Laura Fenton lives in a 690-square-foot apartment with her husband and son in Jackson Heights, Queens. She's the author of The Little Book of Living Small and understands that when it comes to bringing toys into tight quarters, it's all about being mindful.
Here are her tips on making it playful in even the smallest spaces.
In my book, I encourage small-space families to seek out playthings that harmonize with their decor because they will be on frequent, if not constant display. This is especially important for the larger toys or playthings: For example, in our apartment, we opted for a bentwood child’s table and chairs blend into a living room’s decor more readily than a brightly-colored plastic set.
The Grimm’s Stepped Pyramid Math Blocks (or really any of Grimm’s beautiful toys!) are a great example of a beautiful, display-worthy toy. I also love that these can be used for early math lessons. Our son’s pre-K teacher used cubes for math lessons, and now that we’ll be doing the majority of our learning at home, I think these would be a great tool in our at-home learning kit.
I also encourage parents to think long and hard about large toys. Play kitchens, dollhouses, and toy race tracks all take up a lot of space in a small home. Before buying one of these behemoths, consider if your child can enjoy this kind of play elsewhere, like at school or Sunday school. There might also be a smaller version that will bring as much joy. For example, the Assorted Fruits & Vegetables Set might scratch the play kitchen itch without taking up a ton of floorspace. We had a similar set of vegetables you could slice and our son loved “cutting” the food.
We had a set of these Haba Discovery Blocks when my son was just beginning to play with toys and they were the perfect on-the-go distraction. I would put them in a cloth pouch in our diaper bag or airplane carry-on and they took up very little space at all.
These magnetic wooden blocks are a delight! Tegu blocks are definitely an investment piece, but your kids will play with them for years to come, which for me is a small-space win because I know the toy deserves the space on our shelves.
Real bunk beds are such a fun and practical space saver for kids’ rooms (my next book is going to be all about bunk beds!). So, of course, I am drawn to this wooden doll bunk bed. Also, all kids, my son included, love bunks!
One of the secrets of living small is to get outside of your small space—often! A toy like the Natural Hopscotch Chalk is a simple, inexpensive way to get kids excited about being outside. This spring New York City has closed some streets to traffic so kids have room to play and there’s been a serious chalk art revival going on.