10 Steps to the Ultimate Playroom


Working from home with a toddler is no joke. Keeping them safe and occupied and entertained and educationally stimulated all day every day is a challenge unlike any other. So I’ve spent the last 3 years perfecting our playroom (my desk is in one corner of it so I can work while she plays) and I think I’ve finally reached the status of “ultimate.” With so many of us at home with our kids these days, I thought this was a great time to share it and maybe help or provide inspiration to other moms trying to survive an entire day at home with small people. 

  1. Train table – Every kid I’ve ever known has loved a train table. The durable wooden ones last forever and totally justify the cost. Even better, they often are in fantastic shape even after kids have outgrown them. We got ours for a whopping $10 on Offer Up! Depending on the age(s) of your child(ren), the table could be more nightmare than a dream for a while. My husband and I would carefully craft elaborate tracks with tunnels and bridges and crisscrosses just for our toddler to spend more of her time dismantling it than ever putting a train to the tracks. But we’d chosen this style because this allows her the freedom to build and rebuild and let her creativity grow, and without any tracks on it at all, it can be used as just a large play table for whatever your kid can think of. But if you’d rather just have a static train track, they make those too. They’re just as fun and a lot easier to keep neat.
  2. Table & chairs – She spends a large portion of her playroom time at this table. It’s completely universal. She can build with blocks or color a picture. It’s a great surface for play-doh or kinetic sand. The chairs allow her to play comfortably for longer periods than if she was standing beside the train table. The table we chose is made by Delta and has a small basket underneath. There are a million uses for that little basket and is the reason I chose this set. One side of the removable center panel has a lego plate on it (added by me, it doesn’t come that way) so it works as a lego table too.
  3. Open space – My little one is one heck of a wiggle worm. She needs space to jump and tumble and dance, so we left her SoftTiles mat totally open for just that. It’s also a nice space for her to build puzzles or blocks or play some Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. For naps, it’s a soft spot to lay a blanket down and cuddle up with some stuffies.
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  4. Easel – This easel is EVERYTHING. One side is both dry-erase and electronic. It has somewhat of a touch screen for interactive light-up learning-based play. The other side is a chalkboard.  The bins behind it are from IKEA – literally $6 for the rail and all 4 bins. And it’s really sturdy. The bins are full of crayons, markers, colored pencils, and chalk. No matter what variety of artistic endeavors she feels inclined to create, this easel can accommodate. We have blank sheets of paper and coloring books nearby as well. The easel has a clip to hang the sheets and she can go wild. She has a perfect place for all her artistic creations – which helps keep it off of my wall. Mostly.
  5. Cube shelf – Playrooms all have one thing: toys. Lots and lots of toys. Everywhere. And toy boxes really don’t work. It’s hard to find anything and it’s easy to forget about the toys in it because they’re closed away. A cube shelf combined with plastic bins of varying sizes allows you to sort and organize toys neatly. Since the bins are clear and the shelves are open, it’s easy for them to see what toys are where. We run on the rule that you take out one bin at a time and cannot have a new bin until the previous one is properly put away. She doesn’t always abide by this rule, but we try.
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  6. Teepee / Tent – Admittedly, you do not need both of these, but they were both gifts and super cute, so we kept both. We lay down blankets, drop a pillow or two and a stuffie or two and she’s got a cozy little hideaway. She likes reading books or having picnics and tea parties inside. She will bring her dollies in and do all sorts of pretend play with them. There’s plenty of space (especially in the unicorn one) for someone to join her inside but it’s also small enough to feel like it’s just for her. Teepees are on the pricey side but you can snag a pop-up tent for about $30 and they collapse for storage if needed.
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  7. Play kitchen – Pretend play is one of the most important activities for toddlers. Play kitchens are perfect for this. And they are not “for girls.” When my son was little, he had one and he loved it as much as my daughter does. She will play there for hours! We got this beauty on the Facebook marketplace for only $40. It’s made of wood so it’s sturdy and durable and will still have life left after Aria has had her fun with it. They can be pricey depending on how fancy you want to go, but they’re an excellent investment. Your little one will have a ton of fun and be learning and developing at the same time.
  8. Ball pit – If my kid didn’t love this thing as much as she does, I would loathe it. I am forever picking up plastic balls and chucking them back into the pit. But she really has a blast in there. Even my two nephews (7 and 8) love it. This one is collapsible so you could tuck it away if you get tired of it, but we just leave it out. This shape (versus the open pit style) helps keep the balls in, though only marginally. We mostly picked it because it was pink. They’re pretty inexpensive in relation to the number of giggles and smiles you get in return.
  9. Wall art – Most everything in a playroom will be low to the ground to cater to the small humans using them. We don’t have any tall furniture or bookshelves in there and definitely no glass, so the walls were starkly white and stale. Until I picked up some cute decals on eBay (decals are super cheap and easy to swap out) and a print on Amazon to brighten up the upper half of the room. They were the final touch to complete the look and feel of the space. My toddler doesn’t really care, but I’ve convinced myself that their bright colors and cheerful designs have a positive effect on her, if only subliminally.
  10. You – sounds strange, but it’s true. One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how many toys you have, no matter what you set up for them to play with, the one thing they need the most is you. I don’t always have the luxury to sit and play puzzles or build LEGOs for hours on end, but when I have a few minutes, even just 10 of them, I will sit and play with her, or sometimes even just dance around the room. As engaging as the activities are, as much variety as I put in every corner, what she loves the most is sharing it, any of it, with me or her brother or her daddy. No playroom is ever complete without someone to play with.

At the end of the day, it really isn’t about how big the space is, how full of activities it is, how it’s decorated. What matters is what happens in it. Even if it’s just a small corner of the living room with a little basket of toys (like I used to have when it was just me and my son), the time spent in it is what counts. Whether you read books or build puzzles or play dolls or race cars, sit with them. Engage with them. Put your phone down, turn the TV off and just focus on those few minutes of playtime. It’s just as good for you as it is for them.


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