Google+ Authentic Parenting: Toys, Play and a Harmonious Home, Part 2 – Play Spaces

Monday, March 7, 2011

Toys, Play and a Harmonious Home, Part 2 – Play Spaces

written by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

This post is part of a three piece series on creating a harmonious home through the use of toys. Read the first part on picking the right toys here and look out for next week's sequel.

The under five year old crowd are such a fun developmental age to mother. There is so much going on physically, mentally, emotionally, and creatively that not a day goes by where I am not in awe of what my daughter has suddenly done or discovered. Before giving birth, I spent a lot of time envisioning what my home would look like for my daughter, especially when she became mobile and needed a play space of her own. I gave careful consideration to my friends’ homes and their children’s’ play environments. I read many different parenting experts’ thoughts on play and children’s play landscapes. I read all kinds of parenting blogs. I mulled everything over before carefully crafting what I wanted for my daughter. What we have molded our home into has worked tremendously and I believe it has made it a lot easier for me to peacefully parent my daughter.

The play space available in your home is of great importance. There is nothing that makes me want to lose my mind more than walking into someone’s home and seeing oodles of toys everywhere! Homes where toys are strew from one end of the house to the other are overwhelming for me to see and are even more overwhelming for the poor mother who is trying to keep everything organized and clean. Seeing disorder that verges on chaos can lead to a chaotic, frenzied approach to parenting. I am equally bothered by a home where there is no obvious sign that a child lives there other than the child themselves. There are no toys, books, craft supplies, etc… anywhere. Everything is tucked neatly away in the child’s room. There needs to be a balance between these two extremes. Finding this balance will allow for a calmer mother who can enjoy warmly mothering her children while still being able to tend to daily household duties.

My suggestion (and what I have incorporated in my home) is this – create a play area for your child that is in the most central or commonly used area of your home. The under five set wants to be near mama, where all the action is, and who can blame them? If you relegate your child to play in their room and only keep their toys there, then you will undoubtedly have the proverbial leach hanging around your legs and ankles wherever you happen to be. This of course leads mama to feel frustrated and unnerved at having a child constantly around her ankles. If you set up a play area in the living room where you can interact with your child while cooking, folding laundry, etc... your child will undoubtedly play more contentedly by themselves, with some verbal interaction from mama. Toys will also stay more contained to the main play area and hopefully will not find themselves in every corner of your home!

I have set up a four panel cube and a wooden play kitchen along one wall of the living room. Along the wall closest to our dining space, I have set up a little wooden table and chairs. The play kitchen has a few pots/pans, cooking utensils, repurposed spice containers, felt food, and little canisters. The cube has baskets with natural tree branch blocks, play silks, assorted natural fiber balls, and other little natural treasures. I also have several small baskets with handles set nearby so my daughter can “collect” things as well as move her play things in and out of different spaces. I have several other baskets of different toys hidden away and I switch these out every couple of weeks. My daughter is always thrilled when her little wood animals reappear and doesn’t notice that her little work bench has gone on hiatus. Rotating toys keeps things fresh. It keeps your child engaged.

Having a small wooden table and chairs either in the main living area or close to it will allow you to keep a mindful eye on your child while he or she works on crafts, art endeavors, or enjoys a snack. It gives them a child sized place where they feel secure working on their “projects” while knowing that mama and other family members are close by. I also suggest that you have a small play space available to your child in the kitchen. Children LOVE to imitate mama while she busily prepares the family meals. I set up a small rug away from the stove where my daughter can play. I also have made two drawers available to her and have stocked them with my unused kitchen tools, dishes and gadgets. I can sing, talk, and engage my daughter in simple play while at the same time actually preparing healthy meals!

An important note - make sure that you get your children outside to play each and every day, rain or shine! Fresh air does wonders for the blood, the mind, and the soul. It reinvigorates and refreshes. A mama and child(ren) who are cooped up inside will eventually end up having more adversarial moments together than you would like. So get outside and renew your energy! Children do not need much in an outdoor environment. The natural landscape, the sights, the smells, and the sounds will draw them into many adventures without the need for fancy play equipment. The great outdoors is the best playscape available and best of all, it’s free!

Take baby steps now to help create a better play environment for your child(ren) so that you can enjoy mothering them even more than you already do!
Yours in Peace, Love, and Mothering,


About Hybrid Rasta Mama
Jennifer is a former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter brought earthside in early 2009. She believes in the importance of having a strong network of support. She's been active both in my local La Leche League and Attachment Parenting chapters. She's a mentor and contributing blogger with the Natural Parents Network and a contributor on Job Description: Mommy.
Why Hybrid Rasta Mama?  I take a little of this and a little of that and blend it all together into something that works for me, my daughter, and my husband. I am a voracious reader and researcher and have read an extensive amount of literature about parenting. I consider myself very well informed about the pros and cons of all the different philosophies and approaches out there. Read more on my blog Hybrid Rasta Mama. You can also find me on Facebook. .



  1. Great advice! But what do you do when you have no space available? There is overflow of toys in our living room/kitchen (one down-stairs area) area, and no place to put it in the child's bedroom.

  2. Hi momagain, there's always some space that can be used to put toys, it just takes a little imagination. You can use the room under the bed, or hand fabric baskets on hooks on the wall. You can put up very small dimension shelving to display stuff. Under the coffee table or under cupboards is also great, they need their stuff close to the ground anyway, so sit on the floor in the rooms you live in and look what's available at that height

  3. MomAgain...Mamapoekie is right. You have to get creative but you can find spaces. You might also think about downsizing your toy collection. Just keep what your children really play with and donate or sell the rest. Children can only play with some many toys at one time. My first post in this series addresses that. Just do the best with the space that you have. IKEA is a great place to purchase some practical shelving and storage units.

  4. Toys are basic instruments for the development of children’s fantasy, thoughts and creativity. Any young, imaginative child is sure to love playing with toy cooker kitchen.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly, a calm environment leads to a calmer family. And the simplest "toys" are often the most used. My son adores his little wooden pot which he spends ages taking the lid off, putting an object such as a pine cone inside and putting the lid back on again. He also loves to sit on a blanket on our tiny kitchen floor and imitate me with a wooden spoon and small saucepan.


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