A cozy corner for the children

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After too many rainy seasons of water in her basement, my friend Mary Dykstra, a professional organizer and design consultant, mom of four and grandmother of two girls ages 6 and 10, said the time had come to fix the problem and transform her “catch-all” basement into a welcoming “family space.”

“Once the drain tile system with sump pump was installed, I was inspired,” she said. With carpet laid, it was a blank slate to master the new domain. Her remodel strategy for a life-friendly space with a sense of style that could stand up to extended activities started by designating separate zones — a TV area with a sectional to curl up on at one end, a game table at another and a charming nook for the grandkids in an alcove.

That cozy corner for kids caught my interest. Formerly Mary’s office, it invites her granddaughters inside through pretend play “stage” curtains (colorful, cotton shower curtains, draped from a tension curtain rod).

Books, toys, musical instruments, puzzles and craft supplies are stored on the built-in bookcase shelves. Doll furniture and decorative containers are a catch-all in a comfy corner that includes bright soft pillows for reading together.

“With all the ‘Organizing 101’ tips these days, allocating specific destinations to corral things when not in use may sound obvious,” she says, “but when you involve kids and actually put the ‘a place for everything’ concept into practice, it makes a difference. Instead of stuff being mumbo jumbo, items are easy to find and put back, which in turn, provides optimum opportunities for creativity.”

That said, she readily admits that being on the go is how family life rolls. If the kids can’t put things away because they’re off to an activity at the last minute, she simply closes the “stage” curtains for a play day another day.

While most of us can’t close the curtains to a day’s drama of activity, here are helpful organizing tips to keep kid spaces in order.

  • Choose clear storage containers and wire baskets to hold stuff. They can be moved from room to room easily, and kids can see what’s inside. Label with drawings or pictures of the contents for easy identification.
  • Affix toy train tracks and other such toys to plywood that can slide under a table or bed when not in use.
  • Attach pegs to the wall within easy reach to store prized baseball caps, backpacks, etc.

Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

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