A lot of mamas ask me how I have so much grown-up stuff around my house that doesn't get ruined by little hands. My secret is "kid centers." The girls have their own play areas in almost every room of our home. Next to my kitchen is the kids' kitchen/market/restaurant center. It's stocked with wooden play food, cooking and serving materials, a tea set, aprons and play money. This center is the only way I ever get any cooking done.
Just off our main living & dining area is a kid zone stocked with seasonal goodies. Spring arrived at our house over the past week, so this area currently features Spring-themed books, toy bunnies, a basket of pastel-colored play silks, a fairy house full of little fairy friends, fresh flowers and, of course, a basket full of plastic Easter eggs.Our art center is located on the back porch where big messes are no big deal. I have a vinyl tablecloth over our vintage wrought iron patio table for easy clean up; and art smocks are always ready on the backs of the chairs. This center sees near daily activity.
My backyard lacks a decent play area, so we set up a courtyard off the front entrance as a children's garden. Along with playing in the sandbox, the girls have fun doing some container gardening here, as well as bug hunting.
I also keep a basket of toys and wooden blocks in my office/craft studio with the never-ending dream that I will be able to work while a child plays quietly on the floor.
There are two final secrets to keeping the girls away from my toys and interested in theirs:
1 - I switch up the contents of these centers regularly. Selby loves to come home and discover something new in her seasonal living room. Or a grocery store all set up in the kitchen center, complete with cash register and (reusable, of course) Publix bags. Seasonal items are rotated throughout the year, as are various toys.
2 - The toys and play things we have around our house are designed to engage a child's imagination. You won't find many plastic or electronic things, although a few do make it by me. Instead we stock wooden and plush toys that don't eat batteries, natural items like shells & stones, real kid-size musical instruments and a wide variety of art supplies.
All this planning & staging gives my little chicks free range in our nest, while allowing me to have out all the pretty grown-up things I love!