The past several months have caused many of us to take a long, critical look around our homes, and in some cases, we’ve found our living space wanting. To be fair, most of us didn’t move into these spaces expecting them to serve as our home, office and school, but here we are. We’ve had to get creative by turning dining rooms into virtual classrooms and guest bedrooms into home offices. But if you have little kids and your cars are still parked in the garage, they may be missing out on a prime playroom opportunity.
If you already have a dedicated playroom or a finished basement that you’ve turned into a childhood wonderland or a backyard full of jungle gyms and tree houses and trampolines, then fine; keep the cars where they are. If you don’t, follow me:
Start by cleaning and decluttering
You’re obviously going to need to remove at least one and probably both vehicles (if you have a two-car garage). You can park them on the driveway or the street. My car, my husband’s car and my neighbours’ cars have been parked on the street as long as I’ve lived on my garage-free street (seven years). It’s fine, honestly.
Next, you’ve got a lot of crap in your garage. Now is the time to go through it all — think of it is a great opportunity to declutter! Think how refreshed you’ll feel when you’ve gotten rid of all those old Amazon boxes and rusty tools and … ok, I don’t know what people keep in garages, but there’s junk in there, I’m sure of it.
Throw away or donate what you don’t want. Push everything else (that isn’t dangerous for kids) off to the side. Store anything potentially dangerous either up high in cabinets or on shelves and out of reach, or move it to an attic or basement.
Next you’ll want clean it up as best as one can clean up a garage. Sweep or hose down the floors and dust out any spiderwebs in the corners. Do the best you can while also accepting that a fairly clean garage is still a garage; the kids will probably get dirty while they’re playing in there, but at least they’ll be occupied.
Add the fun stuff
What should you put inside the garage? Anything goes! Especially if it’s big, clunky, noisy or messy: a bounce house, mini-trampoline, a small slide, push toys or riding toys for little kids. You could even make the whole garage into one big obstacle course. This is their energy-busting space, so whatever toys seem too dangerous, crazy or messy for the house now belong in the garage.
You’ll also want to consider throwing down a mat or two, such as a yoga mat or some of those foam interlocking mats, in high traffic areas for protection from the concrete floor. One parent in our Offspring Facebook Group happened to be getting rid of an old mattress at the same time she was converting her garage into a playroom, so her kids finally have a bed they are allowed to jump on.
Set up a space for you, too
Given that this is going to be their super-active, go-to-the-garage-if-you’re-going-to-act-like-an-animal space, you’ll need to supervise them. But you won’t want to just stand around watching them all the time, so set up a chair for yourself. Something as basic as a folding lawn chair will do; but if you’ve got something more comfortable inside that you can temporarily move out there during the pandemic, all the better.
If you work from home, you may even want to set up a small workspace that you can relocate to for an hour here or there throughout the day so you can (attempt to) work while you supervise their play. You don’t need to make it a whole separate office — if it were me, I’d spring for a folding chair and a $10 TV dinner tray and call it a day.
Hot weather people, I see you out there. I lived in Phoenix for almost a decade; I know the last place you want to be right now is a hot garage. That just means you have extra time to think ahead and set up your Garage Play Wonderland so it’s ready to go when the temperatures break in the late spring.