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Part 4: Littles living large- Unconventional Play surfaces

Hey friends, so inspired to see you've come back for more! Unconventional play surfaces & storage provide a multifaceted solution for a few different kids' room conundrums. Boredom! Yes, kids get sick of playing in the same way in the same space. Providing a new way to look at toys; how they are stored, displayed, and what plane they are interacting upon can breathe new life into play. We also create a channel for children to develop problem-solving skills and creativity in how objects' function. Not to mention a space-saving technique for many of us who utilize every square inch of our living space! Take a look at a few ideas I find fresh out of the box.



This Scandanavian-inspired Instagram photo caught by the Petit and small blog is a playroom smorgasbord for surface ideas! Focal and foremost is the black and white road rug that takes literally zero extra space and functions as both a soft play area and a speedway for all things vehicular. Let your eye travel up to wooden dollhouse that could simply be hung on the wall with hooks for vertical eye level play or transportable to the floor (I'll expand on this thought further down). Looking right, you'll now notice an inconspicuous swing, creating another non-floor activity opportunity that can quickly be raised if the space requires flexibility. The coolest part of this room really raises the roof with its overhead loft! If you have the ceiling height, take advantage! Its like adding a second floor of play-space, rich with exploration, hideaway nooks, and climbing adventures. Remember, little people don't require as much head room as we do, so you don't need a more than a 9-10ft ceiling to accomplish this visual stunt.


Similarly, my boys love this play mat from Chill & Slay we own. Conveniently ties up and with cars stored inside, it can be hung, thrown into a bin, or travel to grandma's house.







So you say you need some brilliant dollhouse ideas for kids that love to arrange and create new environments? Isn't this the best idea? If you don't have an extra surface to store one, don't fret. Use an existing cabinet and reimagine the interior walls, close up to conceal the contents when not in use. Or tightly arrange and hang some wooden boxes on the wall to create little nooks for mini furniture and fill in the details with Washi tape.. keep reimagining to your heart's content. These converted 2-bedroom condos in the sky could easily be repurposed for book and toy storage if/when the novelty wears off.

When I was a kid, dollhouses were kinda my jam, mostly rearranging the furniture (go figure) so I know from experience any materials that provide flexibility to create and recreate would have supplied endless hours of imaginative play. Washi tape and fabric/wallpaper scraps seem like dead winners.


Many vendors supply wallpaper & rug samples for as little as $5, sometimes even free. Utilize these resources for some trendy, interchangeable interior finishes! Make a mommy and me project of repainting the interiors if you feel energetic.. local hardware stores supply small sample jars in 4-8oz for a few dollars. Another really life-changing resource I stumbled across is https://samplize.com/ that creates a peel n' stick sample of major paint brands such as Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, and Farrow and Ball. Its made with real paint so a great resource for making interior paint decisions, but also a no mess way to dive into dollhouse renovations. That alone is an A+



Heavenly Car havens!

A futuristic parking Garage? Children will joyfully choose clean-up time with these brightly painted wall hung PVC pipes for vehicular parking because it feel more like playtime! A thoughtful replacement to run-of-the-mill storage bin gets toys off the floor with a fresh approach to play and tidying.



Kitchen chef's knife magnetic strips for hanging Hotwheels? I'm in! So clever and cute to see them all lined up neatly for once. Even my 3-year was delighted when he saw this picture. His exact response: "can you tell Amazon to bring these for my room next time they come?" I guess Amazon is like santa, you just ask for what you want and they bring it. Yikes.

In exploring this idea further, I was reading about a little design flaw in this setup from one mom who tried and failed several times before executing this car hang-up successfully. The problem is simply that most modern day car bases aren't made of metal.. so they don't attract to a magnet.. uh oh. She sampled a variety of sheet magnets to the car's underside only have them fall off immediately or shortly after. The end result that finally did the trick was small disk magnets superglued, shallow enough to still allow the car's wheels to roll. Because that defeats the whole purpose if you can't play with them, right?! Do not use an expanding glue, again it will be too thick and the cars won't roll.






Finally, a playmat we wouldn't mind using in our living rooms.. am I right? I adore this Bohemian vibe Little Nomad brings to a typically juvenile application. Not many washable, interlocking pads on the market with the same je ne sais quoi. Sizes come in 4x6ft , 6x8, and 8x12 and thankfully are non-toxic EVA foam that exceeds US and EU safety requirements. Mats are comfortably soft for play at any age, seamless in appearance, and expandable. 0.47 inch thick tiles are 2ft x 2ft regardless of the pattern and each include edging bonders for this seamless look.

Easy to clean up kid messes and spills (this happens?), these wipe down with mild soap and water and dry with a cloth. Though these are super soft and sturdy in fabrication for normal foot traffic, like any playmat material are susceptible to marking with sharp objects or heels! Heels can dent even solid surfaces such as a softer species hard wood floor, so take care in walking over this surface to avoid damage.

In collage shown above:

Starry Night: Starlight Series, color is a deep shade of midnight blue

Tide Pool: Adilah Collection, features cool blues and feeling of hand knotted rug. Both Hand Illustrated by Sophia Vincent Guy.



My more modern classic example of a monochromatic playmat from SoftTiles. It has adorned my apartment living room and now my townhouse. Though not the most aesthetically pleasing (I'm being honest), its worn well through 2 young children and spared countless head injuries while we transition these human beings from horizontal to vertical. The interlacing 2x2 tiles are unmistakable in these puzzle mats, but provide a past-time activity for my kids to pull apart and reconfigure. The circles are also removable and you can imagine the pile up I end up with.. sometimes we take them out to create fun topography obstacles for car/truck play. Borders are mitred and sloped for a trip-free edging. And it matches perfectly with our husky, so I guess a dead-ringer!



Such a clever way to display the parade of arts and crafts that pile up on the kitchen table. The vibrant color of the glossy frames is a great border for the kaleidoscope of hand-made construction paper masterpieces.

A simple clothesline effect stretches a piece of wire with 2 eye-screws from side to side of the frame interior. You can use wire-hanger typical for the back side of frames or clear fishing line to make it disappear. Attach art with mini clothespins for a revolving art gallery.


Inevitably, we all can find an odd wall where artwork or furniture doesn't seem to fit in our space. It may or may not be a focal wall, it might just be a small surface at kid height. Use this stroke of luck to your design advantage to create a learning nook! Discover the alphabet tactically with color on a magnetic wall. OR a great two-in -one idea is to use a *magnetic primer under a chalkboard paint surface so your kids can enjoy doodling or magnets.


Another great use of magnets for a surface like this is to print photos on a magnetic backing. One company that does this well is https://www.squared.one/eshop/photo-magnets-instagram and sells in round, square, or in a puzzle from Instagram, desktop or mobile device. Thickness is .04" for a heavy duty stick. Print all their family members, best friends, or favorite memories for an eclectic personal storyboard.


*Rustoleum makes a magnetic primer which comes in single 30 fluid oz. size. Beware: you may need as many as 7-8 coats of this stuff to get the stick-factor you need. It doesn't hold like a refrigerator will hold a magnet. Like the magnet debacle we discussed above with the Hotwheels, something to consider is magnet size when using the primer. Tiny super-strong magnets, and magnet backing that cover the entire surface of the magnet are most effective.






A fabulous interactive rock-climbing wall for busy boys and girls alike transforms this basement into a real alpine experience when paired with the perfect wall decal. Decal comes in 2 sizes: 24x96" for $72 or 24x108" for $81. Kids climbing holds such as these can be found on Amazon from Rocky Mountain climbing Gear in natural rock color or mult-colored pack from Climbing Monkey. Other vendors carry these with installation materials as well such as Etsy or Atomicclimbingholds.com



Sent in several pieces to create a whole unit measuring 43"x78" wide, this festive and modern world map is handmade to order with 100% polyester fabric self-adhesive vinyl, HP latex inks, and transfer tape. For best results, do not adhere to textured walls or flat paint.

A speedy turn-around time for those demanding toddler deadlines, it's ready to ship in 3-5 business days. Great tool for budding geography whiz kids with its easily identifiable color-coded countries and graphics.


Brianna Heiligenthal, a prolific lifestyle instagrammer with a knack for interior decorating and following for her picturesque take on life at home with 2 boys (I can relate, but not always as photo-perfect!) executes this super-functional out-of-sight-out-of-mind train storage tray on castors for under then bed. Pull out a new play surface for engines and tracks when the kids have exhausted all other vehicles in reach and simply slide back under the bed before bed. Simple clean-up is a real life goal!

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