Kelsey: Your blog, The Polished Playhouse has so many beautiful recommendations for parents about ways to encourage learning from home (regardless of whether a child is at home full-time or in school) and how to organize those learning spaces. Could you tell us a little bit about the different child-focused spaces in your house and what inspired you to start, The Polished Playhouse?
Nicole: I was as a preschool teacher for five years and love early childhood education. When I had my own son we started doing different early learning activities at home and I would share them with family and friends. They encouraged me to share my ideas publicly.
When J was born we lived in Washington, DC in a 1200 sq. ft. rowhouse. Having a small space inspired me to think of creative ways to incorporate all of his toys into our space. In our old home we had a small basement playroom with an IKEA cube shelf for toy storage, a couch, a DIY sensory table, and a chalkboard wall. In February we moved to Maryland and have a lot more space but are still incorporating many of the small space principles we used in the city. Our current home was a short-sale and needed a lot of cosmetic work. We have space for a large playroom in our new basement but want to make some updates first. In the interim, we moved all of J’s toys into his walk-in closet. An IG friend nicknamed it his “office.”
In the kitchen we organized his dishes in a low drawer and he has a learning tower that we made using an IKEA stool. He can use the tower to help with dishes or meal prep.
We don’t store a lot of toys in his room (outside of the closet) but in his room he has a low book bin and toddler friendly wardrobe. He is able to pick out his own clothes and is learning how to hang and fold them himself.
Kelsey: Reading aloud can create such a loving bond between a child and parent, do you have a special reading routine with your son (or a particular place in the house where you like to read?)
Nicole: We read every night before bed on a bench in his room. He gets to select the book he wants to read and if he asks (which he usually does) we read additional books. Every night after we read, he marches his book back to the bin counting to 20. It’s how he learned to count!
Kelsey: What are some of your son's favorite board books (either currently or when he was younger?)
Whose Toes are Those?
Please, Puppy, Please
Please, Baby, Please
I Am So Brave
Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Montessori Letter Work
Kelsey: At a conference I attended back in 2016, hosted by the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators, many participants were concerned that there aren't enough picture books on the market that represent racial and ethnic diversity. Could you tell us about some of your favorite board books (or picture books) that portray racial, and/or ethnic diversity?
Nicole: We love all of the books in the Lola series and both Please, Puppy, Please and Please, Baby, Please. So many authors are becoming more intentional about including diverse characters in their stories and it has been great to see.
Kelsey: I always love seeing posts on Instagram or Pinterest that bring books to life through play or art projects. For example, when my son was two and a half he was extremely into any book with trucks, diggers, road rollers, etc.. At his toddler program, the teacher used to set up projects for him so that he could act out the stories he had been reading and to add a new component to his interests. Are there any particular children's books you've used as inspiration for projects at your house?
Nicole: When we read the book The Beautiful Oops we used different scraps of paper, cardboard, and paint to recreate some of the artwork in the book. We recently read the book Not A Box and it helped to teach J about recycling and repurposing cardboard boxes. We save them now and he pretends to make them into different things.
For Black History Month we read the book The Colors of Us that celebrates different skin tones. Afterwards we used face cutouts in different shades to create self-portraits.
Kelsey: Thank you, Nicole for sharing your lovely recommendations with us!