Monday, 31 July 2017

Creating a great space for play - and learning

Your new home can be a great, safe, place for your kids to play.

As the summer holidays drag on you will want to avoid the aggravation of bored children getting under your feet and making your life a misery. Given the British weather, though, you need to think about indoor as well as outdoor spaces.

Here are our top tips for play spaces that will keep the children happy – and therefore make your life easier!

If you can dedicate a room in your house as a playroom that is ideal – it becomes the children’s own space and you can close the door and leave them to it (although you may want to insist on them tidying up from time to time).

Washable wallpaper or painted walls and soft but washable floors are sensible ideas. Marks and spillages are almost inevitable so plan for them in your decoration.

Soft storage units for putting away toys when not in use (now, that’s an idea you may have to work on with the children) can make the play space a little more safe than traditional cupboards with hard corners. Or have a complete wall of doors closing off one end of the room with storage space behind.

Not everyone has the luxury of a ‘play room’, though, so see if you can demarcate one end of a family room as a play space, maybe during daytime only. Move hard-edged furniture to the other end of the room to avoid knocks and bruises. Try to turn a blind eye to the mess!

An old sheet or blanket on the floor will help to protect carpets from damage – but you may still be wise to ban paints and crayons unless used under supervision.

Think about reading and ‘mind games’. Overnight, put new books into the play space or add new games on wall boards to surprise and intrigue your youngsters when they enter.

There is no shortage of electronic games and gadgets to keep youngsters amused, of course, but it is sometimes good to get them away from the screen and interacting with the real world. Try providing old cardboard boxes, curtains, clothes and other materials. You may need to provide some ideas on how they could be used and games to play with them. Once the kids get the idea, however, their imaginations should take over – and you can retire to the kitchen for a well-earned coffee.

You may not be the only one feeling the need to beat a retreat from the frenzy of the play space. Offer a ‘quiet chair’ in another room for children who want to be on their own for a while – but make strict rules about what can be brought or done there (one doll, one book – whatever rules you want to set to prevent it just becoming an extension of the play space with its accompanying noise and mess).

Outside in the garden your options for creating a play area will be limited by the space available. But if you have young children you should maybe take this into account when designing the garden for your new home. Formal planting and fussy borders are probably not compatible with children’s play. Think instead of plenty of lawn and maybe soft bark pits together with slides, swings, climbing frames and a sand pit if there is space and budget for them.

Try to provide equipment that will stretch your children’s physical abilities so that they not only get some healthy exercise but also learn things such as balance and develop self-confidence.

As with an indoor play space, introduce some surprises from time to time. Add hula-hoops, bats, balls, bubble blowers and other toys. But do think of the neighbours. There will be a limit to how many times they are willing to fetch balls back from their gardens – and the adjoining greenhouse is just where fate will send a mis-hit ball (so make sure it is a soft one).

In the summer’s few hot, sunny, days you can think of inflatable paddling pools.

The good news (though you may not want to think of this right now) is that eventually the kids do grow up and leave home. And then you can re-plan your garden as a more relaxed and grown-up space that you can enjoy.

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