I went through the whole “nesting” thing when I was about 6 months preggo. You know, dreaming of the perfect nursery, making plans, pouring over paint samples, folding blankets, etc. I only thought in “newborn” terms, and rightly so. My husband spent a long time, god bless him, painting their nursery, installing shelves (all at adult height!), hanging curtains and meticulously hanging each picture on the walls. When I think back on it, it was all really lovely. We would stand in their completed room, hands on belly, and imagine what it would be like to see our boys in this space that mom and dad put so much love into. But when our boys approached eight months and became mobile, we knew we needed some major overhauling of our environment. Their room just didn’t work! It was fine for sleeping, but they literally hated being in there to play. And I was also just plain tired of how chaotic and haphazard the main “play area” was that we had designated on the rug in front of our couch. Throw down a blanket and a few baskets of cram-packed toys and “wallah,” a play room!
I think with multiples, you have to be even more dedicated to organizing your space effectively. So we decided to recruit the help of our friend who was a former Montessori teacher and now has her PhD in perinatal psychology (whoa!). She did an evaluation of our house and made some interesting suggestions for how we could make it safer and friendlier for the boys. So we jumped in head first and after a few days of planning, a massive IKEA shopping list, and a weekend full of power drilling and furniture lifting, we made a brilliant shift. Here’s what we did:
1) We swapped the boys’ nursery and the guest room, which gave us a whole three feet of extra usable space . While we were reluctant to do this at first (after all those months of planning, painting and decorating the “perfect” nursery!), we realized that now with the boys being so mobile, they needed as much “room” in their room. This space also boasts three huge floor to ceiling windows where they can stand and point to the giant tree in our front yard (over and over and over again), and also, with mouths agape, watch the garbage trucks make their rounds every Tuesday morning. The colorful curtains have become the boy’ favorite attraction where they hide and play peek-a-boo with each other for longer than it takes me to change both their crib linens (and I know you all know how long that takes). We also created a cool “play station” in their room out of box shelves from IKEA (cheap, all wood, and perfectly functional for many years and growth spurts). We only put out a few toys at a time and swap ’em out every few days for a nice surprise. As a result, their bedroom has become so much more for them. It’s a place to play, explore, and hone their skills, but also a place to rest. It’s also made diaper changes and getting ready for naps effective, fun and (best yet) relatively fuss-free.
2) We spend most of our time during the day in the living room, so we created “nodes” in different areas of the room for different activities. More IKEA box shelves in an underused area of the room became an organized toy area. Again, we keep a handful of toys out at a time and swap them out ever week or so. This also cuts down on the craziness of toys everywhere to clean up, which I do at least ten times a day. Shelves below our media center hold books and function as a reading nook. And the bottom few shelves of our book case became bead-maze and chunky puzzle central. The boys took to the changes in the most remarkable way. When i put them down, they immediately crawled to their play “stations,” pulled up on them and went to town. And I noticed that instead of going from toy to toy in some sort of manic fashion, because of there being a few choice toys to choose from, they interact with them in a longer and more meaningful way. Now that they are walking maniacs, they run from station to station with glee. But the best development of late is “helping” mom put toys away, which Abel loves to do. He meticulously puts books back on the shelf. Gotta love that!
3) This one was a no-brainer, but we designated a cabinet in the kitchen for them. It holds tupperware, their old bottles and formula cans (huge hit!), and various other kitchen objects they can play with. This is so simple and is such a great way for them to be occupied while I make dinner, clean up and load/unload the dishwasher (another hugely popular “play station”).
4) We baby-proofed the heck out of any area the boys would be hanging out. This was a big deal for us, because we have more of a laid-back philosophy when it comes to baby-proofing. We definitely wanted our home to be safe, but we also wanted to teach the boys that there were areas they shouldn’t explore and objects that they should not touch (i.e. stereo, fireplace, etc). I don’t want to say we went overboard by any stretch, but we learned that the safer things were, as well as the less things for us to say “no” to (because they ARE going to touch those stereo buttons, even if they know they are not supposed to and look at you three times before they go for it), the better our time together would be. That being said, we did not baby proof our fireplace/hearth area and we have yet to have an issue with it. Of course now that I wrote that, the boys will probably be relentless about trying to climb into it tomorrow.
We have been thrilled with all the changes to our home and these spaces continue to be relevant, if not more now that the boys are 14 months. And the shelves have served as interesting measuring sticks as we take note of how much the boys have grown. On the horizon are plans to hang pint-sized hooks for their jackets in the foyer and hooks for their towels in the bathroom. We continue to take stock of our house and how we can design our environment to be as friendly and accessible to the boys as possible. We thank god that IKEA opened up 20 minutes away last year!