We all have areas for our kids to play and keep their toys. But did you know that the design of your toddler’s play space impacts how they play?
We’re to help you create a space where kids can play for hours.
What’s So Important About Play?
Not only do toddlers love to play and explore, but play is how they learn. Play helps children develop curiosity, creativity, focus, problem-solving, and social skills.
These are all skills that kids need for academic success and lifelong learning.
Play is also a great form of stress relief and should be an everyday activity in the life of a toddler if for no other reason.
Tips for Setting up Toddler Play Spaces at Home
We want to invite our toddlers into deep and meaningful play by setting up spaces that align with their developmental needs. Here are our top tips:
1. Keep Toys Low
You want young kids to have easy access to toys. Placing toys on a low level allows them to pull things out and play without your help.
Avoid placing toys and books on high shelves your kids cannot reach. This makes them dependent on you.
Set up everything in the space at the child’s level. Keep toys, shelving, seating, and even wall art low so that it can be used and enjoyed by young kids.
This will help them to build independence and focus as they play.
Are you worried about your toddler pulling out all the toys at once and creating a huge mess? Not all the toys you own need to be in your toddler’s play space. See tip number two!
2. Minimize Toys and Clutter
More toys are not better. Having lots and lots of toys can feel chaotic and overwhelming for kids. Things get broken, pieces are missing, and there is little open space to play.
This can translate into them playing for shorter periods of time.
Consider doing a toy declutter to hone down your toy collection. Of the toys you keep, place a manageable number of toys out at a time and keep the rest in storage.
This will invite kids into deep and meaningful play, and you might see them playing with toys that were previously buried, forgotten, or rarely used. Rotate the toys as needed.
Take the time to rid the space of any additional clutter to make a peaceful and inviting toddler play space. This might mean removing some of your own items from the area.
3. Child Proof the Space
You want to give young kids a space to explore and play safely without needing constant adult intervention.
The psychologist Jean Piaget described children as little scientists. We want to keep this curiosity and love of learning alive by creating spaces that minimize the number of times we have to say no to kids.
Take the time to kid-proof your play area as much as you can. Cover outlets, secure furniture, and remove anything you don’t want them to touch.
This meets them where they are developmentally and gives them a place to be curious, hands-on learners.
There will be plenty of other opportunities throughout your day for you to redirect your kids away from dangerous situations or things you’d rather they not touch.
Don’t worry about depriving them of learning opportunities by childproofing your play area.
4. Close to the Rest of the Family
Avoid setting up your main play space in a bonus room way off on the far side of the house. You’ll quickly find that it is rarely used.
Young kids want to be close to you and the rest of the family. Consider where you spend most of your time and find a nearby place to create your playspace. Maybe it’s a corner of the kitchen or in the family room.
5. Include Some Active Toys
Young kids love to move; this is how they develop muscles, coordination, body awareness, and get out all their energy. There are many health benefits associated with being active.
The Infant and Toddler Forum recommends that kids under five should be physically active for about 25% of their waking time each day.
A few active toys like an indoor slide or climber can be helpful. These can be a lifesaver when you’re not headed outside.
6. Avoid Keeping Toys in Drawers
Kids are less likely to play with toys that are put away in drawers. These toys are out of sight and out of mind. Display toys on shelves or in low baskets.
Kids are much more likely to wander over and pull out things they can see.
7. Balance Open and Close-Ended Toys
Kids can play with open-ended toys in many ways, like blocks. Ten kids can be given a set of blocks, and all of them would use them slightly differently. Maybe one kid would build a tower while another would use them as play food in the kitchen.
This freedom makes open-ended toys engaging for kids. Research supports the benefits of open-ended toys as related to problem-solving, creativity, social interactions, and verbalization.
Close-ended toys have a specific purpose and are used to build skills, like puzzles and shape sorters. Once the task is complete, kids can do it again or move on to something new.
Both types of toys are beneficial for toddlers, so it is essential to offer toys of each type. Take stock of the items that you have out in your toddler play space. Is there a good mix of both?
8. Cover the Floors With Carpets or Playmats
Little ones often jump from things and fall down, and it’s best to give them a soft landing space.
Floor covers will also minimize the sounds of toys like blocks crashing down and protect your floors.
Share Your Toddler Play Spaces!
What works best for engaging your kids? How are your children learning and growing through play?