Children adore small spaces. You can provide them a playroom packed with their favorite toys, but sooner or later, you'll find them reading a book while sitting in a laundry basket. Take this love of small spaces and use it to your advantage by turning that unused upstairs foyer between the kids' bedrooms into another kid-only zone where they can work, play, create or simply relax -- just make sure to hide the laundry basket.
When a child needs a quiet place in which to retreat by herself, suggest the upstairs foyer. Provide a toy chest, painted a soothing shade of light blue or soft light gray, in which she can store her books and stuffed animals. Let her relax comfortably with an oversized pillow and a matching floor cushion or fluffy blanket. Floor cushions need not be expensive. A dog pillow with a decorative cover geared to humans and not dog -- think an abstract Ikat pattern and not bones -- can be used and no one will even know the difference. The foyer can also be used as the designated time-out spot for the second floor -- but make sure that all of the foyer toys can be locked in the toy chest so she won't be distracted during her mandatory meditation time.
Designate the foyer as the child-friendly computer workspace where he can work and you can monitor him, from a safe distance, when he's online. Once you determine that you have or need the proper electrical and network cables for the computer, provide a desk, comfortable chair and task lighting. Ensure a distraction-free workspace by outfitting any windows with light-blocking curtains. The space need not look like it was designed by a prison warden, however. Paint, or purchase, a desk in a youth-friendly color such as apple green or aubergine and find a lamp in a complementary shade. Use curtains with either a chic chevron pattern or a seemingly hand-drawn circle pattern.
Add life to an otherwise dull space with children's toys by creating a separate play space, appropriate for when the troops get restless, suitable for one or two children. Use similar toys, such as train sets or doll houses and their related paraphernalia, to create a themed foyer. Exploit the children's creative pursuits and create a nook suited just for these activities. The spot can function as the mandatory music practice space, complete with comfortable seating and theme wall art, or as a dress-up spot befitting a cowboy, space ranger or some odd combination of both. A mirror, secured to the wall, a colorful bin of costumes, and a series of quirky hooks would complete the dress-up area.
Arts and Crafts Space
Declare the foyer as the go-to space to get crafty. Outfit a wide space with a small round table or outfit a long, narrow space with a table top that has been cut to size. Make sure that children can sit and stand comfortably at either table. Stock whatever storage space you have with clear plastic bins complete with handles for the preschool set and metal baskets for the older children. Use empty paint cans, available at most hardware stores, to store crayons, colored pencils and felt tip markers, while soup cans that have been washed thoroughly and stripped of their labels can hold scissors, paintbrushes and glue bottles. Allow the kids to create the labels for the baskets and to decorate the paint and soup cans.