Storage

A final, inevitable aspect of providing for play is storage. As so many mothers say ‘It’s not the space the children take up so much as their belongings.’ The tremendous boom there has been in storage units, fitted units, shelving, space dividers, storage boxes and units of various kinds would indicate that ‘a place for everything’ and how to fit it in is a problem adults have to solve for their own possessions let alone those of their children. There is no point in listing the various types since they are advertised widely in all kinds of magazines and newspapers. They vary from lightweight and inexpensive right through the scale to very heavy, costly pieces; from assemble-it-yourself through delivered complete-and-ready-assembled to the absolute ultimate which can need a skilled carpenter to fit it for you. When buying storage units for children’s use there are some helpful yardsticks to apply. Some toys and equipment, such as bricks and blocks for instance, can be very heavy. It would not be reasonable to expect lightweight storage units to cope with this. Some equipment is large and several big drawers or spaces are needed; other items are very small and a collection of small drawers would be useful for these. Units which are too high pro-vide the temptation to climb up to reach a toy and can be over-loaded at the top so that they either topple over or, if fixed, put too much strain on the wall to which they are screwed. Fixed units are less useful than mobile ones which can be moved out during playing time and then pushed back out of the way when necessary – so a manageable size plus castors on everything is a good idea.

Dual-purpose storage such as boxes which can also be used for sitting and playing on are useful. One literal yardstick is whether these units fit in without shins being knocked or doors opening on to them and removing the paint. This sounds very obvious but it is all too easy to forget with so many points to bear in mind and so much to choose from. It really is worth cutting out a piece of newspaper to represent the size and trying it out before finally committing oneself. Perhaps the first thing of all is to look and see where there is any space which could be used. It is good to see so many designers making use of the space under beds which used to be such a dust-collector and making chests of drawers without a space at the bottom. While some play materials need to be at hand every day, others which are not used so regularly might fit into more remote areas; or perhaps more general household goods and chattels can be stored in a different place to leave more room for the children’s things until they are old enough to play away from the main area. It may be possible to adapt existing cupboards to give more useful space .

One of the spin-off advantages of the new fashion for fitted units as far as the capable do-it-yourself people are concerned has been the tremendous variety and supply of old-fashioned furniture in the junk and second-hand shops. It has been possible to buy very sturdy chests of drawers, old cupboards, chests and wardrobes which can be altered and adapted far more cheaply than buying wood to make something from scratch. Once cleaned and refinished the wood may be better quality than that used for the units one can buy.

Care is obviously needed but anyone who can do this kind of work is usually a reasonable judge of what is worthwhile and what is not and also knows what can be done with a piece of furniture. The following are some of the simpler and usually successful possibilities.