Creating a Fun Learning Environment

Backstage Pass

We live a two bedroom, one bath home. We have no formal dining room and no basement. We have no extra room to designate as the "schoolroom" or "playroom". Keeping this in mind, I'd like to share some of the changes I've recently made in our home to make it both entertaining and educational for RockerTot. I'd also welcome any suggestions you have for making it better.

This is our special "school tray" area. It's in our kitchen. I try to rotate the items out two or three times per week. Most of these items are Montessori inspired (the "real things" are way too expensive, lol), but some are just for fun. I allow him to play with these trays whenever he wants to. I never force or schedule time for it. He will just naturally gravitate to the shelves each day and pick something.

Our first trays for this week are:
- hammering & pulling "nails" (golf tees) out of very dense upholstery foam using a quality toy hammer (it has a bit of weight to it)
- adding to his sticker book
- Canimals (Dollar Tree version of "Barrel of Monkeys".. he can sort them by color or link them in chains or do whatever he wants with them)


Here is our "Letter Board" (in a former life, it was a cookie sheet). It is on the small wall behind our front door (meaning, you can't see it if the door is open.. please ignore the dingy walls, we have scrubbed and scrubbed). I rotate between different sets of magnetic letters & numbers on a weekly basis. This week we're using LeapFrog Fridge Phonics. We also use a set of lowercase letters, different number magnets and our Magnet School letters and cards (we did NOT pay the price listed in the link.. it was $25 at Target). The basket below is used to hold the Magnet School cards or any letters/numbers he is not using at the moment.


Tucked along the wall next to our unused breakfast bar (we don't have barstools) is RockerTot's kitchen and cleaning area. The green thing in the shopping basket is his apron. I'm not really sure of what to say about this area.. I guess it's self-explanatory.


Now, we move into RockerTot's bedroom. I call this his "Engineering Shelf" because it is mostly made up of blocks and puzzles.

Starting from the top:
- Small wooden stacking rings (these are NOT self-correcting like their plastic counterpart.. the dowel is not tapered)
- Melissa & Doug Stacking Train
- Wooden Alphabet Blocks
- A few items from his Tinkertoy set
- Nesting/Stacking Cubes
- Wooden trains and track parts to experiment with track designs
- >Puzzles (I'll rotate these out every few days or so)
- Mega Blocks
- Activity cube with bead maze
- Stack and Roll Cups


Okay, I have these four shelves available in the living room. I just haven't figured out what to do with them yet. I'd love to leave some crayons, paper and other basic art supplies out, but RockerDad might freak out if I did that with a two year old. I've also pondered a dress up/make believe area. I just don't know. Any suggestions?


This is his normal toy shelf in his bedroom. These items stay out all the time. I taped pictures of the items that go inside the blue bins so that RockerTot would know how to tidy his room. I'm working on a better solution for his books. Hopefully I'll decide soon.

We had to scale down toys and everything else before we moved into such a small place. RockerTot's big brother's toys are on the shelves above the ones shown (out of RockerTot's reach).

Regular "anytime" toys are:
- Trucks (only one is pictured, but he has several that are normally in a basket)
- Trains are kept in a blue bin
- Little People airplane
- Hot Wheels go in the reissue storage wheel
- board books (I'm going to start slowly phasing in the regular books.. he's been fine with them for a while, I've just been lazy. They're all in my room.)
- Dinosaurs (another blue bin)
- Balls (his baseball glove and a few action figures have somehow ended up in this bin as well)


  1. So bright and kid friendly~ great job!

  2. Oh, I am in awe, that is wonderful. I would love to be 2 in your house, so much to explore.

  3. Great ideas. Thanks for posting as I am gathering ideas right now to make our house more organized and interesting. Even with a bigger house we still have storage problems.

  4. Looks great to me! When we lived in a small appt, we had one shelf in the living room, kind of tucked away next to a stuffed chair, and that was about it. I just rotated things out every once in a while. Oh, and we had the play kitchen in the kitchen, sort of you like you did! Good job!

  5. You are very organized. It was fun to have a virtual tour into Rocker Tot's house. He is lucky that you take such a meticulous care to think things through. We have somewhat more space, and we don't have any toys in the living room. That's sort of our house rule - she can bring some toys in the living room, but generally it's not a play area.

  6. One day, we will have a home where we can enforce the "no toys in the living room" rule, but not today. :)

  7. I think it looks great. Does it always look so nice and neat?

  8. Wow! Can you come organize my house? That looks great.

    I leave crayons, markers, scissors, etc. out for my 3 and 4 year old children and it makes my husband CRAZY because they are often found on the floor or in the dog's mouth! He disagrees about encouraging creativity. They are still out though.

  9. That looks great! Check out this link for a book shelf that hangs on the wall. I'm going to start one on Friday for Michaela's birthday. It seems like a great solution for storing books where the little ones can still see the fronts.


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