I’ve always joked with people that I have a type A+ personality. As soon as I found out I was pregnant (I was 10 weeks along), I immediately took to arranging the nursery. I had everything ready just the way I wanted it, complete with clothes stocked in a dresser, before I was six months pregnant.
Now that my son is a walking, almost talking, toddler, I wanted to change things up for him. But given that I live on a budget, completely re-outfitting his nursery was a no go. So instead, I rearranged the furniture in our living room to make him his own play area, re-purposing items we already had, making it a very low investment for his hours of fun (and my sanity).
1. Play with space.
It took re-arranging three times before I made the perfect space in the room. I found that picking a corner and making that the start place brought everything else together. We now have a distinct division between Mommy and Daddy’s reading and relaxing area and Doodleland.
2. Don’t focus on a theme.
I was obsessed about the nursery. I picked a sage green and teddy bears as the theme, and I spent endless hours at thrift stores and on ebay purchasing everything just right to match. I started out with the same goal for the play area, but after several days of scouring realized I was not going to find a coordinating everything that I wanted. I set my sights on Dr. Seuss, primarily because we have a beautifully framed print (from the Dr. Suess wall calendar) that was gifted to us for a newborn present. So I picked colorful storage baskets to match the print, and am working to get a second print done. Little touches I do with love, he’s much too busy to notice.
3. Repurpose what you already have.
We already had a corner bookshelf, so I put all of his board books and a few toys on the shelves, making sure to place the easier-to-destroy books on top to be used for story time. We had carpet remnants that are working great for protecting the hardwood floor, and a small hamper that has been repurposed for storing stuffed animals.
4. Make it self-service.
Repurposing our coffee table not only gave additional storage, but put our little Doodle’s toys within reach. I did purchase three CD storage boxes from Target to help categorize his toys (they turned out to be the perfect length of the coffee table). In addition to the toys, he has a snack dish on top of the coffee table, which is just a cheap and colorful dog food dish purchased at the dollar store (for cheap plastic, it has held up very well through all the banging, throwing and chewing). Now he can not only get toys when he wants them, but help himself to snacks and juice, too. It’s never too early to start building a little independence.
5. No rules, just play.
We have a wide variety of toys in the play area (all but one purchased through yard sales or thrift stores). And while we know certain things are supposed to work a certain way, we leave it up to the little one to decide how to play. Just recently, we learned that footballs go in nesting boxes, rockets (are stuffed) inside tugboats, and sorting rings in the dog’s water bowl. Additionally, I make sure that the TV is off as much as possible so he can use his imagination without interference.
The bottom line is that everyone in the family should have their own space in the home, not just their bedroom. By sharing our living room with our son, we’ve created a real family room, where we can share memorable moments as he makes new discoveries and reminds us a thing or two about the joys of childhood.