When the year began, the last thing on our mind was transforming our 1970's drab basement into a modern and fabulous home school remote learning setup and play space for our child. Having a 5 year old starting Kindergarten from home was not what we had envisioned. Of course, we all know the pandemic began, and with it the creation of virtual learning, remote learning, hybrid learning, homeschooling, pods, and everything else you can think of. For us, the option of sending our daughter to school literally changed by the minute, as school districts went back and forth as to what to do.
Needless to say, we are doing remote learning indefinitely at home, as our district figures out when it's safe to return to school. Now, that meant that I had to figure out a proper setup for my daughter as her little corner in my home office was simply not going to work.
Here comes the basement.
When we bought our house last year (check out What every Latina Needs to Know To Buy a Home ) the basement seemed to be a part of "That 70's Show," with orange and brown shag carpeting, 80's ceiling tiles, and wood paneling that went on for days. While we wanted to remodel the basement (and still do), we knew that it was a big-budget project and for the time being we had to keep the cost low.
We immediately got rid of the shag carpeting and ceiling tiles. I put my goggles on and started hammering away with a little guidance from my papi, of course.
We knew that we wanted our daughter to have a play space there, so for her birthday in March, we surprised her with a few pieces to get her space started. This was the Before Remote Learning at Home.
While it was ok as a play area, I knew that the setup was not going to work for distance learning as the space needed to be inviting, bright, and exciting. This is our After Remote Learning at Home Setup.
Crazy, right? To be honest it has become MY favorite space in the whole house. It brings a smile to my face knowing that this once drab space is a space that she simply loves being in. Now, let's see how I transformed this space but more importantly how you can get ideas to transform yours!
Tips on How to Transform a Drab Basement into a Fabulous Child's Playroom or Home Learning Center
1. Use Paint to transform any space.
The easiest thing that you can do to transform any space is to paint. I knew I wanted to keep it simple and bright so I went with white. It would save as a backdrop to my daughter's books, toys, art which brought the color. I applied 1 layer of primer and 2 layers of Top Coat with a rolling brush. I made sure sure to ventilate the room properly. Painting took 2 days while I waited the layers to dry and then ventilation took another 4 days.
2. Use a fitness mat to cover your floor.
Our basement floors were unfinished concrete but painting the floors felt like a big project. I went to Walmart and came across these oversized exercise mats (available in store only). They worked out amazing! However, when I went to purchase more to finish the other side of the basement they were sold out. I found these similar ones on Amazon that you can use as well.
I opted to not do the puzzle mats because honestly, I just wanted something quick, but the puzzle tiles are a great way to add color to any space.
3. Get creative covering exposed walls and spaces in the basement.
Our basement has random exposed walls and spaces that contain, well, some of the home's working parts, lol. I hated looking at the breaker box and so on, so I simply covered them with a curtain. It's still easy to access but provides a more aesthetically pleasing look. I chose a white curtain so that it would create a continuous wall and not necessarily a focal point.
4. Use practical and multi-functional furniture for your child's play room or home classroom.
I love buying practical furniture that can grow with my child and save me money. Here are some things to note:
A. You'll need plenty of storage space for your child's play room or classroom.
The best piece in the remote home learning setup is the IKEA Kallax Shelving Unit with Drawers
The drawers are great for storing toys like Mr Potato Head or one of my daughter's favorites the Tegu Magnetic Wooden Block Set. You can also pick some colorful baskets or bins from the dollar store like I did for storage. If price is of concern, no worries, you can opt for an open cube organizer like these and buy some cute storage bins to keep everything organized. Create a system that works for you and your family's budget.
B. You'll need a desk and table for your child's home classroom.
Children will need a space for their computer and a space to craft, paint, or glue and hopefully it's not your kitchen or dining room table. I find that when you designate certain areas or spots it helps keep children focused. So the desk is for for more focused learning while the table serves as more of a creative or play space.
I found this Adjustable height IKEA table that is perfect for crafting, puzzles, or any large school projects.
As far as desk was concerned, my daughter was lucky that our neighbor gifted us her daughter's desk. I honestly have no idea where she got it from, but there are simple desks that you can look into.
C. Don't forget to make your child's space functional and organized.
While we love spaces that look great, we have to make sure we don't forget to make them functional. As Counselor Vanessa De Jesus mentioned on Episode 17(5 Back to School Tips to Help you During This Covid-19 Era) of The Latina Mom Legacy Podcast, "make sure that we're organized in our space...whether it's our kids with school work or us with work work...have an established space of this is our work space and that is so important."
So make their "work space" functional by having everything they need for school at their fingertips. As Counselor Vanessa mentions in the episode, keep the distractions to a minimum and don't give them a reason to stand up unless it's for actual stretching, exercise, or breaks. We used plastic bin drawers to house her pencils, scissors, chargers, markers, crayons, glue, and even paper.
5. Make it happy, fun, and don't be afraid to use color.
This is your child's space. Whether it's a corner in your home or a full room, making the space cheery will help them look forward to "going to school."
I know my daughter's favorite color is "rainbow" so I made sure to bring the pops of color throughout including with her rug (no longer available from Wayfair), a reclining chair, and artwork. We loved the "Keep it sharp & But First Tacos" signs that we picked up at the dollar store. We purchased the recliner chair so that at the end of the day she could relax and perhaps pick up a book. The pop of color just made it fun.
6. Make it personal for your child.
I wanted Victoria's learning space to feel personal to her and that provided comfort. She picked out all of the art and accessories that we used to decorate, all that spoke to her.
From the fringed decorations, to the animal print artwork, to the "Sparkle and Shine" artwork we picked up at Hobby Lobby, I gave her a hands on approach to her new learning space.
Finally, we brought pieces that had special meaning, for example, her soccer ball accessory on her desk reflects her love of soccer and the large political map puzzle not only proves to be a functional learning tool, but will also remind her of the many puzzles we completed as a family during the summer of quarantine. I simply found a large box, glued to puzzle down to one of the sides, let it dry, cut it with a knife and put it up with thin plywood nails.
As you can see, we transformed this old and drab basement into a modern and fabulous play and learning space, and you can too. This also didn't happen overnight! Invest in the pieces that will get the most use. Pick a weekend to paint, maybe another to pick out new furniture pieces, or accessories. Having the kids help pick out paint colors, accessories, or furniture pieces will get them excited about their new space. While it doesn't replace the traditional classroom, it most certainly creates an invitation to learning and play! Isn't that what we want? ¿Si o no?
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