Playroom in Progress Guide: SET UP

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby on. Posted in BABY, Best for Baby, Life as a Toddler, New Mom Experience, PRODUCTS

As I am slowly and painfully trying to design/fill/create Alexis’ playroom I am finding absolutely zero guides online as to how best to do it.

The truth is, while it is very personal as to what kind of playroom you design for your children, it is also important to make sure that you’ve got all your educational and creative basis covered, as well as make it a comfortable, safe and inviting environment.

So I decided to put together my own guide. It’s not a guide for OTHER people, it’s MY guide, though you can definitely use it to help you define your baby’s playroom areas, as well. I’ll be sure to put in a few finds for you guys, too.

PLAYROOM {in progress} GUIDE

PLAYROOM GUIDE:SET UP

I will divide each area into a category and discuss what we have there, as well as what we are planning.

ABOUT:

Our playroom is really a living room converted into a play area. It’s the first room off the front door. It doesn’t have a door, it’s has beautiful wide arches and an open feel. A perfect room to turn into a playroom, since you can watch the baby from virtually any angle. It has 4 windows, so there’s plenty of light. Two downsides: tile floor and no overhead fixture (what?). But both are very much fixable!

A playroom is supposed to be both the safest place for the baby to be in and the most interesting, challenging and welcomingenvironment. Making it such has to happen in multiple parts.

PART I: FLOORING, SAFETY, FURNITURE AND SEATING

FLOORING

Our first concern in designing our playroom was that hard unforgiving tile floor. Seems like a simple solution is a soft rug. I found and ordered these gorgeous wool rugs on MyHabit. They looked great. But oh boy, did they shed!

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This wouldn’t be a problem, had we not given birth to the biggest “floor-hand-mouth” baby EVER. She takes EVERYTHING into her mouth! EVERYTHING! But do you know what her biggest love is when it comes to “eating shit”?

Hair!

Any kind of hair or fiber. I know. Ew!

And that’s what I say every time she finds my hair somewhere and “eats” it, or grabs my brush and eats the hair off of it (of course I don’t let her, but that’s if I catch her doing it). Alexis will pet the cat and then try to lick the hair off her hand, she’ll bite the fibers off her stuffed animals aaaaaand… You guessed it! She would gather and eat the fibers off that horribly shedding wool rug! It is absolutely disgusting! And to make matters worse, one day we found some rug fibers in her poop…. Horrible! The rugs went IMMEDIATELY!

So now what? We didn’t want to buy a synthetic rug. She would spend hours a day crawling, sitting, playing on that rug. It needed to be natural. So off I went looking for natural or green certified rugs. I found a few options, but they seemed wrong. Still wool, which will shed. I went to probably the only real source for rugs, RUGSUSA, and just spent hours searching different options. I found 1 cotton rug – it was ugly, looked hard AND was ridiculously expensive. I am not sure how exactly I finally found THE RUG! But I gotta say that I was ecstatic about it! I ran to my husband saying “I found the perfect rug!”

Anji Mountain bamboo silky shag rugs! Perfect, natural, sustainable, gorgeous! “No chemicals are used in treating or processing the natural fibers in our rugs so you can rest easy.“- Ahhhh!!!!

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Then shock- PRICE! Yikes! Ok, we gotta think. It’s actually pretty affordable in smaller sizes, but when you go to 9×12, it gets EXPENSIVE! Especially compared to synthetic rugs. Especially if you’re not used to having to drop over a grand on a rug. {note: the last time I looked (4.2.13) the rug was on a big sale, so it would have actually cost us only $800}

I won’t bore you with the details of our discussions in trying to decide whether we should buy one or not. But in the end, our parental guilt won. How could we knowingly buy a cheaper, clearly toxic (those conventionally made carpets release formaldehyde and other very toxic chemicals for years) for our only daughter, if we knew there was a great alternative. Pricey, but great.

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The decision was made easier by having found ourt that RUGSUSA was having a great Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale which kicked off a bit of money off the price. In fact, they run sales ALL the time, and after searching for what seems like forever I could NOT find a cheaper price anywhere. Even my trusty Amazon had the rugs for slightly more.

We bought it and we “prayed” that we hasn’t just wasted a lot of money.

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The rug came about a week after ordering and I was really concerned that no matter how natural the rug was they’d still be a big “new carpet” smell and we’ll regret spending money on what’s touted a natural chemical free rug.

We brought it in, opened it, rolled it out. It smelled like HAY!

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I kid you not, it smelled as 100% natural as it was expensive. To say that we have been absolutely in love with this rug for months now is an understatement. You know how they say that you get what you pay for. I’ve always agreed with that, but we are not all made of money, and everyone can’t afford only the best. But this is probably the best example of that statement that I have ever experienced. And while other cheaper rugs might need to be replaced more often, I can tell this will last us forever.

Imagine the silkiest quality shag rug you have ever touched. The threads are so tightly woven together and with such quality. The quality is so apparent in the rug. The first few weeks, all I’d do is run my fingers through the rug when we were in the playroom. It has sufficient padding ( though it’s not super thick) so it cushion Alexis’ falls just fine.

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Ok, I probably bored you all to death, or lost you. I am just so in love with the rug and I hope that if there is anyone out there who is also searching for a good non-toxic rug, this will save them hours of decision making agony and searches.

I’m done lol

Things to keep in mind:

  • Remember that a young child spends most of his day very close to the floor inhaling all the nasty fumes of carpeting, picking up all the lead dust off the floor (read about  the dangers of lead dust in all homes on Daily Mom). If you cared to look up how incredibly toxic most carpets are, you’d want to put hardwoods or tile in your whole house. So obviously a natural rug is preferable as it doesn’t emit fumes, doesn’t contain chemicals that can off-gas for years and is soft enough to protect the baby
  • Think of upkeep. Are you going to be able to vacuum the carpet out a few times a day? Then a wool carpet is very ill advised.
  • When faced with the dilemma of paying a lot of money for a high quality rug, think of the number of years it will last you. A kid has a playroom for a long time, and then the rug can be moved into his bedroom.
  • Alternatively, you could look into hardwood floors, but there’s still an issue of fumes (though not as bad as carpets), as well as safety for when your baby is still young.
  • Try not to install new carpeting if you can’t air out the place for a while, since the off-gassing is at its worst right after installation.
  • If you opt for the EVA foam tiles to line the floor to protect your baby from falls, keep in mind that EVA does off-gas formamide (completely odorless gas) and most companies don’t test for it. Formamide is usually done off-gassing in 28 days. So keep those tiles in the garage until you’re confident it’s been long enough,

 

SAFETY

Oh the fun part! Safety! Ugh! Nothing is safe when it comes to a curious toddler, but we all try.

Gates

Since the playroom is open to the hallway, the first thing we had to get was GATES. Again, cue in hours of searches for a gate that goes to the ridiculous length that the playroom’s doorway is. I didn’t know it back then, but not all gates are the same. I mean, they are freaking gates, what does it matter? Wrong, totally matters!

Our favorite gates, the gates we happened to buy for the playroom because they were wide enough and had a nice look to them North State Gates. Awesome products! I liked to the one we have, but they also have metal options. I since recommended them to multiple friends who love them just as much. Btw, I have no reason to gush about it all, except for I get passionate about things and I truly believe in them. I don’t get paid to do this. I didn’t even receive a free gate to do a “review” hahahaha

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It’s sturdy, it’s well made, the quality is great, the look is classy, it opens right, it closes right, it installs easy. And the kicker? It turns into a play yard AND you can add another gate to make it wider or to make a SUPER play yard for babies who don’t like being restricted. It’s a win-win, a multipurpose gate!

I have other gates and some really suck! So buying the right gate IS important.

Other

Aside from having to block off the exit, the room was pretty safe . Of course, we’ve got our standard protective outlets. The windows can’t be opened by a child due to the locking mechanism. No window coverings (yet). No lights (we use my softboxes that we placed in the dining room (temporary redneck photographer solution) for the moment.

MONITOR

Samsung Smart Cam Wi-Fi Monitor

After trying to figure out the logistics of getting things done while watching Lexi during the increasingly busy for me time, I realized that with our house having a large living area, we needed another camera for the playroom. It kept happening: I would run into the kitchen to grab this or that, clean up, put things away while Lexi played in her playroom. However, I had to rush back in, not knowing what she was up to and where she was climbing or what she was doing, only to find her contently playing most of the time. However, with an active baby you can’t rely on “most of the time”.

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Numerous times did I wish we’d buy another monitor, but never found the time to sit down and look one up. I even looked into buying a second camera for our current Peek Plus monitor, but no luck- they don’t have that option. I specifically needed something that would transmit over Wi-fi, because traditional monitors kick off our wireless offline (we struggled with that for so long).

Coincidentally, I was offered to try out the new Samsung SmartCam wi-fi monitor. I checked out the specs and it seemed to have fit what we needed, so I went for it. Looking on Amazon, I am actually surprised with some of  the reviews they have posted there (makes me wonder if they are real).

The way the monitor works is after being hooked up to your router, it wirelessly transmits a video signal to the app on your cell phone. One of the big bonuses, especially for people who are short on time or tech-challenged is that the set up is very easy and involves plugging the unit into the router and using a computer  to enter a few passwords and sync.

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The monitor itself is pretty sleek with a camera that can be adjusted to virtually ANY angle in addition to being an absolute breeze to mount on the wall. What I appreciated is that the angle of the camera is wide enough that we were able to get the whole playroom and a bit of the hallway in, just by mounting it onto the opposite wall.

Now I have a clear view of the playroom and I don’t have to lug another device with me every time I step out of the playroom, but instead just have the camera on my iPhone which I have on me at all times.

There is a tiny delay as on all WI-FI only devices and the video is as clear as other monitors I have tried (Summer Infant, Angelcare), so I am very happy. You can buy one on trusty Amazon for $149

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Some of the features of it that are worth mentioning:

  • easy install and set up
  • viewable on most devices (PC, Mac, iPhone, Galaxy S, S2)
  • wide angle lens
  • adjustable camera
  • night vision and IR flash
  • two way audio
  • real time event alarm ( detects motion and sound)
  • records and uploads video to Youtube or images to Picasa

Things to keep in mind:

This is the room where you WILL leave your baby unattended in. Even for a few minutes, but it’s going to happen.

  • So… check every nook and cranny of the playroom for hazards and pad the walls. hahaha… Just kidding.
  • Make sure that light cords are wired into the wall. That is one of the biggest reason we haven’t installed sconces yet, is because I just can’t have cord hanging down and hard wiring them takes time ( which we don’t have).
  • Consider investing in another baby monitor. I spent months without one and now that I have a monitor in the playroom and can go cook or clean really quick and see what my climber is up to. That is just priceless.
  • Re-think blinds and curtains until your baby is older. Nothing wrong with open windows. Light is healing, darkness is depressing.
  • Buy good quality gates, like these that are expandable and will serve double duty.

SEATING & FURNITURE

Eventually I want a gorgeous set of bookcases that fits perfectly onto the front wall.

But for now, we’ll pass.

Yes, it looks gorgeous, but… it’s a huge safety hazard unless you bolt it to the wall and since most bookcases are modular, that means bolting every single piece to the wall.

Most shelving units are made of materials that, like carpets, off gas for years. Obviously, you can’t get away from that, but you can limit it where possible.

And then there is the whole “we blew our playroom budget on a non-toxic rug” issue.

If any of you have already done your research and know of green guard certified or non-toxic wood furniture, please let me know.

Seating:

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We have quite a few seating areas in the room. In fact almost every corner has something, however the only thing that is safe and was bought with the playroom in mind is the bean bag from RH Baby. She LOVES that bean bag! She doesn’t spend long periods of time on it, but feels very possessive about it. If one of us dares to sit down on it, she runs up to us and pushes the intruder off her bean bag. It’s the bean bag in the walking video where she keeps crashing into it every few minutes. :) The only thing that still bugs me about it is that it’s made of (gasp!) acrylic fiber. I didn’t think of it at the time and once it was bought and washed multiple times, I couldn’t return it. The only consolation is that she truly doesn’t sit much on it, but I definitely would not recommend the bean bag due to its material. (I think I might have to sell it because of this, which is too bad because it looks gorgeous!)

Still needed: Toy box, wall art, tee-pee, lighting, low shelves/bookcases

Anyone has any ideas on super cool looking toyboxes?

NEXT: I will be creating and writing about areas within the playroom that foster creativity, reading, free play, play furniture etc.
AFTER THAT: design, such as wall art, decorations.

Don’t forget to enter all the awesome giveaways that my new website Daily Mom is running as a part of 50 Days of Giveaways.

CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

$125 Fertility Set Giveaway on DailyMom.com 50dofg-evenflo

There is a lot more coming up! Make sure to check Daily Mom “daily”!

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Comments (44)

  • kat

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    Ok i LOOOVE rugsusa as you probably know since we ordered P’s rug from there as well on a 50% off sale and free shipping. but enough about them (omg i love them lol) – for the playroom we actually ended up going for these:
    http://www.onestepahead.com/product/Interlocking-Foam-Puzzle-Play-Mats/_/R-6683?cm_Source=hpProduct_12663E

    They offer non bright colors too but these are extra thick. For us since the playroom is in the basement, ease of putting them away (takes NO time), ease of movement (we’ve brought them places, set them up for a birthday party location, moved them temporarily to the kitchen, etc), and eassssy clean up (hello wet cloth to wipe and disinfect) was totally worth it. We got 3-4 packs of them and although they’re a bit pricey we’ve never regretted it.

    Reply

  • Alyssa

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    I think you mean sconces, you eat scones :)

    Reply

  • Me

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    Have you mentioned to Lexi’s doctor that she love to eat hair? it can actually be a sign of PICA.
    Pica has several causes, including but not limited to vitamin deficiency, obsessive compulsive disorder, or developmental problems.. So it is definitely something you would want to check with your doctor regarding.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      It doesn’t appear excessive any more. She loved putting hair into her mouth ( not actually eating it) for a while there but the way it looks is that she likes the feel of it. But she also did it with everything else, not just hair. Any small item would go into her mouth, or anything stuck to her hand. She doesn’t do it much anymore. Just once in a while she’ll grab her teddy bear’s hair with her teeth. She never actually ATE the hair, just pulled it (except for the rug fibers that she picked off the rug as a small item and put it in her mouth).
      We did have her iron levels checked at 9 months ( around the time of the rug issue) and it was fine.

      I will ask my pedi about it, though. And will pay special attention to see if she still does it. I’m pretty sure she stopped/slowed down. She also doesn’t take everything into her mouth anymore.

      Thanks for the concern and tips, guys!

      Reply

      • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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        Ah! You all freaked me out, but “For these actions to be considered pica, they must persist for more than one month at an age where eating such objects is considered developmentally inappropriate”
        Whew! It’s definitely developmentally appropriate for a baby to put everything in her mouth. (i think with hair it’s more of a feel thing for her, judging by her gestures). I will still ask our doctor, just in case.

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      • Nat

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        I posted below, but since you responded up here, lol!

        The reason I said she might have pica is because you said she was eating it and you found it in her diaper. Now you are saying she didn’t eat it? I guess that’s less concerning…though it does seem confusing. How did you find it in her poop if she didn’t eat it?

        Reply

        • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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          There are two things:
          1. She used to “eat” ( as in mouth) pretty much anything in sight which would include hair. She didn’t actually swallow hair.
          2. When it’s a very small item, she used to pick up and put it in her mouth ( she no longer does that) and since it’s small I’d assume that unless we caught her she actually had swallowed it. That was the issue the carpet fibers. Just like any tiny thing she’d swallow it (and that’s how it ended up in her poop).

          After analyzing the situation, she definitely doesn’t put things in her mouth because she wants to eat them, she doesn’t INTEND on eating them, it’s very clear…. I am not concerned with this one, since she doesn’t do it anymore and when she did, it didn’t not present itself as an eating behavior but more as a mouthing behavior.

          I will bring it up at our next pedi visit just to be sure though. I know what she’s going to say “She no longer does it? Then nothing to worry about!”

          Reply

          • Nat

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            Ah ok. I guess I was just confused, cause you were pretty clear in your post above that she was actually wanting to eat it – looking to eat the hair off your brush, pulling hair off her stuffed animal to eat, eating the loose rug fibers, etc. :) I see now you’re saying it was just her wanting to mouth all the hairs. I would still ask her ped about it, it doesn’t seem really normal to me for a kid to want to put hair in her mouth to that degree. Especially if she’s an otherwise bright toddler who can understand that we don’t eat that stuff! :)

            Reply

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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            Yeah, when I was saying eat I meant put it in her mouth ( I can’t imagine her actually wanting to eat it), just like when I say read, i do’t mean she’s actually reading a book, or talk when she was younger meant she babbled. That kind of thing.

            Actually, it is completely normal for a toddler to mouth things till they are 3 and especially when they are told not to do it, as you might have witness when you’ve seen a toddler with a sly smile do exactly the opposite of what they are told. :) lol

            Reply

          • Mrs.F

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            In regards to your conversation with NAT up there: You are one patient mama. It’s ridiculous how people can turn an informative and very entertaining blog into some pitiful lesson in child rearing. You know your child best and you are clearly doing a marvelous job. I despise people who think they are so well informed and must question and challenge each word uttered/written by another person. It’s a little (okay, a lot) pathetic.
            Your blog is incredible – bless you and your family..!
            Love from Boston!

            Reply

  • Tawny

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    I’m not saying you should be concerned but have you had her checked for PICA? Obviously I don’t know Lexi personally, but eating hair is a sign.

    We have hardwood floors and they’re SO cold. I definitely want to look into that soft rug. I hate not being able to comfortably lay on the floor and exercise or play with the kids for long periods of time on the floor because it’s hard/cold.

    Reply

  • Tammy

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    Please have her iron levels checked. She is around the age when all her iron stores from gestation are running out and need to be replaced with food sources. It is really not uncommon for babies of her age to have low iron levels because a lot of kiddos don’t care for iron rich foods. Eating and fixating on eating hair can be sign of Pica, which is a sign of low iron levels. It isn’t a big deal! They just have to take the tiniest droplet of blood, but having low iron could mean really bad things for her development. She’s way too cute for anything like that! Hoping all is well!

    Reply

  • Christina

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    Have you talked to her doctor about the hair-eating behavior? It is a sign of PICA which can be pretty dangerous if not treated right away. The playroom looks great!

    Reply

  • Nat

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    I like that rug. It looks like you have a good start of a playroom. You might want to get some books on how to set up a room for children in the Montessori style. It’s an extremely child/toddler-friendly way to organize everything. Everything is displayed in a simple and accessible manner for the child, with low shelves, small tables and chairs, low bookshelves, color-organized art supplies, etc. If you google Montessori playrooms, you can see a lot of examples. Here is a great example… you can see the lack of clutter, as well as the accessibility for the child. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/a-montessori-playroom-for-three-my-playroom-_1-170822

    Also, I do not think it’s very common for a child to want to eat hair and fiber to such a degree. I would discuss that with her doctor, that sounds a bit extreme, if she actually wants to eat the contents of your hairbrush. Have you had her iron checked recently?

    Reply

  • Lulu

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    Isn’t the purpose of a babyproof playroom that it’s, I don’t know, baby-proof? Why a monitor?

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I don’t believe that things can be 100% baby proof. You never know what they might find or hurt themselves on. I’d rather have the security when I leave her alone. Plus it will double as a babysitter cam when we are gone once she’s older.

      Reply

  • Christina

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    Just keep an eye on it :) my oldest has a sensory disorder and she started out like that…wanting to feel/touch certain textures/objects.

    Reply

  • Julia

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    I wanted to suggest the Montessori approach to playrooms also but I see that someone already did above. Though Montessori actually discourages using toyboxes because it fosters disrespect for the child’s belongings (as the toys just get tossed in carelessly, and the ones on the bottom probably get forgotten about). The above poster pretty much covered a Montessori playroom. It’s neat because the child can be completely independent in his room and won’t need you to come do things that he can do himself. I’m excited to see what you come up with as Alexis grows! My daughter is the same age (January 27 birthday) so it’s neat for me to see how other moms are doing things :)

    Reply

  • DM

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    I just wanted to thank you for the hours of research you put into these products and then share your results with us. It saves me so much time and energy and love 99% of your choices. Again thanks.

    Reply

  • Krista

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    PICA? Really people? I’m very sure it’s common for babies to put EVERYTHING in their mouths. It’s not like Lexi was seeking out the rug to eat it. Elena has said in several other posts that Lexi is a kid who puts everything in her mouth. It’s an extension of that. Some kids put lots of stuff in their mouths, others don’t. Both are normal.

    Reply

    • Me

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      Yes Krista PiCA. Have you read anything about it? If Lexi is eating hair to the point where it is in her fece and is trying to eat the contents of her moms hairbrush it definitely isn’t just “putting everything in her mouth” it is not common for babies to want to eat hair to that extent. No one is diagnosing her everyone is just saying get her checked out. Could be nothing could be Pica it is much better to err on the side of caution when dealing with a child.

      Reply

      • Tammy

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        ME hit all of my points, but it’s especially critical when you are dealing with a child that cannot yet properly communicate pain levels or other symptoms. Always better to ask!

        Reply

  • Rebecca

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    I love your rug! Have you written any posts on how to keep them clean? I don’t have kids yet but I do have a dog and I’m worried about stains from the various lovely upset stomachs…one reason I haven’t replaced our old carpets. The other reason was that I’d rather have old carpets than offgassing new ones since I’m sensitive to that chemical new smell. Thank you for the link to that hay smelling rug!!! Anyway, I know that kids puke too and have diaper blow outs so I’m sure you have some advice on how to combat stains on a new light colored carpet, which I’d love to hear!

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      I’ve only had that the rug for a few months and have been doing normal maintenance to it, like vaccumming. Whenever there was a spill or cats would vomit on it, i’d just use soap and water and it’d come right out. I also have a smaller rug to finish up the room and I had used a commercial laundromat to wash it and it came out incredibly fluffy (not sure if i was supposed to do that). There are plenty of natural solutions for carpet treatment including commercial steam cleaning. For this specific rug, there are instructions on their website: http://www.anjimountain.com/education-center/care-cleaning/

      Reply

  • Melanie

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    In regards to all this talk about Pica – I rather ask the ped one question too many then not enough. rather go for an extra visit about this and hear everything is okay then taking the chance of missing out on something important.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Oh wow this is awesome! thank you so much for the link! I love your sensory boards an the hoops and HABA pirate ships (i’ve been looking at it), and your playroom is to die for! I wish we had that much space!

      Reply

      • A Citro

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        Oh, buy the HABA ship. I hemmed and hawed because it was so much (we ended up doing it as one gift for both kids from a grandparent), but like all HABA things, it is so thoughtfully made and amazing that it’s worth every penny ultimately. It will live a long and happy life in our playroom! And yes, it is soooo nice to have space! We are very lucky! :)

        Reply

    • Nat

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      That is a very impressive playroom! I love how well you utilitzed the vertical space. I agree with your mom about what not to do – piling things up around the perimeter of a room is so limiting! You really thought outside the box and it shows. Well done. Love the HABA ship, and the shelves where everything is displayed so neatly so kids can access it easily. They must love it.

      Reply

  • Michelle

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    I recently striped and stained my childhood toy chest for my daughter. Worked out very well. Saved us a lot of money. I left it outside to rid of the fumes for several days. I have pictures of the before and after too. It’s neat

    Reply

  • Sara

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    Yaye! Thanks for starting this guide!

    Reply

  • Sara

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    Elena, did you ever finish the playroom/ do a reveal? I’d love to see the finished product!

    Reply

  • Chris

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    Oh my, this is exactly what I need to remodel my kids’ playroom! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Reply

  • AnyaK

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    I wanted to ask you – how do you like the rug now that you’ve had it for a while? (I’m talking about the Anji Mountain shag rug)
    How did it hold up during the time you’ve had it? Is it hard to maintain? How do you clean it? I love how the white rug looks, and how it brightens up a room, but I can just see it covered in food spills and whatnot during the toddler years…
    Thanks! I appreciate your time to write your opinions!

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      It is holding up pretty well. It’s still white and looks great. The only issue is my cats LOVE to vomit on it. lol
      Toddler spills haven’t been an issue at all. We clean with baking soda, alcohol, soap and everything comes out pretty decently. It was an expensive purchase, but we are very happy with it.

      Reply

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