Ready to build a playroom full of toys that last more than a few months? Here I go over 11 playroom ideas that not only work for multiple ages 0-5 but also work on helping your child grow and build new skills.
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Puzzles are a great way to learn new words and work on motor skills. At first, your baby will love to see all the colors, shapes and pictures. The next step is playing with the pieces, then pulling everything apart until finally they will be able to put them all back together. These items also work on vocabulary and understanding how things can fit together. Look specifically for wood puzzles that either have handles or are very thick and can easily be taken out and put back into the puzzle. My two favorites are the Melissa and Doug Farm Animals with handles or the Melissa and Doug transportation puzzle because you can make different sounds for all of the vehicles.
2. Books and Toddler-friendly Book shelves
Reading out loud to your baby/toddler is one of the best things you can do. By age 4, there is a word difference gap of approximately 32 million words. To entice your little one to want to read more, make some DIY toddler friendly book shelves. These book shelves allow the covers of the books to be on display and can easily transition to holding books for bigger kids. Make sure to make use of your local library to continually check new books out and expand the number of words you child is exposed to. I have found that most toddlers love mini books, Baby Einstein books seem to be the perfect size to learn to turn pages.
3. Farm animals
Kids are fascinated with animals and animal sounds. An excellent way to get baby to start making all different types of sounds is to start with animal sounds (ba, mo, ma, oink, cluck etc). In fact, some of the very first words your child will say are most likely going to be animal names. L’s first word was dog, her third word was Moo (which is what she calls cows) and then Ba for any sheep she sees. A toy farm, tractor and farm animals is perfect to type of toy that will grow with your child. Start with using this toy to interact and increase the number of different words they are exposed. Examples include “The cow jumps into the tractor” or “The sheep runs into the barn and out of the barn” or “Where is the pig? There is the pig. The pig is in the hay” or “What does the sheep say?” “The sheep says ba.” Find out here why this type of interaction is important. Once your child is older, they can use the farm and its animals to engage in pretend play, an excellent brain boosting exercise.
The pretend kitchen is probably the staple of pretend play. Pretend play allows kids to practice language and start to sort everything they learn in their head. If they want to play chef, they must organize all of their knowledge and thoughts into actions and sentence phrases a chef might use. To learn more about how pretend play aids in brain development, I would highly recommend reading Brain Rules for Baby 0-5. We received a KidKraft Kitchen play set from L’s grandparents for her 1st birthday present. She cannot get enough of it. She loves to open and close all of the drawers, bang the pots and pans and get food out of the fridge. We also use the “oven” and dishwasher as storage for her puzzles so they are easy access for her. The play food is stored in the fridge.
L is a big fan of hats! Hats allow them to see how they look different in the mirror but are still themselves. We also love to make funny faces at the mirror or wear masks. Eventually I want to expand this section to include more dress up items like a doctor’s kit, a tool kit, a chef hat and outfit, lab goggles and lab coat, wizard outfit, dinosaur outfit and many more so she can engage in pretend play. Don’t spend a fortune on these items, read my ways to save on kid items to find get ideas on where to find great deals.
One of the most simple basic toys, yet it seems to be forgotten a lot in playrooms. We got one set of different sizes and shapes from the baby section of target when she was little and still likes them. She now focuses on putting the balls in baskets or other containers. Her favorite ball is a beach ball, it is perfect for her because it is colorful and light so she can pick it up and throw it. This toy will never grow old and works on motor skills. A definite must for any playroom.
Once L turned 1, she became obsessed with sitting in ALL types of chairs. She loves the little table and chair set at the library and we hope to get her one soon but in the mean time I followed an awesome tutorial and made some bean bag chairs, see more here. L will not only sit in them but also climb all over them. The best part is they are a (pretty safe) jungle gym. I also prefer to sit on the bean bags than just the floor while we play (as does our dog).
8. Musical Instruments
If you have sang The Wheels On The Bus and Old McDonald more times than you ever wanted to, then you probably already know just how much kids love music. We have a foot piano that L has had since she was a newborn and still likes it and we also have a xylophone. Toddler musical instruments are most definitely worth buying because they will last for years. Additionally, music is a great way to develop the brain.
9. Laminated Pictures/Busy Book
Kids love getting their picture taken but even more, they love seeing their picture and pictures of the people in their lives. Every few months, I print new pictures of L, her dad and me and our dog. Her favorites are of course dad and the dog. I also have pictures of extended family and some of her friends. I laminate the photos so she can chew, bend and grab at the photos. She can now look at the pictures, point and say “mama” or “dada” or “dog”, which has been a whole new level of excitement. L started to enjoy this activity at 5-6 months, as she continues to get older, we are going to start making her books through a printing service like shutterfly.
Her GG (great-grandma) made L a busy book for her 1st Christmas. These make for the perfect quiet busy game or an excellent “only car” toy to keep them occupied. To see what is inside and get ideas for your own DIY busybook, see here.
10. Sensory Board
Sensory boards are also a great baby toy that will transition well to toddlerhood. There are quite extravagant ones on Pinterest under DIY Sensory Boards and Esty has come cool ones too. We made a simple one with only a few gadgets on it but L still likes it, especially the wheels.
At around 1, toddlers learn how to empty containers (not so great if it is a desk drawer or a kitchen drawer). The skill after emptying is putting things into containers. I picked out a bunch of random type containers or bags and L will fill them with the most random stuff. It is fun to see what she puts in the containers when I pick up her toy room at night. I also sometimes will fill them myself and she loves the surprise when she takes each item out.
Want some artwork in your playroom?
Download my free 1st birthday chalkboard template to use at a party and then hang on the wall as a keepsake.
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What’s in your playroom? Let me know in the comments!
Dr. Trina Fitzpatrick is a wife, mom, blogger, and a breastfeeding advocate. She is the co-author of the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook. She attributes her success at breastfeeding her own children into toddlerhood with working with lactation consultants in the hospital in the early stages and on a weekly basis afterwards. By writing at MomSmartNotHard, she educates mamas-to-be on all things pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Read more about Trina.