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Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist and founder of She is the author of  "Common Sense Organizing" from Champion Press.

Organizing Daycare Center

Question: I'm starting a daycare in my home. The room I'm going to use is in the center of our home. How do I create a safe playroom for toddlers without creating problems for my husband and three kids?

Answer: Congratulations on the launch of your new home business! I think you can easily set up a safe environment for toddlers that is creative and yet preserves the integrity and personality of your home.

First, sketch out a blueprint of the room -- just take pencil and paper and draw the room's basic shape. Ideally you should plan this out using a grid to scale, but I realize that's a bit time-consuming, so if you want to just have a rough draft, that's fine, too. This helps you look at the room from a fresh perspective: where are the windows? doorways? how much wallspace do you have for storage? how does the traffic flow through the room, and how can you set up play centers around that flow?

Now that you've looked at the skeleton of the room, let's walk a mile in your little client's shoes. Walk around on your knees, putting yourself at their level, to see what things come into focus. It's a whole different world down there, isn't it! Are there dangling blind cords just begging to be pulled? Fragile wallpaper border waiting to be pulled off? Lots of doorways to be exited? Consider the children's safety and fragility of your own personal possessions as you explore the room through their eyes (and hands). Gate doorways, plug electrical outlets, tie up blind cords or remove blinds altogether. Remove breakables and replace with child-friendly items with soft edges and corners.

Consider the mood of the room next. What color are the walls? Is there room for a work table, cozy reading chair, and bookcase? Will there be ample floor space for blocks, puzzles, and other manipulatives? Children do love bright colors, but there are certain colors which evoke peace and calm (blues and greens), while others stimulate and excite (yellows). Look up on the ceiling and around the room: is there adequate task lighting? Can you install a dimmer switch for those afternoon naps? Should you repaint the walls in a nice color that will still blend with the rest of your home?

Lastly, try to make this playroom as inclusive as possible. Make it a dedicated playroom, pulling out personal items and replacing them with games, toys, puzzles, pillows, dress up clothes, stuffed animals, and books. Create little centers to stimulate creative play, using corners and sides of cabinets. Store items in stacking bins, hanging baskets, and other vertical spaces to utilize "dead space" in the room.

Once you've planned how to best use your room, set it up for active learning, ensured safety, and created a cozy mood, bring on the toys! Let your inner child go free and remember that this will be a work in progress. Keep an eye out for great ideas to add or take away to make sure your little learners thrive during their time with you.

Good luck,
Debbie Williams

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