Space to Play [and Learn]: 10 Tips for Creating Great Play Spaces

Whether at home or within a child care or preschool environment, creating rich, playful spaces for children inspires them…

– Inspires them to play in more purposeful, meaningful ways.

– Inspires them to learn through those play experiences.

– Inspires them to value what they have.

– Inspires them to help maintain the space in an organised way.

– Inspires who they become…

“The space we live in has a powerful influence over us, particularly the space we grew up in…The spaces that teachers [parents/child care educators] create for children seem to hold enduring memories for them that have a powerful influence on what that will value later in life.”

-Susan Fraser, Authentic Childhood, 2000

10 Tips for Creating a Great Space to Play [and Learn]

I believe a great play [and learning] space for children of any age is one which;

1. Is welcoming, inspiring and engaging
The space should feel nurturing and familiar at the same time as inviting children to explore and investigate by capturing their attention and provoking their interactions with the space. For more information about making play spaces inviting, visit Irresistable Ideas for Play Based Learning for simple but effective ideas to use at home or in a group setting.

2. Is rich with good quality children’s literature and a range of ‘texts’ – fiction, non fiction, magazines, catalogues, maps, menus, brochures, photo albums
Encouraging children to see reading (and writing) as both enjoyable and useful from a young age can be achieved by engaging them with a range of texts. For example, a child who is less interested in story time may enjoy looking at and talking to you about the map of a zoo from a recent outing.

3. Includes space for using and easily storing a range of creative materials
Creative materials provide children with the opportunity to express their knowledge, ideas, theories and feelings about the world. Having a system and space for using and storing pencils, paints, crayons, glue, scissors, etc, will make the use and clean up easier and more efficient, which is what every Mum needs 🙂

4. Includes elements of nature and natural materials
The natural colours and textures of materials such as stones, seedpods, pinecones, tree blocks, and wool, make a nice change from the bright colours and flashing lights of many modern day toys. They also encourage children to play more creatively as seedpods become ‘food’ in their home corner play or pinecones a ‘family’ enjoying a day out.

Childhood 101 | Space to Play [and Learn] - 10 Tips for Creating Great Play Spaces

5. The majority of toys are ‘open ended,’ allowing for active exploration and many different types of play
Before purchasing a toy consider if it is something which can be used flexibly, in many creative ways. These are they toys which will be worth the hard earned dollars you spend on them as they will offer an infinite number of new play scenarios, and not just now but for many years to come.

6. Feels cozy and comfortable, with a sense of homeliness achieved through including sentimental family items and/or beautiful objects
Plants, photos in frames, thoughtfully displayed artworks, cushions – all create a sense of homeliness. By including objects important to the family, you have an opportunity to help children learn to treasure and respect their belongings and those of others.

7. Includes areas where children can play together or alone
Children need time and space to play both alone and with others. By setting up an activity at a small table with just one chair (or alternatively two or more chairs), you are providing an indication of how that space should be used – like the space shown to the left, perfect for a single child to play in. Consider a balance of small, independent play and larger, collaborative play spaces when planning your space.

8. Includes space for ‘works’ in progress
Know when it is NOT so important to pack away and have a plan in place to store important works in progress. Read more about not packing away here.

9. Represents the interests and developmental needs of the people (both small and large) who use it
Children are given so much nowadays and they just don’t need it all, especially not all at once. To help keep children engaged with what is there, take away toys that they have outgrown or are not currently showing any interest in. Create special spaces for those toys your child is really interested in at the moment, you can find an example of how and why here.

10. Is clean and organised in such a way that the children can easily access what they need and easily assist to maintain the environment
Most of us think more clearly when we work within an organised, uncluttered space. By planning an easy to access way of organising toys and materials, you empower children to make their own choices when playing, at the same time as making pack away time a whole lot easier.

I also ideally believe a play space should include space for and resources to encourage;

Where do your kids play? What do you love about your child/ren’s play space, or what changes do you wish to make? 


  1. Great ideas here as always! 🙂 I'm just in the beginning stages of planning out a playroom for my two boys, so this info will come in handy.

  2. Busy Brissy Mum says:

    Is that top picture from your place? I just LOVE LOVE LOVE that red window…….and the coloured cushions….and….

  3. SquiggleMum says:

    Christie there is so much I love about this post. I have wonderful ideas for the spaces in our home. Some of them I've been able to implement, some are planned, and some are still just dreams. Can't wait to read tomorrow's post…

  4. Thank you…very helpful post. I

    I'm looking forward to the images 🙂

  5. This a great post! There are so many ideas here I could keep in mind while making over my boy's room (which I am currently doing!). Thank you for sharing all those great tips! 🙂 And I can't wait to see the next post!

  6. katepickle says:

    Fabulous list.. totally nodding along while reading it! I'm all for your space/environment setting everyone up for success – life is so much easier for all that way!

  7. I would say that our play spaces are constant works in progress. As my children age, our play spaces change.

    My eternal issue is that I wish I had more storage. I really think that shelving, especially when low and accessible to children, makes a play space. You can see toys on shelves, unlike inside boxes, and it minimizes digging and so on. Unfortunately, we don't have as much space for this kind of storage as I would like.

  8. Christie - Childhood 101 says:

    No, Busy Brissy Mum, it's not our place, our playroom is still under 'construction' which is why I have been seeking inspiration and putting my thoughts together 🙂

    I agree Amber, storage is a constant issue, especially given how much 'stuff' children have nowadays.

  9. I just found your website and I feel like a kid in a candy shop!
    Your blog design, colours and, most importantly you’ve got loads of awesome information on integrating play from a parent and educators point of view. I love this post about creating play spaces for children to thrive.

    I’m also an Early Childhood Teacher and I’m also an aspiring picture book author, so I’ll be visiting often for great ideas! Thanks.

  10. Hi Christie,

    I really love your site. So many great ideas! I am a newcomer so I have been reading some older stuff, and I just wanted to let you know that many of the links on this page and others are not working!

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Shereen, it is because I changed blogging platforms recently. I have been slowly but surely updating the old links but you have reminded me to get on with it 🙂

  11. This list is fantastic Christie! Definitely made me think about our school environments and how to improve them. I really enjoyed 7 and 8, our ‘works in progress’ area aka pushed to the sides of the room could definitely stand for some improvement. Thanks 🙂

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Fernando, and best wishes for your school spaces.

  12. This is such an inspiring post. It’s given me some motivation to look at some areas in our home and change things up a bit (especially my boy’s bedroom– that’s a difficult space for me for some reason). Thank you.

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  15. Hi Christie, can I ask where the desk setup is from in the left-hand picture? (the one with the yellow stools) This is pretty much exactly what I’d like to do in my daughter’s room; a small desk with those nifty holders for crayons, paint brushes, scissors, etc. I’ve been searching a bit online for nice craft desks but so many of them are cheap and plastic-y. Thnx, great article!

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