Weather changes signal challenges for young parents. For example, what to do with the kids on a rainy or snowy day?
Well, going up and down the stairs to the basement occupies a toddler for only so long. You can drag out the toys -- and then put them away. You can read books and listen to music. My daughter-in-law knows every community indoor playgroup in the city of Seattle for those cold, rainy days. She's got a very active little boy who longs to run outside and doesn't understand the constraints of bad weather.
Consider finishing off a part of your basement and turning it into your own rainy-day playroom. Make sure it's mildew- and mold-free. Add good lighting and ventilation so that it becomes an inviting space.
Check out Rust-Oleum specialty chalkboard paint, which is available in green or black. You simply brush it on a properly prepared wall surface, creating a huge chalkboard that'll occupy your little ones for hours. While you're at the store, consider painting the floor with Rust-Oleum basement floor covering; it's an inexpensive spruce-up. Carpet squares, such as the ones offered by FLOR modular carpet tiles, provide another relatively cost-effective way to cozy up the basement or even the garage.
Storage for toys is important, too. Stacking plastic boxes, from milk crates to clear boxes with lids, is always popular. Think about how to provide each child with a labeled box of her own, as it will provide incentive for her to practice responsibility and pick up after herself.
The pictured wood activity table features storage room for supplies for arts and crafts. The roll of butcher paper provides several children with hours of creativity in an organized way. Matching wood cubbyholes are another good way to encourage organization of books, toys and stuffed animals. If you're on a tight budget, scout yard sales or consignment stores for a sturdy wood table, and cut off the legs so that you might duplicate the function of this wonderful idea.
And if money is an issue, remember that cleaning up and painting mainly take elbow grease and time. If nothing else, you could hang sheets up to hide unsightly walls and tack them to the studs. Folding screens also can define a play area within the larger basement.
Little girls love playing dress-up, and you might take a sturdy appliance box or a moving wardrobe box and turn it into a dressing room. Goodwill is an excellent place to pick up fun shoes, handbags, scarves and jewelry for the girls. Buy a couple of old desks so that the little kids can play "school," and don't forget a portable art easel.
Remember that a garage is also a potential source of extra space. Obviously, the most critical improvement is the locking-away of any and all cleaning products, paints, solvents and other potentially dangerous materials. Tools, power cords and lawn products also should be safely stowed. If you can clear out a garage and add a venting window and lights and ensure your child's safety, you might discover extra space without adding on to your existing home.
A garage floor also can be painted or carpeted over and converted into clean space. The family that previously owned our home did just that in the double-car garage, which served as a family playroom. It's fully finished and lined floor to ceiling with laminate cabinets, and the floor is covered in a gray industrial carpet. A large window allows natural light in, and drop-down schoolhouse lighting gives the garage an inviting look.
Flexible thinking is the most important tool in the box when it comes to finding a way to give your children the space that they need.
Christine Brun's weekly column, "Small Spaces," can be found at creators.com.