In my line of work I get to visit a lot of families at home. It really is fascinating seeing how everybody lives, their home environments and most importantly how they interact within the four walls of the family home.
Many families have set up areas for their children to play, and a very common thing in most modern homes now is actually a whole room dedicated to children’s toys – a playroom. They are filled to the brim with the latest and greatest toys and gadgets – more than most kids could ever really need.
The truth in reality though, is that playrooms really are for adults as they like to keep all of the children’s toys and belongings in one area of the house. Kids are known to leave things in every nook and cranny, and a toy room seems like an obvious way to try to keep on top of the mess.
Ironically though, so many families say to me that their kids do not ever actually play in the playroom, rather opting to bring their toys out into the living area. This causes lots of frustrations for parents. They ask me – Why can’t they just play with their toys in the playroom? Why do they say things like “I am bored” or “I have nothing to play with?”
The reasons why playrooms are stifling our children’s creativity-
They are ridiculously overloaded – storing all your kids toys in one area means that often there is so much in the room that most families lose track of what they actually even have on offer.
Children need visual stimulation – they are attracted to things that are arranged creatively or spark or engage an interest. This is why kindergartens and child care centres spend hours each day setting up exciting and engaging activities that children are drawn to play with.
Toys are outgrown – It is really important that children are surrounded by toys that are developmentally and age appropriate. Our toy selection must evolve as our children’s brains develop.
Toys must be rotated– If the toys just sit in the same spot for months on end – they lose their appeal and actually almost become invisible to your children. They are not saying “Come and play with me” -so children will not be engaged or excited about the toys being stored in there.
Children still need to be taught how to play & be creative – expecting children to go into a room alone and play for long periods of time is setting a very high expectation that almost all children could never actually meet. Many adults struggle with spending time alone, so to expect a young child to do this is just unrealistic.
Kids will always still want to be where you are– children are constantly looking for connection. This is why they will continually bring toys out of the playroom and out into areas where the other members of the family are. Have realistic expectations around where the kids can play, and set up some toys for them in the living area also.
The good news for families is that with some careful consideration and a bit of organisation you can reignite the excitement in your kid’s toy room and play space.
First things first – involve your kids in a big clean out and organisation of their space.
Make it fun – put on some funky music and bring in some snacks. Organise three boxes – one for toys to keep, one to donate (especially toys that are no longer age appropriate) and one for the rubbish. Anything that is broken or doesn’t work anymore goes out to the rubbish bin.
Involving your children in the process is really important. It gives them some input and control over their new space. It will encourage them to take ownership and develop responsibly and pride for their play area, and hopefully encourage them to tidy up after themselves when asked.
Pack up some toys into storage boxes and move them out of the toy room into the garage or up in another cupboard out of sight.
Arrange the toys creatively, but with the knowledge that this is something that will need attention every couple of weeks. Set up the toy kitchen with all of its little bits and pieces, make a cosy book nook or set up a little table where the kids can draw and colour in. Change it up regularly.
Remember messy play is creative play, and children learn through play. Don’t stress about the mess – it can always be cleaned up afterwards, and always encourage your children to be involved in tidying up at the end of each day.
I can guarantee you that putting time and effort into making this space exciting, creative and enticing will have a profound affect on your child’s ability to play independently for short periods of time.
Not only will you see a spark in your child’s imagination and creative play, but you will absolutely see an improvement in their behaviour too!
What could be better than that?
Love Chrissie xx
“Empowering families to create the perfect mix of chaos & love”
Chaos to Calm Consultancy would like Wadawarrung of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the elders past, present and emerging -particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who walked before us supporting and connecting their children to the earth, water and community. Always was. Always will be.