The Play Area – Containing the Kiddie Tornado

Anyone who is a parent knows that once you have children… the little people slowly take over the household. So in preparation of my daughter getting mobile, we needed to set up a play area. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of a separate entire playroom, so a designated play area would have to do.

So many to pick from! After hours of research, I went for the one from

This one had the most reviews at the time (211 reviews at 4 1/2 stars). It was also the thickest on the market: 5/8″ thick. The tiles are 12×12…. so I got the 26 letters, 10 numbers and the borders. (Note, I ended up never even using the borders and corners so in my opinion, you can totally do without.) When the mats arrived, I was definitely impressed with the quality of them. They were definitely thick and not cheap feeling. They didn’t feel like plastic either. It was quality foam.

It was interesting because I had a cousin to went and got a similar type of mat at Walmart and she said it wasn’t even a year before it started falling apart and she had wished she went for the one I suggested from the get-go. Sometimes, when I’m at other houses with playmats, I scope them out and I still haven’t found anything that compares to the quality of the One Step Ahead ones.

Update: I’m still in love with these mats. 4 years later, and they have held up really well. I did end up buying another set last year (after 3 years of use – but only because the Red mats started to peel a little. Probably because it was cleaned regularly? And oddly, it was only the red ones.) In any case, since it had already been 3 years, It wasn’t a big deal for me to buy another set of letters and kind of freshen up the play area anyways. I ended up tossing the old red ones and using the remaining of the old set at my mom’s house for when my kids were playing over there.


For the surrounding gate, we went for the NorthStates Metal Superyard. Best price we found was on Amazon.

We had to get two sets in order to make the play area size that we wanted. But it does give access via two doors. There is a plastic version as well from same company, but I wanted something more sturdy. When the kids were younger, I just tied two crib bumpers around the bottom of the play area. Yes, the kids have bumped into the gate before, but never a crazy injury with the fact that it was metal.

TA-DA! Here it is. Our 6x6ft play area. Don’t mind the iMac box along the back. We have a bookshelf there, and wanted to keep the kids from messing with things back there. I do miss seeing my things on the bookshelf, but I’d rather have my kids and all their toys contained.

For the most part, the kid toys have always been housed in the play area and we started them playing in there starting around 6-8 months when they are starting to crawl around. I believe that because they have always had that area and spent time playing in there (both with people and independently), there has no been problem as they got older with them still playing in there. To this day, on the mornings when I am home with them, they are able to play together in there for a good hour while I get some work done on the computer. I expect that since K just turned 2, that this play area will still be around for another 1-2 years before we transition to school-aged study area (which I can’t wait to design the look of – I better start Pinning!)

My nanny and my mom typically tidy up the play area, but of course the tornado hits and its a mess all over the place. However – the good news is that its contained IN THE PLAY AREA. Whew. The mess sometimes overspills outside when they throw things, but we always have clean up time (having the kids toss the toys back into the play area) when they are ready to play outside that area.


 BEFORE (all nice and tidy)                                      AFTER (the kiddie tornado)

The kid “stuff” has definitely expanded into the living room over the past couple years, but the majority of the toys and the designated play area is still as pictured above. I feel that it still keeps the house as manageable as possible considering the circumstances, while most importantly maintaining my sanity.


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