Friday, July 9, 2010

Tempe and Helena's bedroom

{Warning: long post!}
About a month ago we took the plunge and moved Helena into Tempe's bedroom. We wanted them to have lots of time to adjust to sharing a room before the baby arrives so that the two events wouldn't seem connected. I had lots of concerns about this transition. I was concerned that Tempe would resent having to share her room and losing her "private" place. I was concerned that the room would just be too small for two kids and all their stuff (it's 100 square feet, but with oddly placed closets and doorways that leave little flexibility in furniture arrangement). I was concerned that the bed would dwarf the room and leave little floor space for them to play.
I'm happy to say that none of these concerns were warranted and the transition has gone very smoothly.
One of the things that I did to make everything work was to divide the room into zones: not only does this keep the room organized and easy to clean up, it also encourages creativity and active play because children can easily see what each part of the room is designed for. Basically, I wanted their bedroom to encourage creative play, reading and writing, organization, and problem solving.
Creative Play
Personally, I think creative play is the most important kind of play for preschoolers and toddlers, so I included a lot of creative play elements in their bedroom. The biggest one is their kitchen. Their bedroom has an alcove under the window, and this is where I placed their kitchen, play food, aprons, pots and pans, and dishes. We also moved their child size table and chairs upstairs so that they can cook, set the table, and serve "dinner". Helena especially loves cooking, but Tempe spent an hour the other day making "Honeysuckle sauce".
Their room also has a dollhouse with dolls and furniture, a toy toolbox, hand puppets, and a doctor's kit. Of course, we have oodles of more creative play elements in their dress up clothes, but I left those in the baby's room.
Another creative play element in their bedroom is their actual bed. We went with the Ikea Kura loft bed because it's a great starter bunk bed: it's only about four feet high. The scale is also perfect for small spaces. Tempe adored the blue tent that came with the bed, but I couldn't stand how it clashed with the rest of their bedroom so...

I made a new one!
I let Tempe pick out the fabric. She went with a sheer purple with sparkly rhinestones all over it (of course). Honestly, this was one of the hardest things I have ever made, probably because I work almost exclusively with cottons and this sheer fabric was just harder to work with. I omitted the central pole that kept the original Ikea tent taunt, and also made it about six inches wider on the sides so it would gather. I thought a draped, gathered look was more of a "Princessy" look. I'm thrilled with how it turned out and so are the girls!
Anyway, I consider this bed a creative play element mostly because of the tent. With that tent on top, this bed is a spaceship, a pirate ship, a covered wagon--whatever you can imagine! The girls play on the top bunk for hours.

Reading and Writing
Tempe and Helena have always been big readers and I wanted to be sure to continue to encourage that. Their bookshelf/toyshelf has tons of books, but I wanted their beds to be the reading "zone", so I installed these wire shelves (from our pantry downstairs) on the wall at each bunk. They keep books, water bottles, special stuffed animals, and pacifiers (Helena) on them. Each bunk also has way too many pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals than necessary, but it makes their bed a comfy place to flop down and read!

The other major change I made to the original Ikea bed was to paint the hideous blue side panels with chalkboard paint. Can I say what a hit this has been? The girls think it is so awesome that they can actually draw on their bed! We use basic sidewalk chalk because the bigger sticks are easier for little hands to hold and I used some scrap felt to make an eraser glove, so clean up is easy. This is one activity that they are not yet allowed to do without my supervision--the chalk stays locked on the top shelf of the closet unless I'm in the room!
I haven't implemented any other of my writing ideas, but the more writing activities included, the better! Some other ideas are an old checkbook in a purse so they can write checks just like Mom and a shopping list or recipes in the kitchen. Reading and writing activities don't have to be limited to actually sitting down and trying to write the alphabet.
In a small bedroom, organization is key. I got so tired of Tempe strewing her many collections of tiny toys across the floor, so when we moved them in together, I took that oppurtunity to cut back. I had three small cloth storage bins, and only things that fit in those bins are allowed to stay in the room. With those bins and other various baskets, we are able to fit all of their toys (minus the kitchen toys) on their three shelf bookshelf. The wire book racks also help keep their bunks organized. Since everything has a place and a container, I can tell Tempe to put away all of the marbles or all of the beanbags and she knows exactly what to do--that makes Mom happy!
Problem solving
Some of the problem solving toys we have in their room are legos, marbles and cardboard tubes to roll them through, beanbags, and puzzles--both peg puzzles, board puzzles, and easy jigsaw puzzles. I try to have a lot of toys that can be used and manipulated (Jason will hate that I used that word) in different ways. This encourages creativity in play and problem solving, and besides, Tempe would rather play with her family of rocks from the backyard than expensive My Little Ponies.
Finally, I want to plug one of the best parenting books I have ever read: Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference by Laura E. Berk. I read this for a child development class and it's one of the few textbooks I am keeping. The chapter on make-believe play is especially good!!


Stephens Family said...

How cute is that?! You've been working hard - it looks great! What a fun room to play in - and share!

Lora said...

LOVE the spray on chalk idea!!

Found your blog through Babycenter, come on over and check out mine too if you have time.

Kari @ Ucreate said...

Looks fabulous!!!

andrea said...

love the chalk - how freaking fun is that?

I love the colors you used for their walls too - very girly with a touch of grown up!

Ivy said...

Love the kitchen you made. I remembing looking at your site a couple weeks ago and I found where you linked to another lady who makes them for charity but can't find it now. Can you send me that link?

Jennifer said...

I just bought the Kura bed (with the tent - yes, I wish it came in a girly colour too) today and I came across your fabulous idea! I love the idea of painting the bed with chalk paint! How many coats did you use? I've never used it before but I'm definitely going to do it! Thanks for the idea! :)


iloveavianna said...

did you take apart the bed to repaint the blue panels?It was such a hassle to put together I hate to take it apart! Also can you do a tutorial on how to make the tent with the fabric??

Kate said...

Jen--I did two coats of paint :)
iloveavianna--I didn't take the bed apart, I just taped it and was careful. I wish I could do a tutorial for you, but I did this so long ago and didn't take any pictures or anything. I basically made a big rectantangle and then made casings for the poles to go through. I made it a bit wider than it really needed to be so that it would be gathered. Hope that helps!

Jessica said...

I saw when you posted this years ago and now I am in the market for bunk beds and saw your post on pinterest! I'm totally doing this! Thanks