The Right Atmosphere

In our first house when we had only Westly we had a ‘toy room’. It was cute and stocked and fun to decorate (for me). But we quickly found that Westly didn’t want to go play there–he wanted to be with us and ended up taking his toys with him around the house. So when we moved into our new house with two kids and one on the way, I didn’t set up a toy room (even though the guest bedroom downstairs would be a perfect space for that). Instead I set up spaces in the midst of our living areas where toys could be kept and our kids could play.

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Our house has lots of different areas and fun spaces, but this nook is perhaps the most unique and, for our kids, a bit magical. This space is located under the stairs landing and is actually an indoor garden space! Under the floorboards we found soil, and there is a small faucet for watering (see on the right?) But in this stage of raising babies the idea of loose dirt in the house is not appealing. So we put down a rug and made it the kids’ play space. This space is constantly evolving as our kids grow. During nap/quiet time, West used to hang out here and builds Legos and looks at books. Now he’s a bit too tall, so we moved toys and books for the two younger ones. Will and Amelia play together here while West and I homeschool. Next year I have plans to put a play kitchen, a baby cradle, and lacy curtains to make it Amelia’s play house.

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We’re very intentional about how many toys our kids have and what kinds of toys they have. We’re not in favor of toys that make a lot of noise and do all the work of entertaining our kids. Rather we get toys that require our kids to do the work of imaginative play. We keep the volume down by regularly sorting and cleaning out. I store extra toys in the garage, and every month I rotate them. It keeps things fun and fresh, and also keeps the clutter and clean up minimal.

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This is our back room, formally the family room, but it’s our homeschool space. The open kitchen overlooks this room, and this room opens up to the patio and back yard. It gets lots of natural light and pretty views of the yard. There is also a couch where I would nurse the baby, we read together, and hang out.

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Growing up my family did our homeschool lessons at the dining table, which works for a lot of families. But we also spent lots of time setting up and cleaning up because the table obviously served other purposes like eating. Heading into homeschooling, I knew it was important for us to have space for it with its own table and storage so we had to set up and clean up just at the start and end of each day. The kids can have ongoing projects throughout the day, and I can lessen my housework load.

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About every six months I re-evaluate our home based on the ages and stages of our kids, and I make changes accordingly. While the toys, activities, and purposes of our spaces may change, I always keep in mind the importance of creating an atmosphere that nurtures my kids’ creativity and imagination.