Our Environment – AK


I always knew I wanted to create a great space for my son and teach him to navigate it safely, just as I did with my students when I was teaching in a Reggio school.  When we moved to NC, I was ecstatic to have an extra room dedicated to play and learning.  His playroom has really evolved, and continues to as his needs and interests change.  Here is how it all began, the changes made, and where we are today.  Hope you enjoy!

In the beginning we had his play room set up in the smallest room in the house…


Just getting started

Then we added some cubby shelves.  This was how I first organized his materials.  Notice our light panel tucked nicely to the side of the shelves….a “space” for it had yet to evolve.

 magnet board

 Materials on top of book shelf…reading nook on the other side with felt board and felt board accessories

I would hang a white sheet on the wall for play with the overhead projector

 This was the set up in the smaller room….play room 2010

We soon decided that since his bed room was only used for sleep, that it would make sense to move his play room into the bigger room and have his bedroom in the smaller one.


I took a lot of inspiration for my playroom and all of its accessories from being a teacher in a Reggio inspired school for 3 of my 14 years of teaching – my classroom looked a lot like this.  The whole philosophy behind the environment is to make the space inspiring – a place where a child will enter and WANT to explore.  Its also about having all materials (typically from the natural environment or recycled items) readily accessible to the child.  The walls and furniture are usually neutral (hence my tan walls) to encourage the focus on the beauty of the creations and materials in the room.  Most of these materials are used in all kinds of child-guided imaginative play.  There are no “rules” (as long as nothing is getting ruined) and messes are embraced as learning experiences.  That being said, my son does appreciate the order.  Believe it or not, we have many days where we dont even go into this room – but when we do, oh the places we go!!

Just coming together
Another one where we were just getting started…art corner, light table area coming together, etc
 Still pulling together all the loose ends
Play room NOW (November 2011)
This is a view of the play room from the entryway.  The white thing hanging is a shower curtain liner that we use for the overhead projector.  Its removable, so its not always hanging there.
How it looks today
(I put a water proof blanket under the art table to protect the floor….its not a rug.)
These baskets are actually planters (I found them at the dollar store).  They are full of various items – wood pieces, sticks, pine cones, acorns, etc.
These are my 2 year old son’s toys.  Most of them are toys you build with, such as Tinker Toys, Citiblocs, Blocks, Snap Blocks, etc
This is a magnet board built by my husband – framed sheet metal.  I LOVE this piece.  I used a shoe organizer from target to organize all of the items that are magnetic – as well as two baskets.
This area is for dress up/imaginary play (its a work in progress).  A mirror, two puppets, and a basket full of animal masks.
This is a felt board I made.  I just bought a piece of felt and one of the thick poster board sheets, used some spray adhesive and a hot glue gun, and wrapped it.  Again, you see the shoe organizer to organize felt board accessories.
 Light table area
close-up of light table accessories
Peg board mounted on the back of the book shelf with materials on acrylic shelves and in acrylic cups
 This is on top of he book shelf.  Mirror, rocks, agate slices, paint tray, play doh tray, CD player
 The art corner has changed recently.  I have known I wanted to change it for some time now…probably a YEAR!  I wanted something where my son could physically take a container to the table with him, instead of pulling materials out of a pocket.  Just as a reminder, this is what it was BEFORE…
 The only new items are the paint cans and hooks that hold the scissors
 Easel THEN
 Easel NOW
 Smaller Sensory table THEN
Taller sensory table NOW
These are our outdoor supplies.  I had to put them in something that closes because we have strong winds here…but he has full access to the materials.
This is our swing.  It was initially in the playroom but the swinging range is greater in the garage (more fun).  We wanted it to be inside because of the extreme hot and cold temperatures here. We have several attachments to this.  We have the swing you see here, a trapeze bar, a regular swing, a climbing rope, and a sensory swing that Daddy built.
DIY See SawPLAYROOM 2012My playroom is always changing as my son grows, his interests change, and I notice that things would be more functional set up another way.  Its 2012 and our playroom just got a paint makeover.  I’m also making a few changes here and there.  This is what we have so far, but stay tuned.

I added a curtain rod in the art area and used shower curtain hook to hang buckets full of materials.  I moved the paper holder over and put the scissors just above it.
New refreshing blue paint color.
I expanded the “dramatic play” area a bit.  It now has his Dr kit, his “suitcase”, his astronaut costume, and basket of masks/puppets.
I took down the clear shoe organizer strip and bought small pails from Michaels for his magnets.  Being able to dump out the pieces makes it easier for him to find what he is looking for.
I took down the felt board and added shelves for his Playmobil.  I find that he plays with it more when its out like this….and the felt board wasn’t getting much use anymore (though its still in the closet and he brings it out from time to time).
I expanded the mirrors across the entire back wall.  LOVE!
close up of paint cans in art area


I have made a few changes to the art area.  My son is really into building and figuring out how things work, so Im trying to make his art corner more inviting to him.

Wood pieces, plastic pieces, screws, nails, drill, screw driver, hammer.
In 2014 we made a few minor changes.  The light panel area became a Lego station and has just today (1/11/2015) become a science station, we got a new art table, a new Sensory table, added a chair mat, etc.DSC_0008 copy

DSC_0013 copy
for multiple purposes
DSC_0014 copy
DSC_0015 copy
Hey, everyone!!  It’s 2018 and my boy will be TEN in just a few short weeks.  We’ve recently moved – so our playroom is new with bare walls….it’s only been a month, so it’s still a work in progress.  I love the ownership my boy has shown over his area.  His mindset is – less is more.  He likes things clean, simple, and not too cluttered.  His love is music, and he wanted a room that reflected that.  He’s chosen the futon, the bean bags, and where everything goes.  Check it out….

GH8B5500 copy GH8B5501 copy GH8B5502 copy GH8B5503 copy GH8B5504 copy

- AK

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48 Responses to Our Environment – AK

    • Jessica Vulte says:

      I totally covet your play space! We are lucky enough to have a large dining room I have converted to a play room. I REALLY want to have everything accessible to the kids (two 3.5 yr olds) and say yes as often as possible but I find it turns to all chaos without restrictions. In particular I am struggling with the sensory table at the moment. I hacked our train table to convert to a sensory table with two smaller bins and a lipped surface. The bins are stacked and accessible and the kids have just started going for it. What happens, though is they dump out all the bins and mix all the sensory materials and dump in all the toys in the room. I want them to explore and try new things, but then all the sensory supplies are one big mash up and some toys get ruined (one moon dough had oil in it). Possibly I just need to let go of some OCD vision of the playroom LOL. But what do you do? Do you let your kids access the sensory supplies on their own? Are there parameters? Would love any input play at home moms!

  1. Dr. A says:

    WOW. I have super play-room envy. It clearly shows you have experience, ingenuity, creativity! Great to see and inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Skyfire says:

    I LOVE this. How much of the house does it take up? Is the playroom a bedroom or den, or is it the living/family room? You have so much space!

  3. THANK YOU, Skyfire. This is a bedroom – probably the biggest after our master bedroom. My son’s room is much smaller, but he only uses his bedroom to read and sleep – so it made sense to put his playroom in the larger room. – AK

  4. sherrbear says:

    May I ask where you got 2 the wood toy bins in the picture with the cardboard bricks between them? Also, what are the letters on your Book Nook? It looks like they may be removable so they can be put in ABC order. I love your ideas so much. I am a grandmother of 2 little guys and we are having so much fum. We even just had a sleep over without any toys being played with. It was all black sand, clearies, colored tiles and light panel, and best of WATER BEADS!

  5. MissDewi says:

    i love your space! i can’t believe it is really just a space for one child! i mean it looks better than my preschool classroom!
    congratulations, if you don’t mind, i might have to borrow some of your set up ideas!

  6. Sarah says:

    This is so inspiring, thank you! Where did you find the sheet metal? I’ve lived out of the US for a few years now and have forgotten where to find certain things. Thanks!

  7. Sara says:

    I love, love, love!!! Everything! The space as it is now, the think-’aloud’ of the transformation of the space over time. Two questions that stem from issues that are arising here at our house. What is the clean up procedure at your house? Now that my daughter is older she pulls more from different areas (trains, farm animals, cars to create one big scene…as an example). We are having a lot of trouble when it is time to clean up…just interested to hear your clean up procedure…when, how, and with how much involvement from you?
    Thanks for always inspiring!!

    • Clean up is encouraged before we transition to a new room or go out for the day. However, if my son has built something, I always ask if he would like to clean it up or leave it out. We often leave out things he is building and he revisits them every day – adding, taking away, and recreating. Clean up does not have to happen NOW, as long as it DOES happen….and because it does, I never really worry about it or make rules. Sometimes I clean up, sometimes he cleans up, but 99% of the time its a joint effort. I figure if Im expecting him to help around the house, then I can help him clean up just the same. We’ve been organized and cleaning up since he could grasp objects – so he’s really keen on keeping things clean and putting things back where he found them. AK

  8. Meaghan says:

    I am absolutly in love with your playroom. I was nervous about getting small things out incase they made a mess, but I put out several jars of beads, feathers and magnets. You are so right that with supervision and teaching them to clean up after we had a lot of fun. I’m so inspired now to change up the room a little more.

  9. lofthaena says:

    hi i’m in the uk and i’ve been looking for something similar to your paper holder, i’m not sure if i’m looking in the right type of shops or not so i was wondering where yours is from.

  10. Cat says:

    This is just amazing…I love the evolution as you found what fit and what works. My question is, how do you encourage your kids to pick up? I have a 2 and 4 YO and my 4 YO is starting to do it, but only if I badger him (even when I am sitting with him and helping). My 2 YO will do it if I am doing it with him. However, EVERYTHING gets taken out all at once (they like to play garbage truck) so there is usually a huge pile of stuff to sort through. As we have a long family history of ADD and ADHD, from the very start, I wanted to get organized and TEACH my kids to be organized. Things have places and places have things. I was just curious about how you encourage your kids to tidy up and keep that room organized?

    • Cat says:

      Ooop! Never Mind, I just read more of the comments and saw what you did…Oh, to have such patience!!! Any suggestions about where I can find mine? LOL!

  11. sscheves says:

    What I wouldn’t give for a play room. Any play room. Wouldn’t even have to be as cool as yours, and I would be super d duper happy. This is great inspiration for when we get one :) Hopefully, they won’t be grown by then.

  12. maribel says:

    Does the light table cause any sort of problems on the eyes? After staring into it I wonder if it would be hurtful or cause damage of any sort.

    Can’t wait to buy a house and duplicate this. Any books you recommend on the environment and the Reggio way? Totally not buying a house unless it is suited for the appropriate play room!

  13. Anna says:

    I LOVE your playroom. We have a small (1180 sq ft) home with 3 kids. We are in process of buying a house a bit more than double our current size and there is a perfect room for a playroom there. I have been looking for ideas and I love so many of your ideas. I never thought of a pegboard for a playroom, but how fun. Thanks for the ideas.

  14. gail says:

    I’m sorry I can’t really tell, is the drill a toy, or?? Neat! A little concerned I’ll end up with holes in the wall if I give little guy a hammer if I have to run to the washroom…. and he’s pretty careful with stuff. How do you manage it?

  15. Pingback: Free Consultation Professional Organizer | Parenting Beyond Punishment

  16. Cris West says:

    hi, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful learning space. We are in the process of setting up a pegboard storage area in our classroom and am wondering where did you get your acrylic shelves? Would love to incorporate that in ours.


  17. Chantal says:

    Hello Ashley, or Rosie,

    I love the organized and tidiness of your son’s room. I’m planning on making a playroom of our own. I have a few questions relating the concept. Hope you can help.

    I’m not a native speaker so, I’ll do my best to write in by best English. :-) I’m starting from scratch with the room, so there are a lot of decisions to maken. My question is: what framework or list of requirements for the elements that have to be present in the room did you use?

    For instance:
    You would have made a requirement list? Or a (master)plan of some sort. Or you had a vision? E.g.

    1. My son should be able to see every thing in order to be free in choosing materials to create. You would have to use cupboards without doors. Or clear containers.
    2. The room has to be light, tranquil, etc. Requirements on atmosphere.
    3. Requirements on choice of materials (natural, open ended).
    4. Requirements on choice of activities. Developmentally related. A spot for fine motor, large motor, construction, creativity (arts/crafts), small world play, dramatic/role play,books/reading/writing, etc).

    I struggle with what to place where and what to offer and how to present it.

    And how do you use it? Do you let him pick his activity himself? I see you put up invitations, but does he choose from the room himself too? Unaided?
    Does he think and choose what he wants to do himself or do you make suggestions?
    Or do you help him choose? How does he keep himself busy.
    Do you alternate with toys or materials?

    I’m afraid their eyes will get so accustomed to everything they won’t see the stuff.
    What did you find to incorporate novelty.

    My children are 4 and 6.

    Thanks in advance! Regards, Chantal

  18. Eileen Long says:

    I love what you are doing for your children. I was a play at home mom for many years and would not trade that season of my life for any price. Now my children are all grown up with children of their own. I returned to school at age 39 and by the time my nest was empty I was ready to start a new career. I love my work but the best time of my life was when my kids were at home. God bless you enjoy. eileen

  19. Diana says:

    i love your room set up and how you make changes as your child grows and develops and needs more challenging ideas! However it does concern me that all of your outlets are not protected from from your child with safety covers.

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