If you're looking for playroom ideas for toddlers and preschoolers, look no further! I'm sharing my best advice on how to organize a playroom on a budget for mixed ages in our playroom tour! We'll cover playroom organization for small spaces, minimalist playroom ideas, and of course, all of the toys in our playspace (which double as great gift ideas too!)
After the playroom tour, which has loads of play space ideas, I'll cover more specific playroom ideas on a budget.
- Watch playroom tour video
- Playroom Organization Tips:
- Playroom Ideas: Choosing a space
- Playroom Tour: Art Corner
- Play Room Tour: Living Room Playroom Ideas
- Backyard Playspace Ideas
- Garage Outdoor Toys
- Playroom ideas on a budget
- How to organize a playroom on a budget
- Final playroom tour thoughts
Watch playroom tour video
Playroom Organization Tips:
- Everything has a home that everyone can find! – because it doesn’t work if you’re the only one who knows where things go!
- Pieces baskets/drawers – because there’s always some missing pieces that need to find their home
- Group open ended toys that work together for limitless play
- If it takes more than 10 minutes for your child and/or you to clean up, then it's time to reorganize your toy storage or get rid of some stuff
- Use storage bags to keep puzzles and activities together without the bulk of a box:
These three points are essentially the cornerstone philosophy to our playroom.
The grouped open ended toys tip really guides our purchases in terms of what toys we do and don't buy and I think is one of those “minimalist playroom” concepts that parents should really lean on as their kids get a little older. It also makes it easier if you have a small playroom, to figure out what groups you need for maximum play.
We found that toy rotation naturally faded from our lives with a 4 year old. She wanted to build little worlds, and having a handful of toys out didn't work for that. Instead, she kept reaching for the same things over and over to build play scenes. We also moves seven times in less than a year, so we had to get creative on what we packed and ways to reuse items while in a home.
We do still keep a small montessori shelf (which we'll cover below) with some rotating items:
Grouping Open Ended Toys
This is definitely one of the best playroom ideas on a budget! The grouped open ended toys essentially creates stations in the room of unlimited play potential.
It also means toys need to “fit into” these groups in order to come in the home, because we keep our toy rotation shelf so limited now. Which is a great little minimalist playroom hack that can fit in a small playroom or home.
This also makes it pretty easy to tell if we already have a duplicate item which I love. Lastly, when the bins get full, the kids will have to choose one's to get rid of to make room for something new.
We try to represent the 5 areas you’d find in a montessori classroom, while keeping in mind that this is our home, not a school.
- language- with books, phonics or writing activities, etc.
- sensorial – all things that engage a child's senses from colors, shapes, textures, smells, sounds, etc.
- math – early patterns/quantitative concepts etc.
- cultural studies – history, geography, art, science, music, peace/tolerance, botany, zoology, etc. usually represented in books or in our outdoor play
- practical life – every day life, so things that focus on fine and gross motor skills, practical things rooting the child in reality like a kitchen (more on that in a minute), cleaning supplies, etc.
We keep these areas in mind when setting up our montessori playrooms, as well as our purchasing decisions. I cover this more extensively in my montessori playroom for a toddler video.
Playroom Ideas: Choosing a space
Before we jump into the playroom tour, I want to share our pretty unconventional playroom decision to skip the traditional living room and formal dining room to make them a play room.
note: Our playroom is decorated for halloween, we don't normally have black over the shop and bats on the wall!
I always see people asking for small playroom tips; and in our experience, having small playrooms in the wrong part of the home, means it just doesn't get used and you may as well not have one. You're better off with a little nook or dedicated space in the heart of the home.
We don't have extra rooms in our house, so we decided to optimize for this stage of life in the heart of our home.
After living in 5 fully furnished homes with other people's stuff this last year, we knew exactly what worked and didn’t work for us in terms of joy and daily function.
Our thought process here was: the kids get one hour of tv time, and centering a room around a television or a couch we felt stressed about getting dirty just didn’t bring us joy at this stage of our life with a 2 and 4 year old.
We realized the kids prefer being “at our level” while eating, which often meant dinner at a dining room table was a game of musical chairs or climbing on laps and the table.
I’ve also have never bought a kitchen table in my entire life, so I kind of figured “why start now?” as it just ends up collecting clutter historically.
So our “dining” area became our art corner and our family room became our main play space and these are easily our favorite rooms in our house!
Wherever you choose to setup your playroom, keep in mind you can create small stations throughout your home. Think about where you're having a hard time getting tasks done (laundry, cooking, etc.), and see if you can create a small play corner there.
Playroom Tour: Art Corner
One of my best tips for a mixed age art space in a playroom is to put art supplies in easy to move bins.
Our art cart on wheels is the first part of that concept.
If the kids are acting wild, I can easily remove the art supplies – which happens with a 2 year old around.
Within the art cart, we drive that concept of “easy to move bins” down even further with art supplies grouped into smaller bins on the top two shelves, and the bottom is for paper.
On the top shelf are the most used art supplies – and also the ones we want our 2 year old to use the least unsupervised so it's slightly out of his direct line of site. We keep markers, crayons, and glue here. We also have a zippered bag of scissors that my 2 year old needs help opening still.
The middle shelf is loose parts. So pipe cleaners, googly eyes, pom poms, yarn, popsicle sticks, feathers. Basically your 3D crafting supplies.
Buffet / Storage
This little IKEA Buffet is one of our most used little spots too.
Sensorial + Math
We keep our Lovevery play sink here too (alternative play sink). I think in my review of the Helper play kit I said we hadn't used it, but now that we have a regular flowing sink, we love the way it recycles water and get a ton of use out of it.
We recently got the KiwiCo “Pasta Making + Shapes” set which is SO much fun! It's rated for ages 3 and up, but my 2 year old loves it too. This also doubles as a lesson in math. We don't have a formal “math” section in our playroom, so we focus on integrating it with toys like this which work shapes, counting, and even can be used for sequencing or patterns.
On the other side of the buffet is our “language” area. Here we keep my daughter's letter work when she's interested in it.
Fine Motor Work
Lastly, we have some fine motor work for my 4 year old tucked away in here. My 2 year old can't get into the drawers so we keep her “off limits” toys like her bracelet beading kit, sewing, her 3 little bears story book house which we keep in these zipper bags, and our KiwiCo Paper Dolls craft.
These are SO much fun and make a great road trip toy too. It's a beautiful bundle with 10 pop out sheets of shapes, 6 of which are dolls the others are accessories and stuff. It also comes with paper and fabric squares, beads, markers, a glue pen, scissors and stand up scenes. It's really fantastic introduction to mixed media art and my 4 year old has a blast and it's a great travel item too.
Other details in this corner
We use the space above the buffet to display our art. I just tape it up with painter's tape so it's easy to swap out.
Another playroom organization tip is to get as much up and off the floor as possible.
Our art wall ensures that we don't have a million papers piled up, because art either gets hung up here or in our daughter's room, or gets tossed.
Play Room Tour: Living Room Playroom Ideas
Seating / couches
Now over to what would be the “living room” which we set up as a “playroom.” We decided to get two play couches. The idea was simple, kids play with one while we sit on the other, or do bigger builds with both.
Two play couches also gave it a slightly more “traditional” living room feel with plenty of seating. They love using these as tumbling mats too and practice headstands on it all day.
We still do use our pikler triangle in this space too. We do some fun builds with the play couches and just get the pikler in the garage when not in use.
Shop / storage
The next thing I want to talk about is this stand I got in our last house to create a play area on the side of the room off our kitchen. It’s technically a recycling center, but my kids can’t read and I liked the neutral colors and fact it serves as extra storage.
We use this as our “shop” or grocery store typically. The top of the shelves has a cash register and whatever else for pretend play. The upper row is usually reserved for “groceries” with wooden and soft play foods, while the bottom row we typically use for silks, cones and hoops, and a miscellaneous catch all spot which is something I do in any “cubby’ system like this which you’ll see throughout this video.
Aside from awesome storage, I love that we can change it out seasonally; right now it's decorated as our”Witches Brew” Shop, serving up Witches Brew, pets, and groceries!
I just moved our books into the bottom shelf recently, I don't know for sure if I'll leave it like that though. Otherwise, we use the open shelving for toy rotation.
We keep the Lovevery ball run here (alternative), usually a couple of open ended puzzles, so we have the Lovevery twist one and this KiwiCo lock box my son likes to use as a turtle house, and the Lovevery mosaic push button (alternative) are currently out.
Loveys + Pretend play
Next we have a little table and chairs.
There are a few invitations to play with how I set this up. So the Loveys can be sat at the table for a tea party, on the couches for a concert, or play with other toys.
The kids can “shop” then come home to the kitchen, make a meal, and sit down for it at the table too.
And of course they can just sit at the table for whatever they want to do.
Next we have our KiwiCo easel which also has a marble run on the other side. We love this thing, it’s super lightweight and folds up so easily too. We keep it in this corner when not in use, the pieces for it are back in the buffet, so the kids can sit at the table and do it, or we pull it out for a few days and they use it for art on one side and have full access to the marble run.
This little table and chairs my kids don't use as often as I'd hoped. They often create a table out of the play couch, so I’m thinking about moving it out of here to just have our Kiwico easel set up permanently since they are way more into that.
Ikea Trofast: Plastic toys
Next is our first IKEA trofast with the plastic bins labeled. Truthfully, you do not need a lot of toys, and if you only re-create this section in your home, you'll probably be all set!
This area is the bulk of our open ended toys and everything has a home as you’ll see. A home that is labeled with the word and picture, so everyone in the family knows where that home is too!
On top we always have our Lovevery dollhouse from the Observer play kit and their object permanence box (shop alternative). I've said it before, we just LOVE these; they are so ageless. Here are a few alternatives to Lovevery's:
The top row of drawers has a miscellaneous catch all spot. This is toys that just don't fit but we haven't gotten rid of for one reason or another. They're often cheap dollar store finds, or gifts from neighborhood kids. Next is a car bin and ball bin.
All of this more or less works together and is probably our most used spot in the playroom. My son will spend hours pulling out dolls, cars, and balls to use with the dollhouse items up to. My daughter builds cities with the magnetic tiles and trains, then park the cars and put the tiny doll stuff all over it.
If you want to create a minimalist playroom, you could honestly do it with just this section above in my opinion.
We have another trofast shelf system next with the top set up as a music station.
We keep a handful of music toys for toddlers out here as an invitation to play and next to the trofast we have a basket with more instruments, including musical toys for babies like lots of percussion shakers and the Kiwico Music Set, as well as several toy microphones, we usually keep multiple toy guitars but only have one right now since we rotated it out for more of the Lovevery music set toys (shop it here).
Ikea Trofast: Waldorf/Montessori Natural Toys
Then we have another IKEA trofast storage unit. This one is in a higher foot traffic area and generally less played with toys. It follows the same formula as the last shelf system, but features more waldorf or montessori alternatives of the previous bins, and a few new things.
Then the top row features a bin of toddler puzzles. I keep these all bagged for the kids to take out one at a time. Next are our Lovevery paths and villages. Last is another catch all bin, but this one is themed for the kids clothes and a sheet for fort making with the couches. So here we have outdoor hats, spare diapers, and whatever else.
Pretty much everything in this top row comes from our Lovevery play kits, but here are some alternatives (ranging for 1 to 6 year olds):
The bottom is big cars that you really play with by themselves (remote control, pull string, etc.), not with blocks and magna tiles.
I specifically set it up like this because I know my kids use these less. They love having the variety but they can go a week or two without touching these toys, compared to the others so they are in a higher foot traffic, less in your face view.
In my experience, wooden blocks tend to fall over faster and you need significantly more of them to build a “city” – as a result the kids just prefer magnetic blocks.
Backyard Playspace Ideas
The area we live now doesn't have much for kids – the library is pretty terrible and they don't believe in parks, which have both been a huge adjustment for our family. So an outdoor playset for toddlers + young kids was essential! We got some things for our small backyard to keep them busy.
My kids are little monkeys, making climbing toys an absolute essential for us. Growing up the climbing dome was alway my favorite thing to play on. Geodesic domes are considered safer than monkey bars typically. I also like that my daughter can practice hanging upside down and climbing the underside which we know is one of her favorite things.
We also have a trampoline for toddlers (and us), soccer net, T-ball thing, and chalk of course.
Garage Outdoor Toys
Playroom ideas on a budget
As you can see from our playroom tour, we didn't spend a ton of money. We chose various montessori shelves that are child accessible, can handle storing smaller toys, and even double as small play areas.
When designing a playroom on a budget here are some things to keep in mind:
- Can I find storage solutions that double as play areas?
- Is there any furniture I can replace with a “toy” like play couches or this shelf system.
- Can I consolidate smaller toys into groups and then create little nooks around our home?
- What can I get up and off the floor?
- Can I paint or use the child's art to decorate the space instead of expensive wallpaper? (See my last playroom mural here for more ideas!)
How to organize a playroom on a budget
Plastic bins and storage bags like these are going to be your best friend in organizing a playroom on a budget.
The storage bags keep smaller toys together, like puzzles or little activities, without the bulk.
Lastly, having everything labeled keeps cleanup a breeze – and will also quickly show you if you need to reorganize or get rid of somethings.
Final playroom tour thoughts
Playroom ideas for toddlers and growing kids are pretty endless. The top priority in our experience is choosing a space that flows with your life, instead of some tucked away area of the home that makes it impossible to finish household responsibilities.
Older toddlers and preschoolers love activities and getting lost in imaginative play. Sticking with open-ended toys that work together and a solid craft corners are usually going to get the most use.
This can look like having several stations set up throughout your home or a dedicated playroom with stations that check off the five areas of a montessori classroom.