In a world of Pinterest inspiration and DIY video tutorials, there's no reason your kids' playroom can't work just as much magic for you as it does for your kids' imaginations.
Here, three parents (and grandparents) pull off DIY playroom projects that the kids love — almost as much as they do.
A Playhouse and Swing
Los Angeles mother Ana Kha wanted a place for her 3-year-old son, Julien, to play while she worked.
Considering her profession — Kha paints children's artwork — it made sense to turn a room near her studio into both a playroom and gallery, where she could let her son loose during the day and display her newest work to curious customers.
The result? Kha can get more work done in her studio, plus she has a fantastical gallery full of ever-changing, homemade accents to impress her customers and delight Julien for hours on end.
The set-up includes a birch ladder constructed from sticks Kha purchased, an asymmetrical painted wooden house, and — at the center of it all — a working swing.
Built from rope and simple, blonde wood, the handmade creation transforms Kha's playroom into a childlike paradise.
"I saw a picture of Scandinavian design on Instagram and some lady had a swing in her bedroom," Kha says. "I was like, oh my god, it's so beautiful. I thought it would be cool to have it in my room."
Kha works with a handyman friend to construct her unique creations, with the swing — surprisingly — being one of the easiest to make.
Fitting in with the room's simple, ethereal-rustic theme, the swing was built with plywood, ropes, and hooks carefully installed into the ceiling.
"It's really secure," Kha says. "I can swing on it as well."
How's that for a work break? With everything working parents have to juggle, a playroom that helps mom's productivity and her sales all while keeping her kid occupied is a fantasy come true for the whole family.
A Bunkbed That's a Playroom, Too
Corralling three grandchildren into one space — and keeping them entertained — can be a challenge. Making space for them to sleep in there too?
But Alvin and Kimberly Cobb made room for both sleep and play when they DIYed a hidden retreat for their grandkids, transforming an ordinary bunk bed into a cottage-like escape plucked from a fairytale garden.
The handmade creation features two twin beds and an additional trundle bed underneath, giving each grandchild their own space.
But the bottom bunk isn't just for sleeping: At first glance it appears to be a playhouse, complete with a window and flower box. A cottage façade covers the entire structure, making a private, enclosed space for make believe — the perfect backdrop for playing house or acting out Snow White.
"It gives them a secret area they can play in," Alvin says.
After seeing a similar bed on Pinterest, Kimberly asked Alvin to take over the reins.
"I accepted the challenge," he says. "I had no plans, no blueprints, or anything to go by." So he wasn't surprised when his first attempt hit a few snags. But after a bit of trial and error, the project was a resounding success.
And the biggest win of the project? The Cobbs' house is a grandparent's dream. Not only can all the kids fit for an overnight, but those sleepovers are now true adventures.
A Wall-Sized Chalkboard for Creative Kids
Art-happy kids are notorious mess-makers. Every masterpiece creates another dozen pieces of paper, another paint spill, and another night spent scrubbing the — ahem — excess art off the walls.
Mom and consummate DIYer Ashley Houston solved all of these problems by letting her "crazy active" 2-year-old put his art where it was bound to end up anyway. She made an entire wall dedicated to doodles.
Houston used a bucket of chalkboard paint and wooden beams to create a wall-sized chalkboard, just like in an old schoolhouse.
Compared to sourcing, paying for, and mounting one of the schoolroom versions, the project was a cinch, and the wooden frame allows it to retain that classic chalkboard feel.
Plus, like hiding broccoli in mac and cheese, Houston's homemade chalkboard is secretly educational. It's the ideal spot to practice his ABCs and 1-2-3s, boosting his scholastic achievements without being boring.
And, if her son is eager to create something he can actually hang on the fridge, rolls of paper hang from a dowel rod across the top.
The best part of this art-tastic DIY project is its longevity.
Unlike so many of childhood's fleeting interests, an art space will entertain Houston's 2-year-old until he's ... well, he may still enjoy it as an adult. (We certainly would!)
And yet, "it didn't even take that long to do," Houston says. "It was a fun little project."