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Balanced Playroom Design

Are there toys overtaking your home and yet your kids still don't play? Do your kids come to you constantly saying, "I'm bored!" Well, mama you may just be suffering from an unbalanced play space for your kids. When you implement a balanced playroom using B.I.G. P.L.A.Y! your kids will have a room where their imaginations are able to soar, they find it easy & quick to clean up, and they thrive in finding who they are in this world. As an engineer, interior designer, and mama of 4 littles, I love to problem solve with you to create FUN-ctional design for the whole family. Come learn how to transform your play space from overwhelm to FUN-ctional through implementing B.I.G. P.L.A.Y! and understand the benefits of each type of play to fully support your kids development.

B: Building & Small World Play

Building & small world toys are opened ended toys that help build a child's imagination, story telling, and engineering skills. Examples of these toys would be MagnaTiles, blocks, doll house, diverse people & animals, car or train mat, etc. Focus on toys that serve multiple kinds of play instead of getting toys that direct the type of play. For example, go for the wooden house that could be a fire station, house, school, or a secret lair versus getting the talking, flashing light fire can only be a fire station and the child will lean on the toy giving them the narrative rather than stretching their imagination through creating their own story.

Benefits: STEM skills, solve problems, build confidence, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, sharing, working together, imagination builder

child playing with wooden blocks

I: Inventor Space

Being an engineer, this space makes me giddy with excitement - I am transformed into a kid again! I am going to be bold in saying: NO home should be without an Inventor Space! Rather than call this an art hub, I like to expand kids by combining art with maker space items. When you have a space that has pom poms, toilet paper rolls, markers, a magnetic whiteboard, circuits, coding & robotics, crayons, paper, pipe cleaners, 3D printer (oh, the list is endless!), you create a space for not just art, but inventing as well. Will they create a masterpiece that mimics Monet or be the next Thomas Edison creating a new way to use energy? This space will allow them to be hands-on with their innovative imagination.

Benefits: STEAM skills, fine motor, problem-solving, resilience & grit, build communication, collaboration opportunities, encourage learning, increase curiosity

STEM development through playing robotics

G: Gross Motor

All I have to say is...Michigan winters!! When your kids decide to start climbing the walls or jumping all over your couch, it is a sign that they need to have their physical needs met. Give them a place an area in your home to meet those physical needs and give yourself a break from barking orders (No! Don't jump on that...*crash*). I say this because I have been there, having a child with a high need for physical stimulation. Give them a climbing structure, foam pit, indoor swing, obstacle course, or mats to test their limits. You both will benefit. Think of how you benefit when you get a workout in; kids need physical stimulation too.

Benefits: Gross motor skills, risk-taking, confidence, health, energy release, relieve stress, brain development, balance & spatial awareness

gross motor climbing wall and foam pit

P: Pretend Play

Who should I be today? What world am I going to visit? With pretend play, there is an endless realm of "who I am". Will your kiddo learn the nurturing skills of a mother as she plays in the kitchen with her baby doll? Or maybe your son will be transformed to the masked SuperKid as he defeats the bad guy. In the afternoon, they decide to discover a new world in space, learning what it is like to be an astronaut. By night time, they've perfected their rockstar performance ready to rock out as you wave your phone along to the music (no lighters please...). This area of a playroom is filled with costumes, play house/kitchen, career accessories, etc. Having an area full of pretend possibilities is key to creating balanced play.

Benefits: Builds relationship skills, social & emotional development, communication skills, empathy, mental flexibility, learning & discovery, learn about themselves

boys dressing up as super heros and an astronaut

L: Learning & Reading Zone

Have I mentioned I'm a homeschooling mama? Having a zone filled with books and learning materials is THE most important area for a child's development. They can escape to far off worlds, discover new ideas, learn how to be a good friend, etc. It is also a place where there is calm and quiet for those breaths that we all need to take in our days (even our rambunctious kiddos!) One key to a well-designed learning and reading zone are to have the books facing forward. This helps littles see what book will interest them without pulling them all down, and they are able to put them away a lot easier - even the littlest hands can learn to put books away. Also, be sure to include a variety of topics, reading levels, and genres. I like to rotate our books for different themes each month and include a hands-on discovery area for a topic we are diving deeper into (ex. a birds discovery area would have books, different types of feathers, a chart of birds, sound book with different bird songs, etc.). Don't forget about the remarkable resource available to us: your local library!

Benefits: Reading & language development, imagination, positive learning environment, academic success, learn to calm the mind, focus, love of reading, builds curiosity & imagination

little girl reading books in a tent

A: Adult Area

As parents, having a place to be in a playroom with your kids helps build a bond like no other. First, kids do not start really playing independently until age 6+. They like to invite you into their world and/or have you nearby to encourage them, to say, "I see you. And you are doing so amazing!" Just having you in the same space, helps kids feel loved and accepted; it shows them that you want to be with them. Make sure that you include seating for you, have some of your hobbies in the space to share with your kids, and always make sure there is plenty of space on the floor to get down with them and play. When you are involved in their world and accept the invitation to play with them when they are little, they will keep inviting you into their world when they are teenagers struggling with finding and discovering who they are. So, get down on the floor, play, & be with your littles!

Benefits: Build self-esteem, new skills are learned, strengthens the child/parent bond, development of empathy & emotional regulation, guidance

Mom playing with her kids in the playroom

Y: You-nique to Your Family

Each family is different and has goals unique to them. A playroom should reflect YOUR family and whatever makes you unique! Do you enjoy music? Create a music corner full of instruments. Maybe you love video games, and you have the best gaming zone on the block. Our family has a blast playing board games, so we have a closet FULL of different games (and yes, there are so many secretive learning games - don't tell my kids!). Maybe you love to travel; bring your travels to life through a roadmap mural with pictures of the adventures you've taken. What makes your family yours? Make it come alive in your space so that your playroom fully supports your family and your goals. Celebrate your YOU-niqueness!

Benefits: Sense of family, connection, community, unique learning opportunity, strengthen relationship bonds, builds confidence

parents and kids playing a board game together

!: ...and of course always have FUN-ctionality in mind!

A place for play should always be designed to open imaginations and a place for kids to know, understand, and lean full into their one job: Have Fun! It is also a place that needs to have systems and functionality in place so that a tornado of toys is held at bay, allowing room to actually play. This combination is designing a space with FUN-ctionality. It is filling the space with a fun & inspirational mural, a desk that can adjust heights as kids grow, colorful bins that are easy to use, introducing toy rotation, having pillows & furniture that are actually kid friendly in color (go ahead, get that Nugget in a bold Atlantis teal!), and making it a space where kids are able to grow, cultivate wonder, and thrive in a world of play.

Benefits: Systems for organization, ease of cleaning, builds imagination, encourages play, cultivates & builds character, inspires growth mindset

playroom with mural and wooden climbing toys

Remember to Find Balance

When you create a balanced place for your kids to play through using B.I.G. P.L.A.Y.! you will find your kids playing more often and for longer. You will find them grow in character. You will be cultivating mental and physical development. Most of all, you will be giving your kids a space to find and explore who they are. The benefits of each type of play are needed to have the whole-child blossom through their childhood. So get out there and create BIG PLAY! for your family to thrive!

Do you want more kid-friendly tips around the house? Make sure to check out the related blogs through the tag "Kid-Friendly"

Now that you know how to create a balanced playroom using B.I.G. P.L.A.Y!, start designing and refreshing your playroom today. I would love to come and help guide you; as an expert in playroom design, I can save you a lot of overwhelm trying to balance it all and leave you with nothing but fun through the process! Reach out for a consultation.

Loving this article and want to share it with your friends? Send me a DM and let's get a hand-on class in your home to host a Mom's Night Out - learning is always better with friends & a wine in hand!

Can't wait to continue learning and sharing together!

- Becky


Becky Bonnell Lead Designer and owner of Lykke Haven Design

Lykke Haven Design is a full service, purpose-driven interior design firm serving families in West Michigan. We work with beautiful families from Ada, to Grand Rapids, to Holland (and the occasional out of state). Our mission is to create Intentional Interiors curated with a Meaningful Mission that Cultivate Connection. We do this through a process driven by Human-Centered Design. We would love to discuss your next project and how we can help.

Check out our services or schedule a Meet & Greet below!

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