It feels like Ester was born, we closed our eyes, and now she's 1 (and almost walking). Once she walks she'll officially be a toddler right? (You don't have to say yes, we'd prefer you'd say she's still a baby.) We still put her in onesies, so she has to be a baby for a least another six months. Either way, we're preparing to have a toddler in the home.
With her first Christmas and first birthday came the flood of new toys. Before the festivities she had very few toys, a handful books, and a cluster of stuffed animals. Now she has more, a lot more. The other day as we were organizing her room we were thinking about what a toddler needs. I put on my "child educator brain" and mixed it up with my "mommy brain" and came up with this list.
Books and Books and More Books, and Toddler-Level Book Storage
We know that most toddlers can't read, and they don't need to, but being exposed to literature is wonderful. The most obvious way to expose your child to literature is by reading to them. It's equally important to encourage book browsing. If their books are in a drawer or up on a high shelf they won't be able to experience the books all on their own. Display their books to encourage exploration. Save the higher shelves for the books that you don't want them to chew and rip, and place the board books at their level.
After a couple of weeks move the books around to give them something fresh to look at.
Nothing is more inviting than a space filled with natural light. If you have the option of switching rooms in your home, pick the brightest bedroom for your toddler's room. You'll notice a difference in how your child plays when the room is bright from the outside.
Natural light is energizing and comforting, offering a relaxing space for your child to explore and play. On good weather days the window can be opened and they can play and listen to the birds sing. Ester loves it when the window is open, we call the puppies to come over to say hello.
Toys that Encourage Imaginative Play
Toddlers may or may not engage in imaginative play, but setting them up with toys that engage the imagination is wonderful. Stuffed animals, wooden animals, puppets, dolls, blocks (building and stacking objects), noise makers (instruments), costume pieces (hats, wings, glasses), etc.
(Ikea a great selection of imaginative play toys.)
A Low Table
Toddlers love to stand, it makes them feel grown up and in control. A low table offers them a place to stand and play. This will also be a great space for them to draw and color once they're a little older.
On the low table you can setup various things for them to explore and change the items every so often. Right now Ester loves pens and markers (she doesn't know how to take the caps off yet). We let her play with these and she loves to stand and tap them on our coffee table.
A Cozy Space
Ester's Gigi got her a tee pee for Christmas. We thought it would be something that would sit in her room until she was a little older, but surprisingly she already loves to crawl inside and play with her instruments. It's her special little space. Cozy spaces encourage imaginative play and offer comfort during play.
Cozy spaces will be preferred by most children into their adolescent years. When they learn to read or have friends over, they will often chose these warm spaces to do their favorite things.
Low Spaces to Store Toys
Nothing is worse that a bedroom with toys all over the floor. Ester has little plastic dinosaurs that are like death to step on. Toddlers may be able to learn how to put their toys away, and if not, they can at least watch their parents do it for them. Having low storage spaces with baskets or small containers is best. Accessible storage spaces also allows them to choose what they want to play with. Even if it's difficult to keep their room organized, you can at least throw all the little pieces into baskets and make their play space clear.
A Push Toy
Push toys are great for gross motor development, and also for imaginative play. Strollers, grocery carts, vehicles, wagons, vacuum cleaners, etc. They'll love pushing these all around the house.
If you have hardwood floors or carpet, a rug is a great addition to your toddler's room. It adds a soft padded space to play, and even above carpet it creates a separate space where play is invited. Rugs can also add color, pattern, and texture making the space more exciting and vibrant.
Lamps make spaces cozier. Even on a bright day when the room is naturally lit, with a little cloud coverage you may need more light in the space. Having lamps (safely) in your toddler's room can make the space feel warmer. Overhead lighting is often too much. A properly placed lamp can transform an entire space.
Keep the air clean and add an organic element to your child's space with plants. Your little one can also help you water their plant(s) on days when it's needed. Plants can somewhat become pets and science experiments as well. In our opinion, the more plants in a space, the better! (Just be sure to do research on the plants you buy, some houseplants are poisonous.)
The last thing we'd recommend is music. Offering music for your young one while they play is a beautiful thing. Play your favorite genres, try something new, but play music as often as possible. We have one of those Echo "Alexa" Dots in Ester's room. It's the easiest way to get music going in the morning while we play and drink our coffee. If you have an old record player, radio, maybe move it into your child's space.