BY CHRISTINE BRUN
During colder days, it becomes increasingly vital for children to have an indoor play space that allows them to get rid of pent-up energy and have fun.
Winter weather introduces challenges for lots of stay-at-home parents and full or part-time nannies. My daughter-in-law lives in rainy Seattle, where recent winters have delivered their fair share of freezing temperatures, snow, rain, and icy conditions. This often translates into play time at neighborhood recreation centers or at home in the basement. Even if your preschool child is in school three days a week, you still have to occupy them the other four while trapped inside on dark winter days.
Older home floor plans, built in the twentieth century, can be considered cramped by modern standards and usually lack a gigantic playroom. My grandson runs back and forth in a wide hallway that serves as an indoor soccer field, tennis court and skateboard run! However, sometimes he literally runs into the wall because the space isn’t intended to be a sports field. Additionally, many basements have low ceilings, increasing playtime limitations and poor lighting.
Smaller homes often demand creativity and repurposing of space, depending upon how your family lives. What I like about the featured play center is that it takes full advantage of vertical space and keeps its foot print concise. In an older home, the ceiling heights can be over eight feet on the first floor; however, it is unusual to find a home where the basement ceiling height has been raised. This is usually the result of a remodeling investment. Compact kid gyms like this one (seen on the left) might have to be located in a family room or bedroom. This sort of play equipment requires hands-on supervision for little ones, especially toddlers under the age of four. If you want to supervise less try ball pools like the one seen on the right.
Other popular ideas are artwork tables. Some feature brown or butcher paper and provide an endless stream of potential art projects. Cubbies are fundamental to organization of toys, books, art supplies and puzzles. These range from stacking plastic milk crates to pullout wicker baskets. The foot print of a storage unit with pull-out containers is slim and can climb up the wall as high as you wish. Clean up is actually fun for kids because they can break the task down to one bin at a time.
Another idea is to create some small “secret” space that appeals to the natural desire we all have as children to hide. Such a place could be an attic closet or a space under the stairs. I have a little area in a closet under a staircase, and I built it in anticipation of this time long before I had grandchildren. We have flashlights, blankets, pillows and several stuffed animals that hide out with us. Make sure that it is safe and without nails or wood splinters. Ensure there is no possibility of accidentally getting locked in. If you incorporate attractive little play spaces, the kids have another option to running and jumping around the house.
Those with garages have the option of creating an auxiliary play space, too. Remember that a garage is not designed to be an indoor space so there are certain things that you must address. First, be sure that anything dangerous, such as tools and chemicals, cleaning supplies and paint materials, are safely locked away. There must be no way for little ones to access a heater or hot water heater. Next, add a window both for ventilation and an emergency method of egress. Then, be sure to seal off the garage door from insects, reptiles and other unwanted critters. However, once you’ve accomplished the safety tests, consider finishing off the space with drywall and paint. Flooring can range from painted cement to indoor/outdoor carpet. Add in storage for toys and all of the typical play area items.#