Our dining room is our major multi-use room. It is large, but in an awkward way. When we first moved in, we had no idea what to do with the space. We had a regular-sized dining room table placed in the middle of the room on an 8 x 10 ft rug with way too much space all around it and no flow to the room. We are definitely not formal dining room types of people anyway, so it seemed strange to us to have a dining room table as the focus of this space.
So, we adjusted. A year later, I have finally come to peace with what the space currently is: a play area, music area, and dining room all in one. And though I’m sure we will change it as the boys grow older, for now, it works, and I love it.
The kids’ corner
While we do have a playroom on the second floor, we found that our kids usually just wanted to be where we were. Before we set up this play area in the corner of the dining room, Milo and Oliver would bring all sorts of random toys downstairs and we would end up with piles of toys, baskets of animals, random cars, ride-on toys, building blocks, you name it- just piled up along the wall. It drove me crazy how there was no order. So after organizing and putting up an old shelving system that I’ve had since college, we chose some toys to store downstairs to encourage creativity (and peace and quiet).
We kept it simple. At the top, hidden in an old wooden crate separated into thirds, are the essentials we need for diaper changes: two different sizes of diapers, wipes, and burp cloths and diaper cream samples. The middle shelf holds natural materials that we have picked up on nature walks: pinecones, pieces of bark and birch building blocks, plus a bowl full of different-shaped stones, the “doorbell house” from Grandma, and a basket full of wooden people and a wooden fishing game Oliver got for Christmas. The bottom shelf: building blocks. Keeping it simple makes choosing activities easy, and makes clean-up quicker when it’s time for bed.
There is enough space behind the lamp to store Oliver & Milo’s guitar, and the chalkboard gets a lot of use (though I cleaned it off for the picture- trust me, there was no Picasso going on there anyway). To the right of the chalkboard is their play kitchen, which also gets a lot of use these days.
Under a little basket with a few friends in it, we store all the baby toys and random things that get brought down from the playroom throughout the week. At the end of the week, we go through it again and take stuff back upstairs. This may seem a little anal, but trust me, it gets ridiculous if not managed. I am well aware that our kids have too many toys, and also feel that it can be overwhelming for them to be in contact with it all the time, all at once. We have quite a few things packed away in the basement and rotate them up throughout the indoor months. But for our dining room, we try to keep the toy craziness contained.
The kids also have a play table that has some toy storage underneath. The table is perfect for activities like puzzles or building, but mainly they use it for snack time. We usually eat dinner in the kitchen, but when we make an effort, we all like to sit at the big table together. For company (who usually bring a few kids of their own) the little red table serves as extra seating for the littles, though as I’m sure most of you with kids have experienced, very little eating actually occurs at a kid’s table!
And there you have it! Our dining/playing/music room! Check back next week for more of our home tour, when I show you a room that is actually painted black… and it works!