From Margaret on June 2nd, 2010 in Tools and Tips
The margin between bliss and chaos in a home with children can be thin. One minute you’re sipping your latte (before it’s had a chance to get cold, thank you very much) and applauding your mastery, and the next you’re up to your neck in toys and art project remnants. Well. Unlike so many abstract elements of parenting, the solution is concrete.
Order and an enriching environment can be created with a few very straightforward design principles.
#1 – Create bins & stations.
Gather and lay out all of the toys in the house. Yes, all of them. Separate them into categories to create understood stations for your child, i.e. trains, dress-up, figures, cars, music, soft animals, etc.
Place the toys in open bins or shelving, like this Oeuf setting, to allow for independent play, and to help your child take out and put back toys on their own—which will thrill you.
#2 – Limit their options.
While it may seem that providing more enrichment and toys for children develops them faster, the opposite is actually proven to be true. Too many toys can discourage focused, sustained play. Children with fewer and more carefully-chosen toys develop a greater ability to imagine.
Plus, limiting the stuff also creates a more streamlined dwelling. Some basic must-haves that give a big bang for their buck are toys with several uses– ones that grow along with the child– such as blocks, books, art supplies, dolls or figures, and puzzles.
#3 – Every mess in its proper place.
Create a separate station for art projects where crayons, paintbrushes and paper are divided and accessible. As Maria Montessori discovered, a conscientiously arranged environment can itself be a teacher.
#4 – Integrate.
Breathe in, breathe out, and smile, because focusing on your child’s at-home play doesn’t mean being overrun with kid stuff. On the contrary, those carefully-chosen toys can integrate stylishly into any space in your house.
Fill a large tupperware with kitchen play things (cornmeal makes great indoor sand) and stash it in a kitchen cabinet. In the dining room armoire, stack the cake plates and platters on the top shelves, and line up vintage picture books along the bottom shelf. Or, keep a large bin of baby toys under the library table. Hang their drawings beside your vintage sketches of Oxford, and revel in the bliss of peaceful co-existence.