Make playrooms safe, functional

By WashingtoPost
Published September 30, 2006

Everyone enjoys personal space at home, even children. But devoting a room in the house to little ones requires much more thought than simply "put toys here." Here are some tips.

* Safety first. Use round tables (no sharp corners), place favorite items within easy reach to discourage climbing, use non-slip pads under area rugs, and screw shelving and chests of drawers to the wall to avoid tipping.

* Furnishings. When deciding on playroom furniture, consider all the activities that will take place there. You'll need comfortable seating and table space, a craft corner, good lighting and a combination of flooring that includes tile or vinyl in the arts-and-crafts area and a durable brown or beige carpet for the remaining space.

* Shelving. A single, floor-to-ceiling, built-in wall unit is better than a jumble of toy boxes, baskets, bookshelves and storage bins. The individual furnishings eat up floor space and make the space look cluttered.

* Storage. Store items on shelving in clear containers with labels. Over-the-door shoe holders are good for stuffed animals. Plastic boxes with drawers are ideal for crayons, Legos or Matchbox cars. Forget about large chests unless they store large items. Large bins for little items result in layers of toys that children have to dig through to find the one they want.

* Label liberally. Use written labels on drawers, cabinets and boxes if your children can read; use pictures if they cannot. Have the kids do the labeling so they can participate in the setup of the room. Color coding is another option.

* Teach time. Buy a timer. Tell children that when the timer goes off, it's time to clean up. Or hang a clock as wall art.

* Eye candy. When toys and activities are left out in the open all the time, children can become overstimulated. Hang a curtain from the ceiling to conceal toys when it's time for something quiet, such as reading.