Posted on Leave a comment

Home Learning – 5 Practical Tips

The last thing that I think parents need right now is more pressure. Pressure to provide the perfect instagram-ready home learning space for their child, with the colour-coordinated stationery set and soothing wall colour. 

Many families are facing really hard times and my aim here is to offer some advice to suit all families with children, regardless of your socio-economic status or the size of your home. With the obvious spatial constraints of city dwelling and the all too-common lack of good internet in more spacious countryside homes, we are all facing different challenges. My aim here is to try to offer a variety of practical and realistic solutions to help you create the best environment for home learning, so that your children can feel better throughout this difficult period. 

1. A space for all

Identifying that a space is theirs is key to letting your child settle into it, to take ownership of it, and later on, accountability for it. This space could be the kitchen table, one end of the dinning table, a child sized desk in the playroom, a fold-down desk in the hallway, a coffee table in the living room – anywhere with a table and chair where they can sit comfortably. Many children are lucky enough to already have a desk in their room which, no doubt, is far from study-ready.

My son’s work station is the kitchen table, because his room is not set up for a desk yet. Offer a few choices dotted around the house and the garden – a cosy reading area, a sunlit table outside (dream on!). It might be that it will be easier to work with them sitting next to you so that you can help with questions and not have to go to them every few minutes. Your child could be happiest sitting in the kitchen while you cook. 

Should you need to create a study or work zone from scratch this can be done very economically and in a space-saving way. Consider overlooked spaces, which could house a workstation such as hallways, window sills which can be extended and turned into great desks or try a wall mounted floating desk in the corner of the kitchen or living room.

In fact my desk is in the living room built into the recess next to the fireplace, I had shelves installed above for all my work related books and I even store samples and drawing equipment in baskets. It’s not instagram ready, but it’s real. This is where I work, not all the time as I like to change it up, especially if the sun is streaming into the bay window – I sit at the dinning table looking out at it. Figure out what works for you. 

2. Declutter for Home Learning

To start off with, any space in which you intend to work needs to be as clear of distraction as it can realistically be. Clear the decks – have a spring clean, declutter – get your children to do their own work stations and empower them to make decisions about what stays and what goes.

3. Spruce it up a bit

Make the space inviting: add a poster or inspirational quote, a comfy chair, a family photo, get them to make a collage of their favourite things – let your children help you to “decorate” their workspace. Do paint if you like – it could totally be the right time for a spruce up in a lovely calming and relaxing colour like light blue, blush, grey or soft green. Think of bringing the outside in – with the colours and textures you use as well as pot plants. You could also use chalkboard paint for art, study and general organisational lists if you have the space.

4. Get organised for Home Learning

Create a space for everything to be tidied away. This is so vital I can’t stress it enough. All our home spaces are now likely to be multifunctional so putting things away after we have finished with them so that they don’t add to the sense of clutter which contributes to stress and that uneasy feeling is super important for every member of the family. Putting work away and having a clear space will also create that mental break – school is over for the day, time for fun. Bins, baskets, a mug for pencils, magazine files for worksheets – keep it simple and work with the space you have. You might consider purchasing some small storage items to get things organised. For more on organising check out my blog on getting your child’s room ready for Christmas Getting your Child’s Room Ready for Christmas and the Mess Goddess’s guest blog Organisational Tips for the Whole Family.

As I said, my son works at the kitchen table, there are two crates on the end of the table that contain his workbooks and worksheets and all the stationery and supplies he needs. Work comes out, gets used and then goes back in the crate and hey presto, it’s the kitchen table again. We also get out a plastic table cloth and use the kitchen table for art and model building- the art supplies are stored inside the bench seating. Tidying up is a great habit to learn and it could be a wonderful positive outcome of this time at home.

Wherever your child studies needs to feel quiet, cosy, warm, uncluttered and distraction free. Make the best of what you have. If you have time you can create an interactive and engaging space for your child to learn – remember they may already have this in the form of their bedroom. 

Once they’ve got their workstation(s) set up and they’re working away remember to use movement breaks and sensory paths (assault courses)  in between subjects or when children start to get a bit fidgety and fractious (this is also worth keeping in mind for the adults of the household too).

5. Spaces can change over time

Places can be different things at different times. When space is a constraint, don’t forget you can repurpose your space throughout the day and night. Change it up – just like with our kitchen table come breakfast bar come work station come art studio come dinner table. Consider sharing your home office with your children, if you are lucky enough to have one, you could be in a shift pattern or working side by side. Make the living room a movie theatre for family night.

Pre-school Home Learning

I thought that toddlers and pre schoolers deserved a special mention in that their needs for home learning are much less sedentary.

As pre-schoolers won’t sit still for more than a few minutes talking about their desks seems silly but a place to sit comfortably is very important for developing good manual dexterity, mark making and handwriting.  Take a look at this great set up of a mum working with her daughter, who is sat at her mini desk, next to her.

Pre-schoolers learn from play and need to choose from activities set up for them. With a bit of prep first thing in the morning you can set up a few simple activities around the house for them – it’ll become obvious as to how useful this is throughout the day as they discover new things to do. Activity stations include a water/sand tray which could be in the garden – I used to set ours up in the kitchen and fill it with warm water, bubbles, glitter, ice, animals – changing it up is great for them to be able to explore more widely. Construction toys, small world toys, music, a reading area, games like threading, arts and crafts and play dough are all pre-schooler pleasers that will help with their development and give you a few moments to help other children or work or to just sit!

Remember to display their work as it really helps younger children to develop a sense of achievement. Use your whole house for learning by cooking with them in the kitchen, den building in the living room, or having cosy story time in their bedroom.

We are our children’s main teachers as they learn from us all the time, so just by spending time playing board games or cooking with them, they will learn – don’t be hard on yourself that you haven’t finished the school activities for the day.

Primary school Home Learning

Primary school aged children will likely need some help with their learning and will happily do some learning independently so sitting together, or having them in the same room as you is probably the best solution. 

Secondary school Home Learning

Secondary school children will be more independent and will need to sit quietly away from distraction to study independently. Allowing phones and headphones is probably a good idea so that they can be sociable and less distracted from the goings on in the background around the home. 

The near future

My advice for the coming months would be to keep things fluid – don’t put extra stress on yourselves – you will all find a rhythm for your new normal. You will need to make changes to  routines as the novelty of home learning wears off. Be flexible and adapt to moods and feelings as they happen – finding space for everyone in your home is a bit like a juggling act on a timer – or hot-desking, but you can make it work. Your home should offer a reprieve from outside stresses, make it cosy, welcoming and relaxing – small changes can go a long way. For more take a look at my blog post on Making Your Child’s Room Cosy for Winter .

I’d love to see your children’s workspaces, mess and all – to wake designers up a bit and remind them that design needs to be functional as well as beautiful. Feel free to comment below on anything else you think that I could help with during this tricky time.

Posted on Leave a comment

An Introduction to Biophilic Design for Children’s Spaces from The Benholm Group

Children's rooms soften with plants

Biophilic design is the concept used to increase your connectivity to the natural environment. It affirms that bringing the outside in is soothing and beneficial.

One of the 2020 Design Trends for Children’s Rooms is biophilic design and it feeds into the use of colour palettes and materials based on nature. This month, I am pleased to say that I have a guest blog from The Benholm Group, a family-run business based in Falkirk, Central Scotland who specialise in a wide range of plant-related services for many commercial customers.  Mainly focusing on the Corporate Office market sector and the Hospitality market sector, they also work within various other sectors too, such as retail, education, health and the public sector. You will undoubtedly have seen their work if you have been to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or even the Edinburgh festival. At the heart of their business are the concepts of biophilic design. Their blog will be introducing the concepts of biophilic design to help us all get nature into our homes. 

You may have heard the term ‘biophilic design.'(1) It is something that we at Benholm Group (2)are passionate about. 

Just as adults do, children have an innate biological tendency to bond with the natural world known as biophilia. Biophilic design incorporates natural materials, natural light, plants and experiences of the natural world into our modern built environment.

Plants provide cleaner air, lower the risk of illness, boost mood as well as enhancing concentration and memory so its not hard to see why it’s a huge trend for interiors that is showing no signs of abating. In addition to the huge health benefits of bringing the outdoors in, another reason could be that you can have so much fun with it!

Recent studies add to the evidence that time spent in natural environments improves the health and wellbeing of both children and families. Nature has a calming impact ideal for babies and children

Studies (3) show plants are fantastically adept at absorbing gases through pores on the surface of their leaves, and not just carbon dioxide.  Plants can absorb many other gases including a long list of volatile organic compounds. They help eliminate benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke) and formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner). These have been linked to numerous acute conditions, including asthma and nausea. 

When it comes to designing nurseries, many parents are looking beyond blue and pink – exploring gender neutral palettes and design concepts.  Plants and nature are a fantastic fit with these looks, softening spaces and adding a splash of colour. They look just as at home in fun, modern spaces as they do against darker colours and vintage furniture.

Plants bring softness to a design.

As inquisitive little minds and bodies outgrow cots and changing units, a bedroom redesign is on the cards! 

Studies show during early childhood, the main objective of environmental education should be the development of empathy between children and the natural world. As well as exploring and playing in nature with plants, one of the best ways to foster empathy with young children is to cultivate relationships with animals. Both real and imagined!

Young children are implicitly drawn to animals, especially baby animals. They are an endless source of wonder for children, fostering a caring attitude and sense of responsibility towards living things. Children interact instinctively and naturally with animals, talk to them, and invest in them emotionally. Children younger than age 6 reveal that as many as 90% of their dreams are about animals. There are many fun ways of supporting these developments – plants and animals go hand in hand!

Help your child learn empathy for the natural world by introducing them to plants at an early stage.

Playrooms are another perfect space for having fun with nature. Nordik Moss walls can work particularly well in lively spaces like playrooms as the moss acts as natural sound absorber – ideal for adjoining rooms, as well as being interesting to look at and touch. By encouraging imagination through role play, who knows how the next generation of designers, academics (hopefully some botanists too) will change the world 💚

Have fun with plants.

Links

1 https://www.benholm.com/biophilic-design-planting

2 https://www.benholm.com/plant-displays

3 https://www.livescience.com/38445-indoor-plants-clean-air.html

About Benholm:

(https://www.benholm.com/plant-displays/about-us/)

We use plants creatively to enrich people, places and spaces.

Ever since the Benholm Group was established in 1993, we have been creating and maintaining beautiful planted environments for our customers using the principles of biophilic design.  

Our services include the provision of interior and exterior plant displays for many different types of organisations and market sectors.

Hopefully this blog has inspired you to bring the outside into your child’s room. Show me your plants and any fun kid friendly plant pots as I’m always on the look out! Next month my blog will carry on with the ever hopeful Spring theme of bring the outside in.

Posted on Leave a comment

2020 Interior Design Trends for Children’s Rooms

My series of spring blogs will be delving into the interior design trends for children’s rooms for 2020. 

As nature comes out from under it’s shelter and the days start to get longer I start planning brighter and more colourful rooms! I think it is clear that the natural world provides most of our inspiration for interiors and this notion has been embraced in 2020.

The main trend that I am seeing coming to the fore for 2020 is nature inspired interiors. These take many forms:

Subtle small leaf printed wallpaper

Muted rainbows

Boho safari

The colour green 

The colour blue

Natural materials

vintage/reuse/repurpose

As well as the above styles there has for obvious reasons been a turn towards reusing and repurposing items you already own – a lick of paint, a new table top and hey presto you’ve gotten more life out of the piece. This is environmentally friendly and wallet friendly too. You also won’t feel too bad when your little darling draws all over their cupboard in permanent pen!

Colours that will trend are:

mint/cantaloupe or coral/citrus pops of colour

Walls will be:

Geometric paint designs

Dark floral wallpaper

Subtle scandi

Curves will start to show up 

Dark cots will make their presence felt

A parallel trend for more dramatic blues and greens with a luxe feel will carry on from last year.

Many of these trends will be used together – natural furniture with cantaloupe walls and splashes of mint for eg. 

Biophilic Design – bringing plants inside for health and wellbeing.

Biophilic design is the concept used to increase your connectivity to the natural environment. It affirms that bringing the outside in is soothing and beneficial.

One of the 2020 interior design trends for children’s rooms is biophilic design and it feeds into the use of colour palettes and materials based on nature. Next month I am pleased to say that I have a guest blog from The Benholm Group, a family-run business based in Falkirk, Central Scotland who specialise in a wide range of plant-related services for many commercial customers.  Mainly focusing on the Corporate Office market sector and the Hospitality market sector, they also work within various other sectors too, such as retail, education, health and the public sector. You will undoubtedly have seen their work if you have been to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or even the Edinburgh festival. At the heart of their business are the concepts of biophilic design. Their blog will be introducing the concepts of biophilic design to help us all get nature into our homes. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Christmas Organisation Tips For The Whole Family – Guest Post from the Mess Goddess herself, Tania Mellis.

A Little Intro to Tania….

I love the Mess Goddess’ ethos ” I consider what I do as a form of art and empowerment combined with efficiency and practicality.” Her skills in decluttering and simplifying your life are really worthwhile and she has many tips to share which are really applicable to your child’s room, maybe even more so at this time of year as we all prepare for a new influx of toys, clothes and books into our already crowded children’s (and family) spaces. Read on for her take on decluttering to help the whole family get ready for the festive season.

1.Have a clear out and Donate to charity : Try the Bin Bag Game

A fabulous idea for the whole family, to get them motivated to let go of unwanted items – PLAY THE BIN BAG RACE!

You will need :

  • one bin bag for each member of the family.
  • a kitchen timer.

The Object of the game is for each person to collect as many unwanted things as possible that they would like to donate to charity. The person who collects the most things say within five minutes wins a prize. This is an exercise to teach children about charity and people in need, so I recommend keeping the prize simple – like an extra half hour before bed, or they can choose their special meal for dinner, you get the idea.  

Whilst we are clearing out……

 2. Tidy your Wardrobes – take all of the plastic and wire hangers out.  

Toss all the plastic hangers and keep wire hangers for craft.  A great tip in the future start saying no in stores if you are offered hangers!  Plastic hangers are not good for clothes, the environment and make our wardrobes look messy!  A great inexpensive alternative is the popular velvet covered hanger. These come in lots of wonderful colours and really can make your wardrobe look sensational. Choose round shoulder hangers for women’s clothes and the larger ones for men, you can also get children’ ones. Below are some of my favourite shaped velvet hangers.  Remember some brands are better quality then others and as they are used each day for years it is better to invest in a better-quality hanger.

Most people are going to need at least 100!  Yup, 100!  Most clothes fare much better if they are hung rather than folded into a drawer.  They have air flow around them, hanging keeps the creases out and it is much easier for you to see what you have in your wardrobe. Hang t-shirts, vest tops, jeans, everything you have space for.  Make sure to have one coat hanger for each item of clothing.  Why you ask?  This will help you to adopt the one in, one out concept. Each time you buy a new item of clothing take some out of your wardrobe and give to charity. Also – keep a box at the bottom of your wardrobe to put unwanted/charity items in.

Below is a recent wardrobe makeover I did in London.  We let go of lots of items, to charity and friends.  Purchased new hangers – purple in this case!  And banished all over wire and plastic hangers.

For the longevity of your clothes it is imperative to look after them and hanging them correctly is the start.  Don’t over pack your clothes, leave space in between so each item can breathe. Never leave your clothes inside the dry cleaner’s plastic! If you have delicate items that need extra protection invest in cotton suit covers. Always use the correct hangers for different items.  

  • For sweaters – padded hangers
  • Coats – wooden hangers
  • Dressers/blousers etc.- Velvet

3. Reuse, Repurpose and Gift 

So many things can be recycled: why not make fabric covered hangers for Christmas gifts, this is so simple the kids can help too!

All you need is some wire scissors, hangers & fabric.  As you will have collected lots of clothes from playing the bin bag game you will probably have a sheet or some clothes like a man’s shirt or a cotton dress you can use.  

Cut strips of fabric, I would say not more than 2cm wide.  The length depends on where the fabric is coming from. Start at the neck of the wire hanger and tie the strip and knot around the neck of the hanger. Then begin wrapping it around and around the hanger until it is covered.  It must be really tight, or it won’t last. I once wrapped an incense stick inside, so my hanger had a lovely sent. Once wrapped, the tie a knot at the neck and I suggest tying a lovely ribbon to cover over it.

I love making these hangers, it is so simple, it creates something beautiful and practical, it is recycling, it teaches the children the idea of gifting a heartfelt gift, not wasting money and so much more.

 Another brilliant idea are these card displays made from hangers. We are only limited by our imagination.  And best of all they are inexpensive.

Below is a picture of a card display made with wire hangers. This one was made by madeinaday.com

All you need is:

  • wire hangers,
  • washi tape,
  • small wooden pegs,
  • a ribbon. 

For more ideas with coat hangers visit my blog http://messgoddess.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-coat-hangers-and-cable-ties-i.html

4. Find Storage Solutions that Work for You – Lego Storage Cubes

I absolutely love these Lego Storage containers, they are fabulous for children’s rooms and for parents too!

I have my apple mac phone leads etc in one small white one which is £9 on Amazon! 

They come in several sizes and stack nicely on top of each other.  They are a must in the home for children’s and adult toys!

5. What to keep and what to let go

As our homes are so small in the UK we are often forced to keep children’s toys in their bedrooms. It’s not only toys & books but broken toys as well as toys and books that are no longer age appropriate and craft and school work all mixed in together -all  in a mess!  

The first thing I do is establish what items are being kept for sentimental reasons.  Often there are a lot!  So why are we keeping things that have such sentimental value in such a disorganised way where they will get damaged? Does this sound familiar?

Here are a few ideas to help you store your sentimental clutter safely where you will get more enjoyment from it:

Make photo books:

How about making a Photo Book of your child’s Art & Craft? Not only have you solved the problem of all the bits of paper laying around and stashed in drawers – you will have a beautiful book to cherish forever and order another couple as they make perfect Christmas presents!

New ways to keep old soft toys

Broken, often smelly and with so many memories attached!  I came across a wonderful article recently about a fellow Australian, Geoffery Ricardo, an Artist.  He has come up with the most wonderful way to keep memories of a Teddy Bear that we can no longer keep.  He applies a light coat of paint to the front of the Teddy & then presses it against craft paper!  Genius!  Then you can get your camera out, take a photo of Teddy, a photo of the print, and these go into the book or you can frame the print and hang it in your child’s room and say good bye to the smelly Teddy.

Perspex boxes

I love this, it’s one of my favourites. Your child’s first pair of shoes would look beautiful in one and they are not expensive! They have many uses and can look very stylish.

t

Finally, while  organising a child’s room I find so many pencils that I could sink the titanic with them!How many pencils do children need?  One packet, one packet of felt tips and maybe one pack of crayons.  I think the best way to store them is in a clear container, I recommend letting go of pencil cases.  Use glass glass jars to store your pencils etc.  You can can put them in individual jars i.e. pencils in one, felt tip in another, crayons another or my personal favourite – Colour code them.  All red in one jar, green, black etc.  Beautiful it makes a real statement!  And before you think that charity shops want your old pencils and pens, they do not!  There are many charities who want donations of old pens and pencils such as http://www.pensforkids.co.uk

Tania, The Mess Goddess’ strength lies in her ability to combine concepts of eastern simplicity and style with practical organisation, spacial-creation and functional storage design. She is always thrilled when a client is amazed that “it all fits”. Tania wants her clients’ homes to not only, look stylish and beautiful, but also, to work well. To find out more about her services browse her website https://www.messgoddess.com/about-mess-goddess 

Posted on Leave a comment

7 Ways to Get Your Child’s Room Ready for Christmas

It is important to have a good clear out a couple of times a year when you child is quite young, maybe less when they get a bit older and stop growing out of things as quickly. I find using landmarks like Christmas and birthdays is really helpful to keep me on track.

As I have said before ( and will say again and again) the key to your kids room being tidy is not only to provide them with a space for everything but also to get them involved – get them to learn to tidy up as part of their daily ritual, even as part of playing so that it is ingrained and then it is normal and something they will do for themselves from a surprisingly early age.

That said, the big C is around the corner – yes Christmas is less than 60 days away as I write this…. This still gives you and your child plenty of time to get ready and make space. In this modern world space seems to be something we all crave and it really is quite easy to achieve even with kids and their stuff all around the house!

To make space in preparation of new toys arriving whether for Christmas or birthdays try these simple tips:

1- Have a big clear out

Be environmentally friendly in this – don’t just take everything to the dump. Pass on, regift, upcycle, reuse, repurpose and donate to charity. As you begin to pare down your child’s belongings have several boxes to sort the items you are clearing out into to. Your child needs to help you in this process, it will help them move on and appreciate their role in the world – “so and so’s little brother will love that”, “these should fit so and so”.

Having flexible storage is vital so that you can adapt your child’s storage as they grow. Photo credit Shutterstock.

2- Move things around 

Go through the toys you are keeping, if they have broken or have lost parts do you still want to keep them? You might find that the items you are keeping will fit into your existing storage in a better way so move things around and make the best use of drawers, boxes and shelves you already own.

3- Put everything you have away

A place for everything and everything in it’s place. This old adage really is helpful for kids and adults alike. Put everything you are keeping away in it’s own spot.

4- Make as much as possible accessible at child height

So that they can reach to get the items out and most importantly put them away again by themselves.

Getting your child's room ready for Christmas means having fle
in this room the low lying shelves are accessible to young ones and items can be moved around to rotate the toys that can be accessed. Photo credit Shutterstock.

5- Let them keep what is important to them in a special “treasures” place.

My son keeps little things he’s found or made and kinder egg models together with shells, lego minifigures and gifts from party bags in an old printers box on his bedside table. Each item is special to him in some way and tells a story and they are easily accessible and collected together they create a great display. Having this helps keep a lid on the clutter.

6- Consider a new layout to give more storage

Try rearranging furniture or buying another bookshelf to give a bit of breathing space so that the toy collection can have space to grow into and still be tidy.

7- Try toy rotation

If there is no more space to be had for more furniture try putting some toys away in the attic or hallway closet and swapping them out in a few months’ time to keep them exciting and new to your child.

By applying these simple steps to your child’s space you should not feel overwhelmed by a sea of toys and kid-clutter on the run up to Christmas – and you should feel the benefits into the year as the new toys and gifts find their spaces in your child’s room.

For more on this subject try reading How to declutter your child’s room after Santa’s Visit

Posted on Leave a comment

Lego Display Ideas – 6 Ways to Display LEGO

shutterstock_1385145359
Your little one has been busy creating and now it’s tidy -up time but they’re not finished with their build…. what do you do?… offer them some LEGO display space for ongoing and finished projects.

In this post I will be tackling the thorny issue of LEGO display ideas – whether these are shop bought LEGO sets or purely imaginative one-off masterpieces they’ll always come a tidy -up time when your child will say they haven’t finished playing with this LEGO build and want to keep it to continue playing next time…what to do…?

After a lovely long fun-packed summer break I’m back with the third and final instalment in my LEGO posts, hope you find it useful and do let me know how you display your LEGO.

I’m not a huge fan of purpose built LEGO furniture (of which there is a lot on the market) I find it too clunky and large and one-use. It’s my aim to show you how a few additions to any child’s room can lead to plenty of LEGO display ideas for your child’s LEGO creations (as long as you’ve tackled that other thorny issue of how to store your child’s LEGO see my previous blogs for help with that! How to get your child to tidy their LEGO LEGO storage: How I sorted my son’s LEGO so that he would tidy it up by himself )

Purpose-made LEGO containers on display

There are many different “fancy” purpose-made LEGO containers on the market. you can find heads, giant blocks, really really giant blocks and LEGO mini figure cases. These don’t meet LEGO storage needs in our house (which we have met using a different method see my previous post) but do offer a lovely opportunity for display. A combo of different coloured and sized bricks would be ideal to make a statement on a shelf in your child’s room and to store some extra pieces. We have 3 smaller LEGO storage blocks which are currently being used for Ninjago minifigs!

Shelves: the ultimate way to display LEGO

Whether they be floating shelves, a bookcase or  repurposed furniture, shelves make a great LEGO display as long as you apply some order. For instance no loose LEGO on the shelves and maybe organise by theme?

Our LEGO shelves with LEGO tape
Our LEGO display shelves with LEGO tape along the fronts… you can see why the stackable baseplates are on my wishlist- the bottom Star Wars shelf could do with a bit of organisation!

Obviously an adjustable shelving system (again Ikea have numerous in different styles from sleek white to mid-century industrial wood and metal) would work well for this but realistically how often are you going to move around your child’s shelves and all the LEGO on them? Adjustable shelving is great for future proofing but maybe not essential as part of your immediate LEGO storage needs.

Having glass doors would keep the dust away, but does impede access – and make sure the doors are safety glass to prevent injuries! IKEA do offer a number of glass doored shelving options which can easily be adapted into LEGO use – maybe even putting great works on display in the living room or family room. I’d avoid the kitchen as LEGO is hard enough to clean without the added joy of grease.

In my son’s room I’ve accessorised our shelves with…

LEGO tape for LEGO display

LEGO tape
Lego Brick base tape – great for displaying minifigs, will stick anywhere and is available in many colours from Life Changing Products https://lcpshop.net/product/lego-tape-bricks-base/

Adding Lego tape to shelving or walls or any surface really adds another dimension to your LEGO display as it helps keep track of mini figures pretty easily. it comes in a roll which you cut to the correct length then simply pull the backing tape off and stick. it comes in fun colours and I’ve found it a great help in tackling LEGO organisation!

LEGO minifigs on display using LEGO tape
I just love how easy this tape is… You can create a great and ever-changing display with it!

Stackable baseplates

Base plates that can stack to make the most of the shelving and make the most of the height of shelves. The stackable baseplates are adaptable and easy to put up and take down as your little one’s creations evolve. They great for creating little scenes and adding height. They are on my Christmas list this year!

Make useful things as part of your LEGO display

We tend to make use of some LEGO around the house eg pen holders and key chains/tidies charging stations. Who would have though that mini figures make the perfect charging stations? Or that a LEGO block glued to a key chain can help you keep your keys from getting lost at home?

Take a look at Matthew Hughes’ blog for some great ideas for using LEGO to organise your technology.

Here is an amazing instructables LEGO Minifigures clock which is functional and a great way to display minifigs.

LEGO Mini Figure display

There are many beautiful mini figure display cases available such as this great frame but as mentioned above I do like the flexibility of the LEGO tape and shelving as collections and builds grow and tastes change: flexibility is key.

This might be my favourite of all the official LEGO display cases as it is two tier with a removable clear cover so that your child can play with their LEGO then display it easily and it keeps the dust off. It also has a removable background so your child can draw their own background to their LEGO scene.

I hope this post has helped you with your LEGO display ideas and hopefully made you realise that you don’t need to go out and purchase new purpose-made LEGO display furniture but that you can use simple shelving and a few tricks to make the most of what you already have. Let me know how you get on….

Posted on Leave a comment

LEGO storage: How I sorted my son’s LEGO so that he would tidy it up by himself

Our LEGO storage drawers
Our LEGO storage drawers with base plate glued onto for added display space…

To continue my series on LEGO, which began last month with How to get your child to tidy their LEGO , I felt I should share the categories and storage units I used to sort and storage my son’s LEGO most of which was handed down to him from my brother in one huge overflowing archiving box.

We have a 12 drawer plastic unit like this with drawers that can be removed for easy playing and clearing up  as the LEGO storage in my son’s room. As his room is pretty small and we don’t have the luxury of a playroom, a tower, which takes up less surface area, seemed a great solution to our LEGO storage needs. Also you can add another set of drawers as the collection grows.

Here’s how I sorted my brother’s old Lego, which included lots of sets (just that we didn’t know which) and some technic Lego. I spent 7hrs sorting an archive box full to the brim of Lego!

 

 

 

My then 4 year old was able to find the pieces he needed and we were able to reconstruct the sets my brother had AND my son was able to tidy up, with help at first, then with questions (which drawer does this go in?) Until he graduated to being responsible for his own LEGO collection at the grand old age of 5.

Unsorted box of Lego
My son discovering his uncle’s box of unsorted LEGO.

I still need to get him to break up models he has made once in a while as he runs out of space but generally the Lego in our house is under control. Here’s how I broke it down… 

My categories:

Transport drawer
1- Transport pieces

Wheels drawer
2- LEGO Wheels

Mini figures drawer
3 – Mini figures and accessories ( though his Ninjago figures are in a separate LEGO brick box)

single width bricks drawer
4- Single width Bricks

Flat 2 x wide bricks
5- Flat 2 x Wide Bricks

Regular 2 x Wide Brick drawer
6- Regular 2 x Wide Bricks

Crazy Drawer full of unique pieces
7- “Crazy Drawer” for all the special pieces

Windows and architectural pieces drawer
8- Windows and Architectural pieces

Architectural pieces Drawer
9- Architectural Pieces

Slopped pieces Drawer
10- Slopes

Tiny pieces and vegetation
11- Tiny Pieces and Vegetation

Flats and Plates Drawer
12- Flats and Plates

A closer study of the weird pieces in the crazy drawer led me to figure out which sets my brother had as they were pretty specialised. I googled the parts and found the instructions, sifted through the organised lego to find the pieces and then we built the sets. These then needed to be displayed as my son wanted to play with them… but that is another story (see my next post on how to display Lego).

So far the Lego storage system I have set up is working even with the addition of more LEGO sets at birthdays and Christmas and whenever the grandparents are in town! The main reasons it works is that it is flexible, it fits the space and is simple enough for a soon to be 7 year old to figure out where everything goes and to not be daunted by too many decisions when faced with tidying up.

I hope that I’ve helped you to decide on how to tackle your LEGO mountain…. how is your LEGO sorted? Do you prefer keeping it in one big box so that your child gets the fun of sifting through it? Do let me know…

Posted on 1 Comment

How to declutter your child’s room after Santa’s visit

tidy room from shutterstock
Use simple boxes and baskets to keep like with like.

The key to having a clear-out of a child’s room is to get them to help make the decisions about what comes and goes. It’ll help them feel empowered and learn how to make decisions and stick to them. You can get rid of things in a variety of ways including fixing/mending, recycling, charity shop donations and selling on. Are you really going to fix or mend it? If not, throw it out. Remember to clean  surfaces and toys as you go around the room.

At the heart of this process is teaching your kids how to care and respect their belongings so that they want to look after them and keep them in good condition.

Start out by throwing out items that are broken or unusable or have pieces missing. I like to start at one side of the room and work my way up from the floor and around the room. This way you get to see progress quite quickly as the floor is cleared and your little ones can experience the clean up quicker too since they are small and spend a lot of time playing on the floor. Then get a bag for toys and books that your children have outgrown that could be sold or sent to the charity shop.

After this clear out you should find that the toys you do have might fit into storage units and boxes in better ways now that there is more space. This is where boxes and drawers come into their own as very versatile storage options. New toys from Santa might fit into existing storage solutions or you may need to giggle things around a bit or go all out and get more storage!Decide what to keep. Include your child in the process but have the power of veto.

Find a space for everything that you are keeping. Put what you have kept away –  everything should have it’s place. Be sure to leave or create space for the new arrivals! Remember it is easiest to store like with like.

 

Try and make everything accessible at child height so that your children can pull things out and, more importantly, put things back themselves.

 

Give them a space for their “treasures” (or clutter) my son has an old empty printer’s box with all the divisions for the different letter blocks which he uses for displaying and then playing with his treasures, including kinder egg models, things he’s found or made. Each one has a story and is special to him and he can easily get them down to play with them. If it doesn’t fit in the shelf though it has to be put away so that we keep a lid on clutter in his room.

 

You could also do some toy rotation by putting away some older toys and some new gifts and then bringing them out again in a few months time. This helps keep kids interested and also means they don’t have to have all their stuff in their room at once, helping it stay tidier.

To maintain this neater more clutter-free, tidy room you need to encourage your child to tidy up for themselves. Make it a game.. who can put the most cars into the right box? do a countdown or somehow engage them in the process. Make your children responsible for tidying up after themselves. Start young, say when they are 12 months old and help them with sorting and tidying, then by the age of three they should be independent enough to tidy their room or what they have been playing with by themselves with a bit of guidance from you. Have regular clearing out sessions so that your children get used to letting go of items they no longer need.

By applying these simple methods to your child’s space you should not feel overwhelmed by a sea of toys and kid-clutter after the onslaught of Christmas. Give your child space to thrive.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

6 Easy Ways to add style to your child’s room

shutterstock_1049222219 scandi/sherbert room

As a former nursery practitioner and mum to a 6 year old I know a few tricks to keep the toys at bay and to make  your kids rooms more stylish. Believe it or not “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” really does help children to relax and grow more confident. Here are a few easy tips to help you to easily  inject some style into your child’s room. We shall keep tackling the clutter later….

 

1- Choose a palette

Deciding on a colour scheme can come from all sorts of inspiration, like your child’s favourite tv show or ice cream or an interest like space or horses. Choose a family of colours that go well together and a background colour and punchy highlight colour. Controversial as this may be I don’t hold with monochrome rooms for little ones, sure lead with black and white but add  punchy yellow or turquoise or orange accent.

 

2- Accents

Find or make accents in your chosen colour palette. These could include storage baskets, curtains, bed linens, toys… they will help to give your palette definition. They also make it easier to transform your room later (or even seasonally) by changing your soft furnishings.

 

3- Lighting

Often an afterthought, lighting is very important. Have a couple of different light sources in your child’s room for different moods and activities. Task lighting at a desk or bedside table,   night lights and main pendants all have a role to play in a child’s world too. remember to choose fittings that suit your feel and colour scheme for the room.

 

4- Plants

Bring the outside in. Children can benefit from plants in their rooms for so many reasons. They can help filter the air in a city environment, can encourage children to be responsible by looking after them and help keep children in touch with nature. Put plants at child height (from when your child is at least 3 years old) and up high to give them extra sensory stimulus from the touch and smell of house plants.

 

5- Displays of treasures/ vignettes

Get your child involved in displaying their treasures and favourite bits and bobs. This encourages their sense of self by providing physical reminders of past doings and helps them to forge connections with their surroundings while taking pride in their room. Help curate collections so that they don’t take over and try to suggest sorting using different criteria such as colour or a theme. But remember it is their room! In my son’s room he has an old printer’s tray which he uses to display all his Kinder Egg toys and anything special like rocks and shells he has collected. From time to time it does need a tidy but it generally survives as a rotating curation of what is special to him. I might even start taking regular photos of it to chart its evolution.

 

6-  Art

Kids aren’t too young for art on their walls. Together, you and your child could make some family art or choose a picture or design. I find that a little whimsy goes a long way for children’s bedroom art. I frame all my son’s certificates and display them along with a colour-in map of the world in which we follow his uncle’s travels.

So take another look at the photo above. Notice how the accent pieces tie the scheme together? How the art adds a touch of whimsy to the space? How wood is used throughout? How pink and yellow are featured in a black and white background scheme? How the plants are part of the room? How the lighting is industrial and coloured to fit the scheme? You can do this too. Hopefully you have gleaned a few easy tips for creating a stylish room for your children without spending too much time or money.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

How to get your child to tidy their LEGO

Lego pile
If you are tired of Standing on your child’s Lego then read on….. (photo: Shutterstock)

If you are a parent tired of standing on LEGO this post is for you. I think that by offering your children a way to organise their LEGO collection you can empower them to keep it tidy for themselves. They will know where to put it away and then it won’t end up literally being shovelled off the floor.

In January 2001 a lego fan, Remy Evard, posted to LUGNET his ‘ evolution of LEGO sorting‘ which basically describes the journey of the LEGO fan from one set kept nicely in its box with the instructions to having a large LEGO collection sorted by individual piece by colour and the journey of the LEGO fan in doing this. I think this is drastic and would take too long to start up and too long to maintain with children and that it is aimed at the adult LEGO enthusiast. Read on to see how you can provide your child with the right sorting and storage system for them to be able to keep their collection tidy.

Anyone interested in how to organise their LEGO needs to read https://brickarchitect.com/guide/bricks/ I love his quote “you will sort your lego bricks into your storage based on your system of organisation.” It makes the difference between sorting, storing and organising quite clear.

How to sort your child’s LEGO collection:

By colour/ piece/type of brick?

LEGO Rainbow

 

The Brick architect describes LEGO storage needs by age so that younger children can store their smaller collections in one tub or draw string bag and enjoy discovering the pieces as part of the fun. Parents tend to then sort bricks by colour, he says. For young children I would consider sorting by colour as a beginning. They will easily be able to stick to this system and be able to tidy up after themselves with little, if any, help. This system doesn’t work for older children or for those with more LEGO as it is difficult to find the pieces you need. So sorting by category is the true child LEGO enthusiast’s storage system. We will leave the sorting by piece and then separating by colour to the grown ups (with loads of time on their hands).

Consider how you will store the instructions too. A folder or binder with poly pockets? This is what I started with but we need a new system as it is full! So I’m considering more plastic drawers with a drawer for each theme like Star Wars, Ninjago and City… I think this could easily grow with your collection – though I suppose I could get another binder and have a binder for each theme….?

Things to consider when you are storing LEGO:

How much space do you have?

When thinking about how to store your LEGO one of your first considerations should be how much space you have… this will determine how many trays or bins or drawers you can divide your collection into.

How many pieces of each type?

This should be considered so that you can choose the correct containers – though remember the collection will grow so always allow for its evolution.

Where does your child build?

Does your storage need to be portable, do you store LEGO in your child’s room but then build in the living room? Or does your child build right next to where their collection is stored?

LEGO storage solutions for younger children:

Draw string bag 

– like these from Kidly which are so stylish they could be left in your living room as part of the decor and you are bound to find one you fall in love with.

Under bed storage

– like these great star drawers from GLTC

A big bin

– like the stackable metal bins in gorgeous pastel tones from La Redoute, or simple seagrass bins and basket that could go anywhere in your house.

I think that a LEGO Activity table is too permanent and won’t adapt as your child grows and their interests develop ( and they take up a lot of space). So instead have a child height table and chairs that can be used for anything from drawing, to eating to playing LEGO. Much more multi purpose for our day to day lives.

LEGO also produces storage cubes in the shapes of large lego bricks and mini figure heads – these make a great display but are not hugely practical beyond a certain size of LEGO collection.

Get them involved

The aim is to get your children to keep up the tidying so you don’t have to walk on any more bricks!

From about 5 years +, or for those with a larger LEGO collection, the methods of storing LEGO above are not going to be condusive to finding a particular piece. I recommend using plastic drawers and sorting by category. Which will be in next month’s post… How I sorted my Son’s LEGO…..

How do you sort and store your child’s LEGO?… What are the categories you sort it by?…. I will reveal the categories that work for us in next month’s post…

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Toddler Proofing Guide

Toddler Proofing Guide or… Things To Do Before Your Baby Crawls! (babies crawl at eight months on average, which means for many it happens earlier!)

My quick disclaimer is that these are the things I found useful and needed to do, I am not a health and safety expert, these are just my advice based on my experiences. 

 

Around the home

Fit and test Smoke detectors

Fit and test Carbon monoxide detectors if you have gas appliances.

Install Window catches and move furniture away from windows as toddlers start to learn to climb!

If you have blinds make sure that they are cordless.

Install Safety gates/ stair gates  at the top and bottom of the stairs and use them until your toddler can navigate them confidently Socket covers

Fit Cupboard catches- there are many different types, try them out and see which ones work for you in each room.

Fire guard- I found that my son grasped the concept of ‘hot’ quite early, the fireguard was there mainly to prevent toys from landing in the fire and obviously was a necessary precaution against the worst.

Get a First aid kit and book – or better yet take an infant first aid course.

Have a Medical thermometer.

Put Padding on sharp corners – since toddlers are prone to falls. Especially on a hearth, you can buy sticky padding for the edges and corners.

Artificial fireplaces often have small rocks that are tempting for toddlers to eat so they should be put away.

Fire stocking tools should also be put away.

Keep all hot drinks out of reach – create a designated spot for your tea in each room so you don’t have to think about where it will be safe in the moment.

Keep all medicines, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, scissors, nail files etc locked away or out of reach- toddlers like to explore by putting things in their mouths so this is very important!

Keep all small objects like coins, beads or jewellery out of reach too for the same reason.

Candles and matches  should also be out of reach.

Photo frames should be out of reach or wall mounted so that they don’t fall and shatter over your child.

Make sure your Tv is mounted so that it doesn’t fall on your toddler as he mounts the tv stand! If you can’t mount the tv, anchor the tv stand to the wall using velcro straps and eye hooks screwed into the wall.

Power strips should be kept hidden, if you can’t hide it, then get a power strip cover.

Round, square, cylindrical or oval objects smaller than 1 inch in diameter should be kept away from children under 5years of age as they are a chocking hazard.

Make sure all battery covers are secure on all toys, remotes etc as batteries are dangerous. 

If you have Glass tables make sure they have tempered glass that won’t shatter. 

Buy a device that keeps doors from closing so that your child’s fingers don’t get trapped, or pop a towel over the top of the door.

Hide electrical cords behind furniture.

Never leave your baby alone in any place that they can fall from such as beds, highchairs or changing tables.

If you have railings with a gap of 6.5cm or wider then use something like plexiglass to block them.

Plan a fire escape route.

Secure freestanding furniture that can topple.

Put stickers on big expanses of glass such as sliding doors.

Be wary of toxic house plants and move them out of reach.

Bear in mind that you may need to use a variety of different types of locks and solutions around your house so that they fit and work with your space and lifestyle. I know that those fancy magnetic locks would drive me mad if I had them on my kitchen cupboards as you need the key to open them each time. Remember to let your child play and explore safely… don’t keep everything out of their reach, toys and art supplies should be reachable for instance.

 

Out and about

Harnesses and reins might be necessary to let your child enjoy exploring safely. I made lots of use of the reins as my son stopped using his pram quite early and wanted to wander off and walk everywhere.

Check your handbag doesn’t have any medicine or coins or other small things a toddler would put into their mouth.

Don’t carry your baby and hot food or drinks at the same time.

Bathroom

Buy a Non slip bath mat.

Consider rubber spout protectors so that your child cannot bump themselves on the taps and spout.

Keep all cleaning products, toiletries and medicines out of reach. 

Don’t line the bin with a plastic bag as your toddler might play with this and suffocate.

Mop up any water spills after bath time so that your toddler doesn’t slip and bang his head. Toddlers are too young to break their fall using their arms.

Keep the toilet seat down and buy a latch and remind visitors to use it as toddlers are just the right height to fall into the toilet.

Keep hairdryers unplugged so that your little one can’t turn it on.

An argument can be made for physically locking away all vitamin tablets and medications to be on the safe side. 

When you are filling the bath, run enough warm water to cover your babies legs, no deeper. Never leave a baby unsupervised in the bath.

 

Garden

Safety film over garden patio doors to shatterproof it

Cover garden ponds with a metal grills. 

 

Kitchen 

Put pans to the back of the hob with the handles turned in when cooking.

Fit Child safety locks on cupboards and drawers- leave one cupboard at least that they can get into and play with the contents… I left the pans and Tuppaware available for playing and even painted the doors of that cupboard with magnetic blackboard paint so he could draw and play and bash pans while I cooked. It generally worked a treat.

It’s a good idea to make the kitchen off limits when you are not there. 

Check your dishwasher has a lock setting – leave knives pointing down, only put the detergent in just before turning the machine on. If it doesn’t have a lock setting then you may want to buy an appliance lock. 

People pull their hob nobs off when they are not using the hob, though you can get hob guards. My solution to this when I had my kitchen done was to get an induction hob with a lock feature. Induction hobs don’t get hot unless they are on and in contact with a large enough magnetic surface, the hobs themselves generally don’t get hot enough to burn you. I was scared of our gas hobs before that, and I think a hob guard sounds like a good idea. 

Ovens are also problematic! Try not to hang oven gloves from the handle as they act as a great means for a toddler to open the door. You can get an appliance lock to prevent this. I bought an oven that has a child lock so it cannot accidentally be turned on.

Try and keep counter tops clear of appliances and knife blocks as toddlers can reach them.

If your toddler can open the fridge, remember to move medicines, grapes, wine bottles and any other dangers to where they can’t be reached.

Remember not to hold your baby while cooking at the hob.

Store the highchair out of reach when not in use so that baby can’t try to climb on it. 

 

Bedroom 

The minute your child can sit up, it’s time to lower the cot.

Don’t have stuffed animals in bed as they are a suffocation hazard until your toddler is very mobile.

Be sure not to leave crayons out as these can be snapped in two and choked on.

Fix all furniture to the walls so that it cannot fall on your toddler as they try to climb up.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful and not totally daunting! How do you toddler proof your house? How to you get the cooking done? I’d love to hear from you in the comments…

 

Posted on Leave a comment

How to help your child sleep

toddler sleeping
Ah… nothing is as sweet as a sleeping child! (Photo from Shutterstock.)

Well Hi,

I know that one thing all parents, be they first timers or old hats, need help with is getting babies and young children to sleep. There can be problems with initially putting them down to sleep, the whole bedtime routine that can last hours with cries of “one more story” or trouble settling off back to sleep in the middle of the night. I thought it would be a good time to share with you how the design of your child’s room can help.

Obviously this topic is huge and covers diet, routine, anxiety, lactose intolerance, colic and all sorts of things but you may not have considered your child’s environment in helping to get them to sleep better and /or for longer.

I would say that the colour of the room, the amount of light it gets, room layout and storage solutions can all have an effect on how a baby or young child sleeps in their own room. So let’s break it down:

1- Colour

Blue is basically the most calming colour you can have, it lowers heart rate and can help with anxiety. Especially good to use if a child has an anxious bedtime. Careful about how you use blue in a room with little natural light as it can feel cold.

Green makes you think of health and freshness and is said to help with reading ability and concentration and can help little ones to wake up feeling refreshed.

Yellow can be used sparingly in a child’s room. A pale lemon yellow can help concentration but be warned, go too bright and it can induce frustration. If you want bright yellow use accessories dotted around the room to break it up and steer interest to another colour in the room.

Pink can help your child fall to sleep but can be a risky choice as you might find yourself repainting rather soon as it becomes out of favour with your child.

White walls are clean and fresh and give an impression of space – be careful to choose a wipeable paint finish for all the sticky fingers and dribbles that will inevitably occur. Remember to accent this with other colours that work well in children’s rooms so that it doesn’t feel too sterile.

Black can be used as an accent colour to great effect.

Neutrals such as taupe or greys work well in a bedroom and are very popular. Just try to pick the warmer neutrals so that the room doesn’t feel chilly.

Light Purples can be used as they help you feel relaxed. Just don’t go too dark.

Colours to avoid include great expanses of red as it is an angry colour which is associated with lack of focus. Dark Purples, bright pinks and yellows should also be avoided on the walls, and brought in through accessories dotted around the room as accent colours if wanted.

Colour accents
I do admire the punchy bold colour accents used in this nursery, but I would have chosen the more calming blues and greens to add to the relaxed feel. (photo from Shutterstock).

 

2- Make it dark at bedtime

Black out curtains are a parent’s best friend, especially in Edinburgh in the summer when the sun comes up at 4 am and can stay up til 11:30pm!

If your child is afraid of total darkness invest in a nightlight with a red bulb that casts a warm light that won’t wake them.

3- Create zones in your child’s room

Your child’s room is a very multifunctional place. Your child sleeps there, plays there, gets dressed there and maybe even does crafts and drawing there as well as imaginative dressing up, story time and home work. As such, a clear distinction between the sleep zone and the fun zone can easily be made through furniture placement and use of colour.

Defining the zones helps your child to concentrate on their task in each zone. Letting your child know that the sleep zone is for sleeping only will help them to be conditioned into feeling sleeping there.

4-  Use Great Storage 

Putting everything away before bedtime can remove the temptation for your child to play past bedtime as the toys are “out of site and out of mind” leaving them cosy with some books and maybe a nightlight to get calm and relaxed before bed.

Tidying up helps to further that serene atmosphere you are trying to create to allow your little one to feel relaxed and go to sleep. make tidy up time part of your routine so that children become used to it and gain a sense of achievement and confidence from help. having child-accessible storage is key here so that they can do it themselves.

NurserystorageshelvingfromShutterstock.jpeg
The bookcase offers plenty of storage for books and toys. The baskets provide ideal toy storage.

5- Oxygenating plants

It is great to include plants in your child’s room design as they add a certain softness by bringing the outdoors in. A last tip that could help your little one sleep better is to include oxygenating plants in their room. Plants such as Orchids, Christmas Cactus and Aloe Vera release their oxygen at night which could help your child sleep.

I hope this helps you think a little about your child’s physical environment and the effect it can have on them. What has worked for you ? Do you have bright bold colours in your child’s room and find that it creates a calm atmosphere