Nook Play Area

Creating Individual Space in Tight QuartersChild asleep in closet surrounded by stuffed animals and toys

  • What: Nook play space
  • When: Age 3 and up
  • Why: Give each child their own area
  • Where: Your house

When you live with four other people, three of whom measure under four feet, in 1500 square feet (140 square meters), you learn to maximize space by creating a nook. When I say nook, I don’t mean an electronic reading device. Instead I’m using the term in its original meaning as a substitute for the word closet, since I repurposed that space accordingly.

A closet converted into a nook play space for kids

My old closet mid-transition to a nook with mattress, rug, and storage bins.

When my third child came along, I needed a space for my eldest to have quiet time on his own. That meant I didn’t want him in the same room with his younger sibling napping or in the bedroom with the newest addition and me.

Nook 6

My eldest still regularly fell asleep during quite time in the new nook.

In what used to be my closet, I created a “nook.” I added a sleeping pad we no longer used to prevent anything from slipping around. I put a thick pack and play mattress we had sitting around on top. I covered that with a super fuzzy bathroom rug to add texture. I emptied my six cube organizer of my clothes and bought two fabric bins to hold toys and books. I bought a new sham for a full size pillow and added it for comfort. I replaced the curtain with a blackout version, for blocking light in case of naps. Lastly, I scored a green bean bag on sale and threw that in there as well. He moved his beloved things into the shelves that used to hold my neatly folded clothes just a couple months before his fourth birthday.

I loved the nook so much I often spent some time in there with my son reading through his magazines and snuggling. He never used the beanbag, and threw it out every day until I removed it. My kid collapsed the bins and I ended up putting them away, too (once I reunited the bottom and side parts). The pillow eventually made its way into his bed. But the shelves, mattress, and rug remain, along with some additional decorations he made on the walls. (Note to self: don’t let kids sneak art materials into their nooks.)

My eldest loved it so much he slept in there overnight every night for almost six months straight around the age of 5. It turns out he preferred to have the overhead light on overnight, and I never allowed that in their bedroom for fear of one or more kids not getting enough rest. He still loves “his” shelves to this day. We’ve recreated a nook for him while traveling and it won’t pass muster unless it has shelves. (Luckily a simple chair will suffice for his definition of shelving.)

Child asleep on closet floor surrounded by stuffed animals and blankets

He moved into the nook overnight for about six months.

I love the nook because my kid can keep all his toys in there in whatever way he wants. When I get tired of looking at it all, I can simply close the curtain and pretend it doesn’t exist. I often send kids in there in search of missing items. They get distracted by the other fascinating things they’ve left in there and voila! Problem solved.

Chihuahua small dog in middle of mess of toys on rug in closet

Everyone loves the nook.

My kids love cozy spaces and having their own area, and it works wonders for me, too.

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