Today I’m sharing a look at our play area. We have a small home so space is tight, but this setup has been working great for us.

small space big play

When we first moved into our apartment last summer, it took me some time to figure out where I wanted everything to go. It’s a 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment that’s a little under 800 sq feet. In North Carolina we had a larger two-story townhouse, so this was a downsize. And while I tried to purge as much as I could before moving, I still had (and have) a lot to do before things are just right.

I took my time with the decisions of where to put everything. Obviously the bed and couch had to be decided immediately, but I had time to rearrange other things. Since we share one bedroom, I had the second bedroom free and there was also this little space next to the kitchen. My original plan had been to make this a little office nook and the second bedroom would serve as a play room. But after a lot of thinking, I decided to go something different. Because the living room is so small and contains both the slightly-too-large couch and dining table, our coffee table was extremely inconvenient. I actually considered just getting rid of it.

play nook next to the kitchen

A few days after we moved in, I tried pushing it into the little nook next to the kitchen. I can only guess that space was intended for like a mini table and two chairs. But that coffee table was perfecto. Since my son was already used to playing on that table, it was easy to picture a little play nook right next to those big, gorgeous windows. After I put the table in, I decided to purchase a rug. This one from IKEA was a great choice. It’s fun and functional and exactly what the space needed. We also have a couple of flat cushions that we can throw on the floor and sit on if needed.

play area storage

For the toy storage, we used the shelf built into the bottom of the table to hold boxes and a few other items. This is the ‘home’ for all of the toys with the exception of puzzles, craft supplies, stuffed animals, educational materials and books, which are all stored in the second bedroom, AKA: the study. I’m still working on finishing touches for the study and hope to have it fully functional this month.


For the bins, we made labels. He actually typed them all and helped choose the font and boarders! I think getting kids involved in the organization of their toys is crucial in maintaining that organization. I talk to him a lot about keeping things where they go so that he can find them when he wants them and he really good about knowing how to clean up. It’s not neat all the time and, yes, toys encroach into the kitchen, but having it organized helps us to be able to clean up quickly and have it looking great in just a few minutes.

hanging maps

For the walls, I went back and forth on wanting to add shelving. In the end, I decided against it because I didn’t want the space to be too visually cluttered since it’s visible at all times. Also, he often sits on the table when he plays so I felt like head bumping would be a factor. On one wall we have a movable DIY calendar that I made a while back. (Follow that link for instructions and a printable!)

The other wall has a map. He’s very interested in maps and actually uses them a lot in his play. I have it attached to a thumbtack with a clip so we can quickly take it on and off or switch it out for one of his other maps Um, there may be an entire map drawer in the study. Geography enthusiast alert!

playing together

One more thing I should add about how we use the space. As you know, my son isn’t the only kid in the house! My daughter is 18 months and as she’s gotten older has played with him and along side him more and more. She definitely prefers the same toys he plays with. She does have a few of her own things and I set up a few interest baskets for her that stay on her bookshelf in the study. As she gets older and develops more of her own tastes, we will definitely have to reconsider the space. As an only child, navigating shared toys and play areas is foreign to me. I think it’s just finding the right balance between togetherness and independence. For right now, this works well!

So, any questions? Where do your children play? A playroom or in the middle of all the action in the house?

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