Create an Engaging Playroom for Your Toddler: Ideas for the Perfect Play Space

May 03, 2023

Create an Engaging Playroom for Your Toddler: Ideas for the Perfect Play Space

Are you struggling to keep your toddler entertained and engaged? Do you constantly find yourself picking up toys and clutter from all corners of your home? If so, it may be time to consider creating a dedicated playroom for your little one.

Entertained toddler, contained clutter - sounds good, right? But creating a toddler's playroom can be challenging, and many parents struggle to find sufficient space or ways to organize the available space, especially when funds are limited. With some planning and preparation, though, there are plenty of ways to carve out an organized space, regardless of the size of your house or budget.

In this post, we'll walk you through all the steps, starting with foundational furniture and storage ideas. We'll discuss creating those all-important play zones, decorating the space (who said this wouldn't be fun), selecting age-appropriate toys, and ensuring the safety of your toddler. Finally, we'll also show you how to encourage clean-up when playtime is over. Armed with a load of playroom tips, you can start building a safe and stimulating playroom for your toddler. So buckle up and let's get started.

Playroom Furniture & Lighting

When it comes to playroom furniture, the size of your space is a basic consideration, of course, but so is the future use of the room. When selecting furniture and accessories, keep in mind that what works in your toddler's playroom can also work later, when your child is older. And there are plenty of options when it comes to kitting out your space for multiple age groups.

Rugs

Kids' rugs are enjoying a golden age. With tons of themes, colors, and textures to choose from, selecting a special rug - or rugs - for you space has never been easier. Case in point, the rug below keeps things interesting and gives the first big hint that you're in a jungle-themed room. Similar options exist for space, dinosaur, and princess themes, as well as others too numerous to name. If you have a theme, you can probably find a rug to amplify it.

 

jungle rug for toddler's playrrom

Image via Ruggable

If you're not going for a theme, no problem. Rugs come in a rainbow of colors and an array of shapes to fit any mood, like the multi-striped rug below, which instantly transforms the space from bland to lively.

 

 

Rugs have a distictly practical side as well. They provide a comfortable surface for playtime activities, like curling up with a book or tumbling across the floor. Look for rugs that are machine-washable, non-slip, and free of small objects that can be easily detached. Different looks are achieved by covering the space with one large rug or using smaller rugs to create cozy corners or areas for defined play, leaving lots of room for movement in between.

Table & Chair Sets

Image via IKEA

When it comes to playroom furniture, a table and chair set is a must-have. With a sturdy tabletop at hand, toddlers can engage in a myriad of activities that involve hand-eye coordination, fine motor movement, and creative genius, not to mention eating.

Table and chair sets come in a range of sizes, shapes, and styles. Opting for an adjustable play table means it can grow along with your toddler, adapting to multiple ages. If you're going for longevity, choose durable pieces that can withstand whatever your toddler throws their way. Look for items with rounded edges and non-toxic finishes.

Tables with storage drawers and shelves are also nice to have, allowing you to store toys and craft supplies when playtime is over. It's hard to overestimate the value of organization and dominion over chaos when you're the parent of a toddler.

 

Image via Crate and Barrel

Shelves & Bookcases

Shelves and bookcases also contribute to staying organized. Shelves should be easy to reach and offer plenty of space to store and display toys, books, and games when not in use. Display bookcases like the one shown below are great for showcasing books at eye level.

 

Image via Pottery Barn

They offer easy access and a solid base that keeps them from toppling over. Bookcases come in all shapes and sizes, too, like this elephant bookcase from Crate and Barrel that makes a big design statement all on its own.

 

Image via Crate and Barrel

Picture ledges and display shelves are also great options, bringing an organized look at a fraction of the cost of free-standing bookshelves. They take up less space, and eliminate the risk of a tip-over accident since each ledge is anchored firmly to the wall, As a big bonus, the books' cover art, which is often gorgeous, is displayed outward. Big impact, low price!

 

Image via Apartment Therapy

Shelves in a playroom are not just for books; they offer a great opportunity to display toys, games, and other items that can spark imaginative play. From cars to action figures to doll accessories, shelves provide quick access to a wide variety of playthings, which fits well with the mercurial nature of toddlers. The free-standing shelf below houses baskets for storage and interesting wooden toys topped off by a casually strolling leopard on a dusty pink background.

 

Leopard print wall decor in toddler's playroom

Leopard print available here

Playroom Storage

Open shelves, bookcases, and ledges are great for accessibility, but most playrooms require some kind of hardcore storage that gets the mess off the floor and out of sight. The sturdy shelves shown below allow for toy display at the upper levels, but cleverly hide most of the clutter behind closed doors, giving the playroom a tidy look. They work best for older toddlers, whose reach extends beyond the general vicinity of the floor, but can be used with any age.

 

Clever storage for child's playroom

Photo by Phil Crozier, Design by Alanna Dunn via Rue Daily

Below, IKEA's Trofast system is perfect for toddler storage, whether it's in a playroom or bedroom. Labeling the bins with stickers makes clean-up easier for toddlers.

 

IKEA children's storage

Image via IKEA

The versatile Trofast system can also keep the floor free if space is an issue. Below, both the upper and lower units are anchored to the wall, leaving space beneath for baskets, balls, and other play items.

 

IKEA wall storage for kids

Image via IKEA

Lighting

Playroom lighting can be a tricky issue, with different lighting needs for different situations. For evening playtime, when a general wind down to bedtime is in order, soft lighting is perfect. Bright morning light, on the other hand, delivers the right ambiance for more active play. Toddlers who are particularly sensitive to light and glare can be distracted or even upset by very bright lighting. When considering lighting, it's a case of the more options the better. But if multiple lighting options aren't in the budget, consider adding a simple dimmer switch to set the right mood.

Lighting also plays a key role in your decorating plan. It's hard to overstate the ability of lighting to add instant drama or transform a room into a magical space. West Elm's acrylic moon show below adds a warm glow and pizzazz to an otherwise ho-hum room.

 

Moon light for children's playroom

Image via West Elm, Lit Acrylic Moon

And if the moonlight and magic aren't your thing, how about a blazing sun? Both are perfect for the space-themed room shown below, but each adds a different energy to the playroom.

 

Sun light for child's room

Image via Bulbsquare

Create Zones

How you arrange your playroom can have a big impact on how your toddler uses the space. Playrooms can be divided into different areas to foster specific kinds of play and allow room for toddlers to expend energy.

Open Area

 

Open area for movement in child's playroom

Image via Montessori Method

Give them room to move. Toddlers are nothing if not balls of energy so make sure the playroom has plenty of open space for running, jumping, and crawling activities, free of playroom furniture.

Reading Nook

 

reading nook in toddler playroom

Image via: plomgallery

Most toddlers can't read but don't tell them that - they love to flip through the pages of a book, making up the story as they go along or reciting it from memory. Either way, a reading nook full of age-appropriate books will encourage your toddler to explore stories and develop language skills.

Open shelves are a great option for allowing your toddler to select books independently, or you can place books in bins and baskets. Provide a comfortable area for sitting - it can be as simple as a few cushions on the floor or as luxe as the Crate and Barrel lounge chair below.

 

Reading chair in toddler playroom

Image via Crate and Barrel

You can also add toys that encourage open-ended play, like stuffed animals or puppets that help your toddler pick up where the stories left off.

Arts & Crafts Space

 

art supplies in toddler's playroom

Photo by shraga kopstein on Unsplash

Let the creativity begin with a designated area for crafts, art, and mess! Fill it with an easel, craft, and art supplies, and a washable mat if keeping the floor pristine (or just reasonably clean) is an issue. This is also an ideal place for a table and chairs to allow toddlers to sit comfortably while pursuing their artistic endeavors.

Pretend Play Area

 

child with painted face in playroom

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Setting up an area that encourages pretend play is a stellar way to make the playroom inviting and fun for your toddler, as well as siblings and friends. The area can include a play house, a play kitchen with true-to-life dishes and utensils, dress-up costumes, food and shopping props, and anything that allows your toddler to transcend the daily grind and take on exciting new roles.

Some items might make it seem as though you're introducing them to life's drudgery (play kitchen springs to mind), but toddlers love to imitate real life. What that says about real life is another matter and one best left to periods of existential contemplation, post-playroom setup.

Design with an Eye to the Future

Yes, they do grow up, and it's wise to an eye on their future selves, buying furniture and accessories that can be repurposed once they're older. The pillows in the playroom below, for example, allow for lots of open-ended toddler play, but can easily transition into an older child's space, or even a teen's hideaway.

 

Floor pillows in toddler playroom

Image via Decorpad

A couch is also a useful addition to the playroom, providing a venue for you and your toddler to curl up with a good picture book, or for you to feed a newborn sibling, or just sip a cup of coffee while the fun ensues around you.

 

dinosaur poster in toddler playroom

Dinosaur poster available here

Decorating the Playroom

Let the fun begin! While you've likely had decorating in mind since the inception of the playroom idea, now is finally the time to give free rein to your inner designer. If you're converting a previously used space into a playroom, remember that nothing says renewal like freshly painted walls.

Color Choices

Giving toddlers input on wall colors and accessories can make them feel part of the process, but it's probably a good idea to limit their choices to those carefully curated by you in advance. When curating playroom colors, it's hard to go too far wrong - the playful nature of the room allows you the choice to step outside your decorating comfort zone or stay firmly within its boundaries.

Bold colors, for example, work well in a toddler's playroom even if the rest of your house sports a subdued demeanor. The bright green walls in the playroom below lend vibrant energy.

 

toddler's playroom with bright green walls

In a similarly arranged room, the blue walls are a little more subdued, but no less lacking in energy, especially when embellished with hanging stars and planets.

 

toddler's playroom

If bold is a little too much, consider an accent wall in your child's favorite color, or paint the interior of a bookcase a bright hue like the yellow accented bookcases below.

 

yellow wall in a toddler playroom

Photo by Pat Sudmeier

If you're more into soft colors, natural wood, and Scandi cool, there are still plenty of decorating ideas at your browsing fingertips. The white walls in the room below serve as a backdrop for the interesting light fixture and colorful toys. The simple addition of the child's art on the back wall provides splashes of color and a playful vibe.

 

child's art in a playroom

Image via Apartment 34

Wall Art and Posters

There are plenty of creative ways to incorporate art and wall decor into your toddler's playroom, too. Bright colors, fun shapes, and interactive pieces can turn a boring room into an inspirational place for your kids to let loose their imaginations. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Wall Decals

Wall decals come in a wide range of designs that can easily match any theme or style. As a bonus, they peel right off when the preschool years are over or when it's time to pick up and move.

Posters

Canvas and paper posters are great options for brightening a playroom and come in a seemingly endless variety of styles and subjects. Many are geared toward preschool and STEM learning, giving your child a head start while amping up the decor. Think alphabet and letter posters, or world maps featuring anything from animals to machines.

 

Endangered animals poster in a toddler's playroom

Endangered animals poster available here

Art Prints

If you want a more formal look, framed art prints might be right for you. There are plenty of choices out there, including DIY options, letting you add artistic flair without breaking the budget. And don't forget your little artists, who've been busy pushing clay into shape, finger painting amorphous shapes, and creating collage masterpieces. They're sure to appreciate having their very own creations adorning the walls!

If you prefer to splash out on a few art prints, consider their educational value. Adding opportunities to learn the alphabet, for example, gives wall decor a sense of purpose in addition to beautifying the walls. The playroom below features counting geese with a soft green background that fits right in with the muted tones of the room.

 

wall decor in a toddler's room

Counting geese prints available here

The beetle poster below is both colorful and educational, introducing the next generation to the wonders of biodiversity and the need to protect it.

 

Beetle poster in a toddler's playroom

Beetle biodiversity poster available here

Toys and Activities

Now that you've decorated, placed the foundation furniture, and decided on zones, it’s time to move in the existing toys and stock the playroom with new ones. Get ready to be transported back to your childhood. Some toys are pretty cool these days, and many old favorites keep right on giving.

 

toddlers' toys

Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

It's not just about the fun, though (although it mostly is). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), play is essential for healthy brain development in toddlers. Rest assured that in the absence of expensive toys, toddlers happily play with whatever's around. But if you are ready to add to your collection, they suggest a variety of toys, including those that promote imaginative play and open-ended exploration. Below are some of their suggestions to consider when increasing your supply.

Blocks and Building Toys

 

child's blocks

Block play is a critical component of early childhood development. Playing with blocks provides multiple benefits, stimulating the growth of the brain across all developmental areas. A study published in the Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education found that preschoolers who regularly participate in block play activities perform better in mathematics as they progress through middle school, particularly algebra. Here are a few types of block toys to get you started:

  • large wood unit blocks
  • flat plank style blocks
  • small wood blocks that snap together
  • large cardboard blocks and construction sets
  • block sets that include additional toys like dolls, animals, and cars to take their imaginative play to the next level

Puzzles and Problem-Solving Toys

 

child playing with puzzle

Puzzles and problem-solving toys help develop spatial awareness, memory, shape recognition, fine motor skills, and problem-solving abilities. They include:

  • wood shape puzzles for the youngest toddlers
  • complex puzzles with 12 to 20 pieces or more for toddlers and preschoolers from 3 to 5.
  • problem-solving toys such as those with latches, locks, hooks, buttons, and snaps.

Pretend Play

Children love to take on the roles of police officers, doctors, construction workers, and teachers. Or fairies, wizards, and dinosaurs. So load up on as many pretend play items as you can.

 

boys dressed up as superheroes

Photo by Steven Libralon on Unsplash

But there's more to pretend play entertainment alone. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), engaging in high-level dramatic play has numerous cognitive, social, and emotional benefits, allowing kids to explore likes, interests, and the world around them safely. It also allows small children to work through any new, confusing, or scary life experiences they might encounter. Through engaging in dramatic play, toddlers can build their social and emotional skills, sharpen problem-solving abilities, read social cues, and share and take turns more effectively. Here are a few toys to consider.

  • child-size furniture, like a play kitchen that mimics real life
  • true-to-life play utensils and food items
  • dress-up clothes - you can increase your stock with hand-me-down Halloween costumes, pieces of left-over cloth for capes, and thrift store items
  • a few accessories like wands, hats, and swords, turn regular clothing into a magical costume and provide hours of entertainment
  • dolls and doll clothes
  • cash registers
  • transportation toys
  • toy tools

 

child's play kitchen

Photo by Harry Grout on Unsplash

Toys and Supplies for Creating

What would early childhood development be without finger paint and modeling clay? Experience with art helps kids develop a variety of skills, like building fine motor muscles by manipulating items such as pencils, crayons, chalk, and paintbrushes.

 

child fingerpainting

Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

And if you really want to get technical, engaging in art activities helps toddlers develop cognitive skills like patterning and cause-and-effect thinking. Art also supports mathematical skills like size, shape, comparison, and spatial reasoning. It's a heavy burden, but art is up to it. Here are the materials to support all of this high-level stuff:

  • crayons, colored pencils, markers, chalk
  • non-toxic paint and watercolor paint
  • construction paper
  • paper of varying weights and sizes
  • safety scissors
  • modeling clay, playdough, and playdough tools
  • glue and scrap materials for collages
  • coloring books
Toys for Sensory Play

 

toddler playing instrument

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Think about adding toys that your toddler can explore with their hands and ears, such as:

  • musical instruments like tambourines, maracas, rhythm sticks, and xylophones
  • toys that play music when they move
  • balls of various sizes and textures
  • soft stuffed animals or other toys

Toys for Large Motor Movement

 

toddler riding indoor tricycle

Image via Hape

Physical activity is an essential part of a child's development and isn't just for outdoor play. Not only does movement support health and well-being, but physical activity is also linked to improved academic performance. Regularly engaging in large motor activities such as riding tricycles, climbing, and playing with balls can improve attention and memory in early childhood.

Keep in mind your child's age and developmental ability, though. Toys should be challenging, but not difficult for your child to use at his age level. Toys for large motor movements should be inspected regularly to ensure they're in good condition. Below are some options for stocking your playroom:

  • ride-on items like tricycles, bikes, and balance bikes
  • push and pull toys
  • balls of different sizes
  • climbers with soft materials underneath
  • plastic bats and balls
  • targets
  • wagons & wheelbarrows
  • tunnels to climb through
  • pounding and hammering toys

Rotate Toys

To get maximum play value it's a good idea to rotate toys and activities by tucking some toys away in a closet or bin for a while.

 

toys stored in a closet

Image via The Container Store

Not only does it prevent your toddler from being overwhelmed with choice, but it also allows you to periodically bring out new items that will spark their curiosity and creativity all over again. And, not unimportantly, it definitely helps with the clutter.

 

toys stored on a shelf in a toddler's playroom

Image via Montessori Method

Budget Tips for Playrooms

Achieving a functional and attractive playroom doesn't have to be expensive. Not only can you DIY a lot of the decorating, but you can also recycle furniture from other parts of the house, and shop the local garage sales. It just takes a bit of extra thought and planning.

  • Make a plan. Before shopping, make sure to plan out what items you need to buy and how much you can spend.
  • Get creative. Find items that can double as storage and seating, like old crates topped with cushions.
  • Shop around. Take some time to compare prices between stores and online sites so that you get exactly what you need for the best price.
  • Do it yourself. You don’t have to buy everything pre-made for your toddler playroom. There are so many fun craft projects that you and your toddler create together.
  • Shop secondhand. You can often find great deals on gently used furniture and other items for your toddler’s playroom. Check out garage sales, thrift stores, or online sites to find second-hand pieces, and pass them along when you're done.
  • Use chalkboard paint. Not only does it add your child's special artwork to the decor, but it also has tons of play value. What's not to love?

Playrooms for Multiple Ages

 

children playing

 

Setting up a single playroom for kids of different ages can feel like an insurmountable task, with boredom for some and danger for others lurking around every corner. Here are a few tips to make your playroom fun for your toddler and kids of all ages.

Safety First

Make sure the playroom is toddler-proofed and all items are age-appropriate for the children that will be using it. Table and chair sets should be sturdy enough for all ages and larger items should be secured to the wall.

Keep it Varied

Provide activities tailored to each age group, such as puzzles, blocks, and dolls for younger kids, or arts & crafts supplies and board games for older kids. The key is to vary the interest for each age, from imaginative playtime to quiet reading time.

Keep It Organized by Age and Zone

Set up designated play areas for different age groups. Indulge your dinosaur-obsessed kindergarten kid with a separate area, including a safe place to store small items away from toddlers.

Vary Seating Options

Invest in a small table and chairs set for toddlers, and provide larger items for older kids. A desk and chair tucked away in a corner can serve as both a play area and a space to complete homework for older children.

Make Room for Baby

Consider a playard, a cute play mat for tummy time, and a comfortable chair for feeding. Multipurpose playrooms keep things interesting for babies, who learn from older boys and girls. You may also want to include a comfortable area for naps or quiet playtime.

Encourage Independent Clean Up

Now is a great time to take advantage of your toddler's willingness to learn all sorts of new tasks. Teaching toddlers how to independently put away toys can help develop their sense of autonomy and build self-reliance. Make it a routine now, and reap the reward for however long it lasts!

 

shelves in a toddler's playroom

Image via Pottery Barn

Cleanup time is when clever storage really pays off. All of those labeled bins and clever basket storage ideas are just waiting for an enthusiastic toddler. Here's how to make it happen:

  • Give clear instructions on how to put playthings away so children understand which items belong in a particular place.
  • Establish routines like setting aside about five minutes at the end of each play session.
  • Intervene only when necessary, allowing your toddler to gain a sense of accomplishment.
  • Reward your toddler when they complete tasks independently. Provide verbal praise or give out special tokens, such as stickers or stamps, when they achieve milestones like keeping their playroom clean without reminders.

Safety Tips

Once your child is a toddler, you've already scouted every room for possible danger, and the new playroom is no exception. Installing gates where needed, covering electrical outlets, and providing child-safe furniture and toys are essential for safety.

 

abacus in toddler playroom

Photo by luis arias on Unsplash

The AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention has tips to guide you in making sure your playroom toys are safe:

  • Read the label. Warning labels give important information about how to correctly use a toy and about age appropriateness. Be sure to show your child how to use the toy the right way
  • Think large to prevent choking. Make sure all toys and parts are larger than your child's mouth, or can’t fit into a toilet paper roll (especially for children less than 3 years old)
  • Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air. They can cause serious eye injury or choking
  • Pay attention to noise levels. Avoid toys that could damage hearing
  • Look for stuffed toys that are well-made. Make sure all parts are on tight and seams and edges are secure. Stuffed toys should be machine washable. Remove loose ribbons or strings to avoid strangulation. Avoid toys that have small bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed
  • Buy sturdy plastic toys. Toys made from thin plastic may break easily, leaving sharp edges, and make sure the label says nontoxic
  • Electric toys should be "UL Approved." Check the label to be sure

That's a Wrap

Organizing a toddler's playroom doesn't have to be difficult – just remember to focus on safety first, invest in age-appropriate toys, keep things neat and organized, add artwork for visual appeal, and ensure there is enough space for movement!

With these playroom ideas in mind, you can create a great space your toddler will love spending time in, whether your house is palatial or cozy. There's something in it for you, too. Many parents appreciate the carefree time a well-designed, safe play area affords.

So there you have it - our tips to help you create the perfect toddler playroom! Now go forth and get creative!

 






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