in a four room flat in the East of Singapore. It’s quite tiny, although already bigger than most of the newer BTOs. To save space, almost everything is pushed to the sides of the room, and this also allows the two of them more space to “roam”. To make storage, packing and play more organized and easier for my husband and I to clean up at the end of each day, we divided each of her play areas into small ‘sections’.
To jazz up the small space, I went for lots of happy, bright rainbow colors! As I want Sophie to love and feel secure in her play area.
Rainbow Tassels / Garlands / Bunting
Colorful Soft Playmats (can be used from infancy through toddler and eventually childhood!)
Cute colorful cushions for them to cuddle and hug (we love our pink and purple macaron cushions!)
First up, is the Cooking and Packing Corner
I am a very messy person, and I attribute this to the fact that I was actually a very spoiled child growing up. I didn’t put things back from where I got them, and there was always a doting grandparent or helper to clean up my mess. Now that I’m the Mama (and I don’t have cleaning help) I am determined that I will make Sophie learn the importance of being tidy (for my sake as much as hers)
So to involve her in the packing process, here’s what I did
- Baby friendly storage
Instead of using large plastic boxes which are difficult for her to carry and push around, I bought little wooden crates from florist stores as well as small plastic containers from IKEA which are easy for her to open and carry. So she can pack her own toys and blocks back into their designated baskets and take responsibility. These baskets are also great for teaching toddlers sorting games.
- Placed all toys and cupboards at her chest and eye level
This is actually I think a shoe cabinet or coffee table from IKEA which is the perfect height for her. She can carry and place her baskets on top or on the shelf below, and when she wants to stand and read a book or craft / draw we can use it as a little table. Very versatile!
We keep her little Le Toy Van Kitchen stove next to the storage area because that’s where are her little magnetic and velco veggies are!
We store her sensory toys together so that we can easily take everything out together rather than rummaging through several places to find them.
Right now we are doing sensory play with a light box inspired by Noah and his Mummy. It hardly takes up much space, but there are so many simple household items which you can use to encourage imaginative play with it. Perfect for Small Spaces. We are also doing play-doh, and the great thing is, the covers double up as color-circles which we can use for sensory play too! So if this week’s play is light box play, we only take out complementary toys to minimize the clutter.
We also like to buy boxed sets for books so they are easily to keep and can be put standing up, taking up less space. 🙂
Next, the Reading Corner
This bookshelf is just great. I can stuff so many of her books into it. It’s from Amazon and it goes such a long way in reducing the mess and its pretty decorative and looks great in the room, even when its stuffed haphazardly with books – we make her pack her own books and that’s why it looks like this. ^.^
To brighten up the area, I installed simple pastel colored kid’s bookshelves. Don’t worry if you don’t want to drill holes, these are held up by the new 3M Command Tape (NOT an advertisement) which can hold up to 7 kg! I hate drilling holes because I am a complete home-fix noob so these were perfect.
Also, they help reduce clutter because its so easy to slot them back, rather than packing all the books away into another storage box.
We display her favourite books of the moment on these shelves so she can easily point to them and tell us when she wants a story instead of rifling through the shelf. We hope that this encourages her to develop a love of reading, especially when she is so easily distracted these days and will hardly stay still for a story.
Finally, the Active Play Corner
To “extend” her play area and add a bit of extra color, K and I bought this little green carpet from IKEA. It’s such great value! Sophie Rose loves it because it adds a whole new dimension to her play-time. She loves to have picnics on it because its fluffy and looks like grass, and it’s also a space for her to drag things over from her toy area and inspect one by one. We love doing sensory play here because for some reason the fluffy and bright carpet makes things extra fun!
Our living room, post Hurricane Sophie! (oops, Penny’s undies are showing!)
Tips to reduce clutter
Don’t Overbuy Toys
We try to buy toys which will really stretch and last for years. We hardly ever buy toys for Sophie now, after a large initial investment into several interactive toys which have lasted her from 8-9 months to 15 months and are still not fully explored.
- Toy Kitchens – Sophie has two, a smaller one at our place, and a large kidkraft one at my brothers’. A toy kitchen is a must-have, in my opinion. She learns so many new things and has so much fun exploring the set. For instance, she improves motor skills through opening and closing doors, pretending to “cook”. Social interaction when she takes instructions from us about what ingredients to place into the pot – and she’ll even rush to “cook” for us when we tell her we are hungry. We teach her to organize different kinds of “food” into different compartments, and she learns to tidy up on her own after each cooking session. As she is older, her imagination grows and she makes her own weird little dishes which are a complete delight! (Just yesterday, I was served alphabet blocks and a stick of asparagus for breakfast from a demanding chef who kept hollering “NICE?” and shoving it at my sleeping face)
- Multi-purpose Toys – We love our magnetic “chopped” fruit which can double up as cooking “ingredients”. It also teaches her logic and step by step preparation – she chops up the veggies, places them in the pot. And all kids love magnets. She can sit there for 15 minutes just decapitating radishes, carrots, eggs and potatoes and then sticking them back again.
- Interactive Toys / Imaginative Toys – Books and toys which encourage a sense of imagination are the toys we love most at home. Although our space is small, with an active imagination, Sophie Rose’s mind can travel anywhere she pleases and the fun never ends 🙂 With her dolls, for instance, she tells them stories, kisses them, mothers them, baby-wears them, feeds them meals, and then dances with them. I teach her how to identify eyes, ears, noses and how to be gentle. Along with her make-believe food, picnic set and books, she creates her own little world at her play corner and can occupy herself for up to an hour without me constantly having to give her shiny new things to keep her occupied. We also have a light box (see above) which has endless possibilities of fun!
Keep several toys in storage at any given time and take them out to rotate them. We rotate Sophie’s toys every week and this helps keep clutter down as well as keeps things fresh and interesting for her. Instead of buying more and more toys, this keeps them busy! 🙂
Decorative Storage Bags
Instead of using boxes which can be unwieldy, we use storage bags. I bought two pretty Cath Kidston canvas fabric storage bags from the UK and they are fabulously handy and look pretty to boot! You can easily drag them by the handles around the house, picking up stray stuffed toys and random blocks if you just need to do a quick sweep clean. And then tuck them away in a corner and voila, mess is gone! They are also easily folded up into an A4 size when you don’t need them. The perfect kind of storage!
Everything Should Have its Place
I personally find it so much easier to clean up messes when everything has its designated place to be returned to. Instead of having one general “toys” area, it might help to divide the area up into different kinds of play to help baby compartmentalize and also to make packing easier because after a while, it becomes second nature to return things to a specific place. Good habits 🙂
Right, that’s all I have today! I am currently doing a remodeling of Sophie’s nursery in July so I hope to have another similar blog post to share soon 🙂 Just drop me a comment or a mail if you need to know where to find stuff in my blog post or you need some pointers. Although I still think my living room is a complete mess >.<
Next on the train is Mama May of A Million Little Echoes.
May is a Stay-At-Home Mom of two who enjoys decorating and designing spaces at home. Her home, pre-kids, was showroom quality. Friends who know her would comment how messy her home had become post-kids. Head over to her blog tomorrow, to find out how every room in the house is taken over by the children.
Libby and Sophie-Rose