Last Updated on January 26, 2023 by Sandra Allens
She (like many kids) started feeling uncomfortable with my office’s improvised workspace after a year of pandemic homeschooling. The learning environment alone was not sufficient for her – she also needed a place where she could engage in creative play. When I renovated her creative kids space by replaced her bedroom furniture and set up a large work table in her playroom, my daughter suddenly became a different child, creating and reading all day long.
Several of the areas that kids usually go to after school-like gyms, libraries, and arts and crafts studios-may be closed since the new school year begins partially or entirely online for many kids. Kids can benefit from having their own creative area at home, especially since they spend so much time there. Many families, though, have a limited budget and limited space.
I received tips from two experts on how to get the most out of your resources. Through Shalena Smith 25 years as a designer, she has helped clients with creative solutions during the pandemic. Babble Dabble Do offers STEAM extracurricular classes taught by former architect Ana Dziengel. Furthermore, Dziengel creates practical workspaces, inexpensive storage, and ways to let children create messes without damaging the house. In my role as Reinierdejong`s senior staff writer, I cover textiles, organization, and home goods. My passion for crafting and experience as a librarian make me a perfect combination.
1. Providing Creative Kids Space
To make space for children, Smith’s first task is to declutter. It may take a little while before you even realize where you have room. Smith says she’s moved everything from grand pianos to large bookcases into storage in order to gain more space for clients’ children during this pandemic. Separating school from play areas is something she suggests. Getting away from work after a long day is just as essential to kids as it is for adults, she says.
Currently, Smith encourages clients to experiment with their living spaces by incorporating walk-in closets, garages, patios or gardens. Since the pandemic began, she has used her many spaces in different ways. Through the new covered structure, one client was able to use the backyard as an office, while another was able to use a guest room as a playroom by adding a Murphy bed. Room dividers, such as IKEA’s Risor folding screen, help create distinct areas that help kids focus; low bookcases and curtains can also help. IKEA Kura loft beds are used by Wirecutter staffers for play and studying.
Focus on your children’s interests once you’ve selected a space. It might mean creating a reading nook, a science station, or an art corner. For a dance studio in one family’s garage, Smith installed a 4-foot-wide mirror and a remnant of cheap carpet. A standing ballet barre was installed by her clients. As long as a child’s space is theirs, Smith says it does not have to be large. “Maybe it’s just a corner, but if you make it their special corner, [it’s] telling them they matter now and in the future.”
2. Keep It Organized by Setting It Up
In addition to most typical desks for children, Linnmon tabletsops from IKEA extend the work surface beyond what is available on a typical child’s desk; you can mount them on legs or drawers if you have the space. With adjustable IKEA Olov legs on one end, they fit a shelf from the IKEA Kallax collection. It is ideal for kids who hate sitting for long periods in chairs, says Dziengel. Linnmon tabletops with height adjustments from 2 to 3 feet can be combined with IKEA Olov legs to create a standing desk for young children.
This set of long Kallax shelves will make a great reading corner. The shelves can also provide a flat surface for playing games and can be turned horizontally as book shelves. Short shelves were one of the biggest frustrations I faced as a children’s librarian. Most of the time, my daughter’s tall books fit nicely in these cubbies. Smith suggests lining up a few toy boxes to create a seating area with cushioned tops. For affordable pillows and cushions, we love Target’s Pillowfort line and IKEA’s Stuva toy bin. Adding a fun lamp to your reading will make it more enjoyable.
The Wirecutter favorite IKEA Raskog cart and Honey-Can-Do drawers both offer rolling storage. For Dziengel, the action is easy to find. Wirecutter recommends these Iris weathertight totes in its guide to the best storage containers. The Iris totes and these Latched Hefty boxes are stackable storage bins with multiple sizes. Children’s projects occasionally pile up or get unfinished, so large bins are ideal for organizing them instead. Using a label maker and Polaroid Zink printer, I have labelled boxes of toys and art supplies for my daughter since she was in preschool.
Invest in inexpensive storage for small items that was originally intended for another room in your home. Cheap plastic bins and caddies can be found in the bathroom or laundry aisles of discount stores. Over-the-door shoe organizer from Wirecutter stores toys and supplies for a Wirecutter editor’s kids. The IKEA garden section, in particular, has proven beneficial to Dziengel during summer sales at IKEA. For less than 50 cents apiece, she can buy galvanized steel flower pots from Bintje that house her favorite markers and pencils. As a storage box for small supplies, the rectangular flower box from IKEA is her favorite.
3. Make the Creative Kids Space Clean
In addition to keeping kids and creative work in check, Dziengel shares some tips for keeping it under control. Using vinyl tablecloths with a backing is a good way to protect tabletop and desk surfaces from liquids. You can reuse them a lot because liquids can’t soak through them. Wet brushes and uncapped markers do not roll around on the floor when they are stored in cheap trays, such as the IKEA Tillgang.
Throughout the house, dirty brushes, used paper towels, glitter, glue, and anything else sticky or wet can accumulate in a plastic dish pan. Her favorite way to clean up foamy science experiments and messiest projects is to hose down round plastic tubs like these Homz 17-Gallon Utility Tubs because they’re easy to handle. By not allowing a little mess, you are limiting the creativity of your children.