Easy steps to keep boredom at bay
If you have children, there is a way to create an organised play area without your tiny Hong Kong flat looking like a messy toy box.
Architect and interior designer Jill Lewis, from JL Architecture, suggests putting toys where children can reach them and less-often used items on higher shelves. 'If drawers and closets are kept sorted, dedicated to specific purposes and designed for easy access, children can learn to help tidy up their own spaces,' she says. 'The ideal solution is to have custom-made cabinets with drawers that are easy for kids to open, and sized to keep toys sorted. Big toy boxes are useless, as a big, messy jumble of toys mean kids can't find anything the next time they play and lose interest in what they already have.
Lewis adds that she uses brightly coloured lacquer trays that can be laid out on top of low bookshelves. On each tray is a collection of objects or a special toy or puzzle. The grouping of the objects or simple framing of the toy on an attractive tray makes the room feel more organised, and the toy more exciting for kids. 'I rotate the objects on these trays as often as I can so things stay fresh and interesting.
'I also set up the house or their room with specific areas dedicated to different types of play. I have one area with a bookshelf and nearby a child-sized chair that is the reading corner.' Another area may have a toy kitchen. 'I may also keep a box of costumes under the bed next to a mirror. Simply organising what they have into dedicated areas keeps boredom at bay. When I see they're beginning to ignore toys that used to be favourites, I move things around and even hide some toys on shelves for a month or so and rotate the new ones,' she says.
When it comes to toys, parents often have big ambitions. For example, a giant piece-puzzle for an 18-month old. That's a big mistake, according to Wise Kids play consultant Bennie Shiu Ka-yin.
'Most parents tend to buy toys that are not so appropriate for their child's development - for instance if their child is two, they will buy something for a five-year old,' Shiu says.
Shiu says if you are setting up a play area for your child at home, it is important that it be a safe environment where they can concentrate on play.
Child-safe mirrors are good, as babies love to look at themselves. They also like colourful, textured cloth and wood toys that are directed towards the senses.
Once your child turns two, he or she will start to enjoy playing with others and use imaginative and symbolic play. This is ideal for a role-playing corner where you can set up things such as a cooking set, telephone, cleaning or ironing set, or even a pretend restaurant, school or post office, Shiu says. 'From about 21/2 years, children will start to imitate others, especially around the house,' she says. The other type of play this age group enjoys is constructing blocks, doll houses, train sets or cars.
From about five years old, children like to sit down and express their creativity, Shiu says, so try introducing art activities or messy play. 'These don't have their own ending and they have their own solution so children love this,' Shiu explains. 'They also love playing with something more challenging.'