How can we create a kid-friendly zone in a small city apartment?

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By: pop culture geekCC BY 2.0
I am enjoying the final month of my life in Brooklyn, and am looking forward to moving in as an au pair with my cousin, his wife, and their two little boys K and C.

K has already said that he will miss his backyard mud kitchen, and I don’t blame him. First of all: MUD! GLORIOUS MUD! Secondly, there is a lot of “No” in the life of a little kid. K’s mud kitchen is his world of “Yes!” He can make all of the mess he wants and experiment to his heart’s content without anyone fussing about set-up or clean-up or telling him what to do. Now he won’t have a back yard, so no more mud kitchen for him.

I desperately want to create something similar for K that he can use in our new apartment. Perhaps something like a DIY water table? Or could we use cornstarch in place of dirt, hoping that its unique properties will make for easy clean-up? Has anyone done a project like this sans back yard? How did you create a tiny “Kids Rule” zone in a small space? — Kaitlin

Comments on How can we create a kid-friendly zone in a small city apartment?

  1. I use bins of things on the kitchen floor which is fairly easy to clean up since its tile or at the kitchen table, depending. I sewed a chair cover because our chairs are fabric. I use things like pom poms or corn starch and water or cloud dough (mix 8 c of flour, 1 c of oil- makes a neat sort of snowish medium for my son to play in, he loves to play with his trucks in it) also Google sensory things for the bathtub since that’s a nice contained space that’s also easy to clean up. We have a water table on our back deck now but before that I would just use dish washing bins I got at the dollar store. they’re a fair size but not too big because I do need it to be manageable. and then you can just throw whatever thing into the bin and let them have at it. maybe a plastic table cloth under his chair if the floor is an issue? you can get those at the dollar store too.

  2. Well, I don’t have a specific suggestion for a structure, but I’ve seen a lot on pinterest how you can make “clean mud” by microwaving a bar of ivory soap. Apparently it comes out fluffy and the consistency of mud, but because it’s soap smells great and makes clean up easy. Maybe you could incorporate that into somekind of sensory exploration corner?

  3. If you have enough space, using a couch or a bookshelf (Ikea Expedit cube shelves, the 2 x 5 model, lying down, work great) to create a small “playroom” is helpful; kids love small private spaces. I second the cloud dough but don’t use on carpet, it can stain!. My small boy loves digging in beads and pearl tapioca and alphabet pasta. I put down a picnic blanket — the kind that are blankety on one side and waterproof on the other — which helps control the mess. But mess is what vacuum cleaners are for.

    And I’ve seen very cool mud-pie kitchens on balconies: all you need is a low table or bench and a big pot of dirt.

  4. Definitely make a white board wall! You can buy paint that turns any surface into one. I painted two walls and the ceiling underneath my stairs for a white board cubby. Even toddlers seem to be able to stay inside the lines and not draw on the regular wall once it is explained to them.

  5. When I was in preschool and my teachers needed to clean the tables they sprayed a pile of shaving cream (cheap Barbasol) in front of each child. We would go at it drawing and smearing until it was time to stop and they would just wipe everything clean.

    Also, with some supervision: drawing with dry erase markers on windows, mirrors, or sliding glass doors. I do this as an adult and have tons of fun.

    • We played with shaving cream on our desks in school too! Ah, those were the days . . .

    • We did the same at my school one teacher would have us do our spelling words in it and then at the end we had some time to do what ever with it. Everyone loved it to the point I think some kids drew on the desk just so we could do it again/sooner

  6. We use a tough spot ( like this one ) at the childrens’ groups that I used to volunteer with to contain mess in the sensory corner. The lip is tall enough that it keeps most things inside but low enough for little ones and it’s big enough that a child or two can sit in the middle of it and still play. It is a challenge to empty it if you filled it with water but I’m guessing that would be a fun game with some sponges and a bucket.

  7. We just might try each and every one of these eventually, but the tapioca beads look like the frontrunner with Mom so far. The tough spot looks pretty doable too. Mostly I just keep thinking how lucky I am to be able to tap into the collective knowledge of OF. Thanks you guys!

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