Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Work, Home and Family - Do the kids have space to play?

One of the problems of living in a small house is having space.  For anything.  Much less for boisterous children to run, play and make a mess. 

One of the reasons we bought this house was its huge and lovely backyard.  Well, it wasn't so lovely at the time, but now it's great.  And it contains a first class swing set, a fabulous patio, and enough lawn to run and play on for all of us.  We've played many games of kickball, tag, hide-n-seek, and a bunch of other things back there too.  We've hosted parties and planted plants.  The kids love it.  We do too.

The inside of our house is another story. When you have a 900 square foot footprint with 6 rooms and a stairwell in it, each of those rooms ends up small too!  That means little floor space to play in.  When our children were infants, that wasn't much of a problem.  Their crib or an equal size amount of space was perfect for playing.  Once they started walking - look out!  We quickly realized that we needed more space.

So, we finished off part of the basement - adding about 300 more square feet of space to our home.

But now that the kids are 5, it seemed like we still don't have enough floor space.

I had a bad mommy moment a few weeks ago, where I ended up just plain screaming at the kids about how mean they were to their toys and how naughty it was that they didn't take care of them.  In the midst of watching the proverbial smoke pour out of my Missy's ears and Buddy try to stoically to buck up under mommy's anger, I realized something. 

They didn't have enough floor space to play, and so everything ended up all jumbled together. 

Seriously, I was trying to have my two tall for their age 5-year-olds play in a space about 3 feet square! With all their toys!   What on earth was I thinking!

So, I calmed down and apologized and then asked for ideas from the kids as to what we could do to give them more space to play.  And, boy, did they have good ideas! 

Buddy's idea was really grand in terms of layout, but it totally wouldn't work with layout, cables, window placements, etc.  I was bummed, since it was a really awesome idea.

His second idea was good too - apparently he was unsure as to what went in what box and where the boxes went when full.  Put a label on both the box and the corresponding shelf. 

Missy had several ideas too, and we stuck two of them together.  Move the arts-crafts-coloring stuff away from the rest of the toys and hang up the dress up clothes on hangers so they can see what they have.  Missy loves to paint and color and she would get angry at her brother when his dinosaurs or action figures would walk across her pages - which happened often because they had to do everything in the same small space.  Either she had to quit painting or coloring or his dinosaurs didn't have a place to walk!

Now, lest you think our family room was a completely unorganized chaos before. It really wasn't.  It was just hard to play in.  There were several larger items that were placed to take up valuable floor space and several older, larger toy sets that were no longer played with, but also took up valuable space.

We moved some things around this weekend, cleared out the broken odds and ends that infiltrated the toy boxes, labeled almost everything (I still have 4 shelves to go!) and hung up those dress up clothes.

The kids are thrilled!  They can find everything, cleanup is much easier and, best of all, they now have two separate areas to play in - both bigger than the one they had before.

Who knew finding play space was as easy as cleaning out and rearranging the furniture?  And I didn't spend a dime!

How do you find play space for your kids in a small space?  I'd love to hear.

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Lea