While sometimes I do dream of having a house in the future with a little more room (especially as a family with two adults working from home), we’ve definitely learned to make use of the space that we do have, and try and share most areas of the house for dual purposes. Our front room doubles as a guest room, our dining area doubles as my work table, and what used to be just my office/craft storage room is now also Lola’s playroom and where we’ve been storing the majority of her toys. As you can imagine, it takes a little bit of thought and planning to share a space like that with an active toddler. So I thought I’d share what works for us in case anyone else needs to have a dual-purpose room as well!
Harmless items are accessible while dangerous ones are not: Especially in my craft supply area, I have a lot of things like scissors, X-Acto knives, and other little sharp tools that I obviously do not want Lola to get a hold of. Even as she learns to use scissors (which she loves doing), her little scissor sets are up with my big ones high on a shelf where she can’t get to them on her own. It’s also a good idea to think about any stools or chairs in the room that could be used to stand on and make sure they are unreachable even standing on one of those. I don’t feel the need to put every item of mine up high though, if it’s not a dangerous thing. For example, she could get to my fabric supply that I keep in a low dresser or my paper collection which is on the bottom shelf of my storage lockers. But that would be more of a nuisance than a hazard. Of course, each age has its own things to think about, so while Lola can get to small wool balls and pom-poms in my craft storage (she likes to play with them in lots of ways), a younger child that’s still putting things in their mouth may choke on those so they would be in the "out-of-reach" category for them. Even things like art supplies are placed accordingly so Lola can get to crayons or colored pencils whenever she wants, but the permanent markers are out of sight.
Make use of storage cabinets (with lockable options): I got this storage locker specifically because it had shelves that were up high and out of reach and had an option to add a little padlock to a door if it was one you wanted to keep locked. At the moment, I’ve followed the above guide for keeping harmless things like paper on the bottom and sewing needles at the top, so I haven’t had to lock anything, but it’s great to know that if I needed to have the cabinet full of things I didn’t want her to get to, I could very easily.
Shelves for everyone to share: Rows of shelves are handy because they can be easily switched to store any kind of object and Lola has the bottom shelves for her items while I can use the top ones she would need help with reaching anyways. I have a cluster of built-in shelves that we share, but then I also have some lower ones elsewhere that she keeps some art supplies on.
Toys are easy to get to (and easy to put away): As there is actually SO much stored in this room with both Lola’s and my items, I wanted a toy storage system that made tidying up easy and something that Lola could do on her own. Things like open shelving and cube baskets make it possible for Lola to get things down and clean up and put away things on her own as well. It’s not every time, of course, but I find that a lot of toddlers actually like to put away toys when you have a clean up song they like, and they love throwing small items into bins and baskets. So it’s great practice for learning to be a helper around the house.
Make use of kid-proofing items: Of course, there are lots of kid-proofing items on the market, so make use of any that help keep your stuff out of your kid’s hands (we use magnetic locks in our kitchen and they are great), but the only thing that I have in the room is a childproof doorknob cover for the closet. I purposefully tried to find places to store anything she would need to get to in the room without having to use the closet, so I could just put whatever I wanted to in there and close the door. I don’t have anything dangerous down low in the closet just in case I forget and leave the door open for a minute, so it’s more like breakables or fragile things I’d rather not have destroyed. Haha.
I don’t know if there’s a perfect system for sharing an area with kids, but this seems to be working well for us so far. Yes, sometimes Lola gets paper out of my cabinet without asking or pushes buttons on the printer (I usually keep it unplugged and then she’s not interested in it), but those are just part of the normal conversations you have with small kids as they learn how to listen and follow rules. Like everything around the house, you’ll adjust things as kids grow to fit their stage of development (eventually she’ll figure out childproof doorknob covers so I’ll have to think of something else there if needed), but that’s a pretty normal thing that parents are always on the lookout for. I have noticed that there are items Lola could get to that I would prefer she didn’t (like some paints), but because they are in a different container than what she’s used to seeing her paint in, she has no clue they are there. Haha! I guess that one is a bit of a gamble, but the worst case scenario would be a mess to clean up, so I guess I’ll risk it. Hope this was helpful for your home if you have to share your space as well with someone small! xo. Laura
Sources: Shape Print, Leopard Print, Swan and Unicorn Heads, Lion Head (DIY) Bear Head.