What Should We Do In Our Former Playroom?

posted by Andrea | 08/7/2017
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When I first toured our house (exactly 7 years ago this week!!) I can remember walking up the stairs with the realtor, seeing the wide open landing area, and thinking, “This is the most awesome space ever!”

I know it’s a little crazy looking with the brown sponge paint (the previous owners REALLY liked sponge paint) but I could INSTANTLY see the potential.

I had several cool ideas to utilize this space — and 7 years later, we’ve gone through most of those ideas!

  • First we used this space as a small den area with a TV, 2 reclining chairs, and a small side table with a lamp.
  • Then I used it as a cute craft/sewing/gift wrap supply nook.
  • After our international students arrived, we turned it into a hangout area for them with chairs, TV, and a place for them to do homework.
  • When we moved Nora upstairs right before Simon was born, we transformed this area into a fabulous playroom.
  • Then, when Nora and Simon started sharing a room and we used Simon’s old room for the playroom, the landing area basically turned into extra floor space for the kids to play.

Here are a few pictures showing how this space has evolved over the years.

Now the space is COMPLETELY empty — and last week, I finally worked up the energy to repaint all the trim, the walls, and the ceiling to “erase” the blue (it took 3 coats of paint on the walls!)

I know it looks a little “bland” right now — it’s even too much white for MY taste! However, once we get some fun stuff on the walls and some cute furniture pieces, I’m sure it will look great.

My question is… what in the world should we do with this space?

We really don’t need the space for toy storage as all the toys fit easily in the kids’ bedrooms — and their bedrooms are large enough that they have PLENTY of floor space to play.

Here’s a look at Nora’s bedroom.

Here’s a look at Simon and James’ bedroom.

Also, in the future, we could see using this space as a reading loft, a homework hub, a large craft zone, or even a kids’ TV/hangout space.

However, our kids are way too young for any of those options right now (ages 5, 3, 2). They can’t read on their own, they don’t have homework, I only let them do crafts at the kitchen table, and they only watch TV in the living room so I can monitor what they watch.

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Nora has requested a stage or someplace for the kids to dance. Simon has requested a train table, Dave and I thought it might be fun to put a puppet theater up somewhere, and of course, we could just leave it open and let the kids use it however they want.

That said, I like all the spaces in my home to be usable, functional, and FUN for our family — and right now, this space just seems boring to me! 

So that’s where YOU come in!

I know there are so many ideas we just aren’t thinking of, and I’d love it if you shared your ideas in the comments. Make sure you watch the short video tour and take a look at the pictures below for more “inspiration”.

A mini video tour of the landing area:

Note: if you’re reading this via email, you’ll want to click through to the post to see the video.

And here are a few more pictures (in case you can’t get the video to play, or if you just need a few more minutes to look and think!)

The view from the top of the stairs — looking back to the hall the goes to the bathroom.

Looking towards the boy’s room (left) and Nora’s bedroom (right). Also, you can see the stairs down to the living room.

Standing by the bathroom looking towards the stairs and into the boys’ bedroom.

Standing in Nora’s bedroom doorway, looking at the back wall and stairs (on the right).

Standing in the boys’ bedroom doorway, looking over the whole playroom and back towards the bathroom and storage closet (door on the right back by the bathroom).

As I mentioned in the video, this space is roughly 11′ x 11′ (the hallway is 22′ long); however, it’s not all “usable space” because we need to be able to walk to the bathroom, the bedrooms, and access the stairs.

I know there are probably so many fun (and frugal) ways to transform this space for our 5, 3, 2, and soon-to-be new munchkins… I just need a little inspiration!

For the record, I did check Pinterest, but those ideas are so over-the-top — I’m just looking for something “normal” that won’t require 2 weeks of construction and $2000 to pull off 🙂

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42 comments

  1. Ann

    08/19/2017

    I LOVE the idea of an indoor gym but don’t think outside of the bedrooms is the best place for it. (Ramp up just before bed and/or wake a sibling). Perhaps the basement or the out building?

    If you make a stage, can you make it murphy style to flip up against the wall when not in use?

    SO many suggestions already! Can’t wait to see it!

    [Reply]

  2. Marisa

    08/17/2017

    I love that most of the suggestions have to do with kids. To be honest, my first thoughts were for a room that would add to the adult-world in the house: an old-fashioned library, a study, a sewing room, a media room (TV, movies, video games, etc), a yoga/pilates/meditation space…

    I also really like the idea of a big, open space without much furniture or any fixed purpose. Maybe a couple of beanbags and cushions–a place where a project can be set-up and worked on over many days without interfering with the rest of the household.

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  3. Mel

    08/17/2017

    The preschool teacher in me would do a mini school. Make each corner a center. Dramatic play with a simple stage. Trains. A sensory table. A reading nook is excellent even though they aren’t reading yet. Nora will be jumping into the reading process soon. It models that reading is so important you already have a space for it. Pre- reading strategies can guide it. Print immersion: [flood the environment with print] labels, posters (visit a teaching store), sight words displayed, list of words Nora has discovered, word creation options (magnets, chalkboard)., Scripture or quote of the week. Sight word spotlight. Letter of the week to look for. Comfy seating for kids and adults to snuggle into. Another reading strategy: to, with, and by. Books to read TO them, family favorites, read aloud, BY them: leveled book options. Board books, wordless books. Whatever they would pull off the shelf, their interests. WITH them, early readers, BOB books. I love a series called You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You. Book display to show covers.

    I also like the movement area ideas. Michigan winters. Indoor swing, small tramp, little tyke slide. Tumbling mat. Large board for tapping, jump rope, dancing and performing. Nerf gun target.

    So many fun options. I know you will pull something great and fun together. Can’t wait to see.

    [Reply]

  4. sunshine

    08/11/2017

    My first thought was a comfy, inspiring reading nook, but you mentioned that it wasn’t time for that yet. It would make a perfect comfy hang out/reading nook even for the times a pre-reading child wants to flip through picture books. If a sibling wakes up early, he can pop out to the nook to let the other rest. I would put up encouraging, beautiful, inspiring art/sayings or your own children’s art/creations and make it be a tranquil space with pops of beauty and make it a very minimal-open space. I love the white! And I like your idea to let it be the backdrop for however the little ones choose to use it on a given day. If you have a closet nearby that can hold things like the puppets, they could be brought out to that area for play without keeping it overfull. I can’t wait to see what you do with it! You are so blessed!

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  5. Tracey

    08/08/2017

    Reading nook! Inexpensive sectional in the corner, bookcase in the half-wall section at the top of the stairs?

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  6. Avia Thompson

    08/08/2017

    I think an extra play area (you have so many great ideas here already) that the kids can use during the winter to burn off energy and a nice sitting space for yourself since you’ll have the new baby.

    [Reply]

  7. Michelle

    08/07/2017

    My young grandsons have a small trampoline they love to jump on so this would be a good idea for that space. Of course you’d have to consider keeping it away from the slanted part of the ceiling to avoid head bumps.

    Then I think I would hang one of those trapeze bars or gym rings from the ceiling. We used to have a bucket swing hanging from our ceiling in the basement and the kids loved that–I’m not sure 11X11 would be enough space for that though. I could also see a spring horse on a frame or a mini rocking seesaw here. These things take up too much space in the bedrooms but are fun. Energy busters for our Michigan winters.

    The wall that shares Nora’s room would be a great place to hang one of those magnetic boards and have magnetic letters, shapes, or figures they can arrange on the board. A ball drop maze attached to the wall would be great too.

    My daughter made my nephew a toddler busy board for his birthday and it has entertained all the boys for hours. They hung it on the wall. You can find examples of this on pinterest.

    Just a few suggestions I hope you find helpful.

    Good Luck. Your hard work looks great!

    [Reply]

    Michelle Reply:

    I just had another idea.

    You could use this area for family game night with games stored close by.

    The idea I have had is to find a table top or a piece of wood or something similar and cut the legs short so each family member can sit indian style around it and play the game at the shortened table. It would be great if it was either foldable or you had a space to store it when it’s not being used.

    I realize the games could be played at the kitchen table but this would be a special family area designated for fun.

    [Reply]

  8. Janis

    08/07/2017

    Just let the space breathe….you did a great job painting and cleaning …. just enjoy the calm.
    The kids have their awesome rooms….let things flow after your baby girl arrives

    [Reply]

  9. Jeanine

    08/07/2017

    I agree with others that a reading area would be great, but I would also add a train table because they are so awesome for little kids. Then, while you read, some of your kids could sit in your lap while others play quietly with the trains. I just know that little boys sometimes need to keep busy in order to listen well.

    [Reply]

  10. Rebecca

    08/07/2017

    If Nora is interested in a stage, I think that is a wonderful idea. Costumes could stay in their rooms, or there could be a trunk of them, with props as well in the area. As kids, we put on plays all the time, and my kids also did it a lot. I think they would have done it even more if they had had a stage! Build the stage in a few small sections so that the shape can be changed, and so they can easily be moved out of the way if/when you want to use the space another way. Just start with the stage, then add things to it as you find them on craigslist, at yardsales, etc. The simpler the better!

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  11. Melinda

    08/07/2017

    When I see that open space it reminds me of your kids playing in one of the bedrooms before you remodeled. I believe they had taped off areas, like roads to play with their cars and Nora drawing on the driveway with chalk. Just a thought, I really don’t know how feasible it would be but how about leaving it open and either getting a lightweight rubber mat where they could draw with chalk and make their own little town? But that may cause a lot of chalk dust to vacuum up. ha. Or get a indoor/outdoor solid color rug and draw your own town on it with roads and businesses, like a fire station, theater, school, mechanic shop, church. The interest of your children. I would put back up the collage you had so it wouldn’t look so empty. BTW I love white! My philosophy is, you can’t go wrong with white. 🙂

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  12. Sheri D

    08/07/2017

    What about a chair for an adult, lamp and table and a book or magazine so that when you need to be there, you will have something to do. You could also add a couple of kids chairs and so of their books so they can quietly read with you.

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  13. BB

    08/07/2017

    Oh, forgot my other thought in this regard!
    Nora could use the underside area of her bed for her puppet shows.
    If a half-curtain were to be made that would fit on the long (or short) side of the bed with a spring-loaded extension rod so it would hide the puppeteer. Then she could do her puppet shows from there, OR by herself if that is her desire sometimes, as the two tables in the top-of-the-stairs-foyer area would likely take up enough room so it might squeeze out the puppet idea. That way all kids can do things together in three’s or two’s or as a single in that upper foyer area, OR in Nora’s room for puppets since her room is quite large for now until the new baby gets old enough to move in there with her. By which time it will time for a change in some way anyway.

    [Reply]

  14. Sherri H.

    08/07/2017

    Since the space is by the bedrooms, how about a table for puzzles, and a few cozy chairs/bean bags for before-bed/before nap story time? It could be the “wind-down” zone!

    [Reply]

  15. BB

    08/07/2017

    I rather like the idea of two tables in that area – one big enough for a train/cars/lego kind of table, then another big enough on which to play board or other table-type games that the kids know how to play together on their own.
    Later, when two or more kids are in school, those entertainment options might be worn out for the kids (or able to be moved into rooms if the interest is still there), and then the area can be set up for a homework and reading area.

    [Reply]

  16. Katie

    08/07/2017

    I would leave it mostly open so you can have a baby zone nearby the bedrooms to nurse, safe toy play, or change a diaper. I know it is fun to have themed space, but a blank canvas can be even more fun for the kids. Plus, with another one on the way, I would save the project for later (unless you are nesting- smile). I have read your blog for years (since before you bought the farmhouse). My kids are 10,7, and 2.

    [Reply]

  17. Debra Martin

    08/07/2017

    I would go with a TeePee, smaller sized puppet theater and a train track. I think with the longer winters you have, those items would get a lot of use. I would use some of the space in the heated garage for an indoor type gym like one of the commenters mentioned. I would have loved to have had all that space when my children were growing up. You would have great outdoor areas for the summer and awesome indoor areas for your growing children to use during the long winters. I have read your blog daily since Nora was teeny. Thanks for the continued inspiration and positive attitude you ‘display’ daily!

    [Reply]

  18. Pamela

    08/07/2017

    I personally would turn it into a communal study area – with some desks, reference books, etc. And maybe some comfy seats like beanbag chairs that could be for both play and for serious reading as they get older. I know they’re really little for something like that right now, but it could grow with them 🙂

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  19. Kate

    08/07/2017

    I would make it a reading nook even though the kids don’t really need that yet. I know you don’t keep a lot of books but it might be a good place to store books that all the kids like. We have a small bookcase in our kids’ playroom instead of storing the books in their individual rooms.

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  20. Bonnie'sMama

    08/07/2017

    Maybe you could just wait and see what it becomes, what the kids like to do in that area. Maybe they’ll want to drag toys out there, but maybe they’ll prefer playing in their rooms. As daily life happens, you might figure out there’s some particular activity y’all regularly do in that room.

    I will say, a biiig train table in that area could keep two little boys busy for a long time. My son started with wooden railway at 2 1/2. Five years later, he’s showing no signs of stopping.

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  21. Amy

    08/07/2017

    I would leave the area alone for now. Add a chair you already possess and some art for the walls. We have a similar area in our home. It has a chair and some art the kids have made, hung in repurposed frames. Our kids (2 & almost 5) like to see their projects displayed. This also keeps my fridge door clutter free.

    [Reply]

  22. Jennifer

    08/07/2017

    I read your blog daily! I have three kids as well ages 7, 5, &3. My oldest is a girl with sensory issues and head strong and I have two younger boys. I always wanted four but started a bit late. I had my first at 39. Anyway, I stumbled across your blog when my daughter was younger and I always look forward to your tips etc.

    I would keep the space loose as an extra play area, but I would also paint the walls with a magnetic chalkboard paint. I think it can be done with colors other then black. Nora can still play school and the younger kids might love just playing with various magnets etc.

    Good Luck!

    [Reply]

  23. Caroline

    08/07/2017

    I think with it being such a transitional time for your family, you shouldn’t do too much now. By next summer, with four kids at home, you might have exactly the use for this space! In the meantime, with Nora off to school this fall, I’d go with Simon’s request for a train table and a little baby feeding/changing area. Perfect combo of something new and fun for the boys – all while encouraging independent play – and a place for you to supervise while tending to the newest Dekker. And you should still have the space for more spontaneous fun!

    [Reply]

  24. Michelle

    08/07/2017

    An indoor playgym. Limikids has awesome gyms. they aren’t cheap but with all the kids and long winters it could be so fun and helpful

    [Reply]

    Michelle Reply:

    Even just a swing could be super fun. Or a hanging egg chair

    [Reply]

  25. Brenda

    08/07/2017

    I would leave it empty for a while. The kids might like having the extra room to set-up games or toys. I hated it when my kids would spend all afternoon setting something up (trains, legos, blocks) and then I wanted to put it away or we left it out and tripped all over it. Also, it might be nice to have “free space” for the boys while the baby is sleeping in the fall & winter. I found with my kids, as they got older they needed/wanted more room to just be away by themselves sometimes. I should clarify that by empty, i mean “no designated use.” I would probably add a chair, bulletin board…

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  26. Christina

    08/07/2017

    As a teacher, it is never too early to surround your kids with books and learning. I would make it a little library with a puppet area and stage. That would be a great way to act out stories and make their own stories! Kids don’t have to be able to actually read, to read books and learn. They learn so much just by looking at the pictures, words, turning pages, etc. I would invest in tons of books (Goodwill, garage sales have great deals) and maybe a whiteboard or chalkboard for drawing/writing along with hanging the alphabet, numbers, etc. Just surrounding your kids with opportunities to learn helps them thrive!

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  27. Julia Hedrick

    08/07/2017

    Being the mother of a small monkey, I have often wished for the space to create a small gym for cold and rainy days. Nothing fancy, just a one-rope swing or hammock, some sort of bar to climb/hang on, and maybe a balance beam and mat for tumbling.

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  28. Holly

    08/07/2017

    I think this would be such a fantastic library or study! With comfy chairs and bookshelves. I also understand your concern about the kids ages with that right now, so maybe think about what you’d eventually like it to be in 10 years or so when the kids are older and keep that in mind as you plan. With that said, I have three younger kids (but not as young as yours) and I think this would be a great Sensory play area. Bean bag chairs, tent or teepee, puppet stage, hang some oversized, bright colorful picture frames on the walls (attach clothes pins to them) so you can easily display & change out their artwork. You could even hang a chair from the ceiling in the corner (like a cocoon-type chair) or something. Whatever you decide I’m sure it will be great…you are always so creative!

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  29. Melissa

    08/07/2017

    Maybe a board game and puzzle area?

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  30. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    08/07/2017

    I think some kind of tabletop disco/party light would be fun, especially to help get their energy out this winter. It’s always nice to have open space to play in. A stage would be fun too!

    Maybe once the new baby is here, you’ll have a better idea of what you wan to use it for to keep the kids busy upstairs while you’re with the baby.

    [Reply]

  31. Edie S.

    08/07/2017

    I think I would leave it pretty empty for now! Maybe you could set up a nursing area to use when the kids are playing in their rooms and you want to be close by. Comfy chair, small table, and lamp. Add some wall photos and artwork for interest and color. Then the kids could come in and out of their rooms to show you their dress up costumes, or what truck they’re driving, etc while you’re feeding the baby. That would be super easy to change up once it was no longer needed or if you found you just didn’t use it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good idea — we do already have a comfy chair/table in each of the kids’ bedrooms — so I could easily sit there too. But, if we don’t come up with anything else, plopping a chair in this space would be an easy/quick/simple solution!

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    Edie S. Reply:

    I forgot that you already had seating in both kid bedrooms! In that case, I second an overflow play area. Maybe figure out how to rig up curtains on that main wall or corner for a stage like Nora wants that could also be used for puppet shows. If they don’t have one already, add a basic CD player and cds burned with their favorite songs that they can perform. Maybe recover a few big pillows to use as floor cushions for audience seating?

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  32. Jo

    08/07/2017

    I think I would put a teepee up in one corner and I like the puppet theatre and I’d be inclined to add a disco ball and make it a little entertainment zone!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I was thinking about some sort of teepee or tent — and Dave and I talked about a disco ball too 🙂 The ceilings are sort of low, so not sure how the disco ball would work — maybe if we tucked it in a corner?

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    Brenda Reply:

    Ohhh, maybe you could find a simple karaoke machine and some kids songs. I bet Nora would love to have a microphone! haha

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  33. Mirjam

    08/07/2017

    Space for yourself to write in your bullet journal, sew costumes for the kids, do a few yoga stretcher, read a magazine, plan a trip. A little ME-time for yourself and to teach your kids that mum needs some quiet time as well. All you need is a small table of desk

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this upstairs is 100% “kid zone” so I don’t think it would work well to have it be an adult quiet area 🙂 We have LOTS of adult space on the main floor — including a whole office for me!

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  34. christine

    08/07/2017

    I think this would be a lovely reading area. Bookshelves, lots of books for all ages- fiction and non fiction and comfy chairs- maybe a bean bag chair or 2 for the kids.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    we’ve thought about getting beanbags for the kids in a couple more years (once they can actually read) but for now, we get almost all our books from the library so we have no need for lots of book shelves.

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