Q: I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. My partner and I are running out of ways to keep our two young children occupied indoors this winter without driving us or the neighbors nuts. Normally we’d take them to indoor play spaces, visit with friends or family or enroll them in gymnastics or dance classes. But we can’t safely do any of that. Any thoughts on how we can make a small space work for rambunctious children?

A: To make it through these next few months, you may need to make your apartment feel new again. For that, you’ll need inspiration.

Karri Bowen-Poole, the founder of Smart Playrooms, a company in Rye, N.Y., that designs play spaces, suggests you start by decluttering and reorganizing the stuff you already have. (I know, who wants to clean? But it helps.)

“When the environment is chaotic, they kind of misbehave because there is nothing to do,” Ms. Bowen-Poole said. Tidy up the space, and organize the toys, board games and art materials so they feel inviting and new, and the children can focus longer.


You could rearrange the furniture — it’ll make the space feel fresh and could open up an area on the floor for the children to spread out. Dedicate a shelf or bin for art supplies, board games and puzzles, making sure the items are easily accessible to the children. Cycle through the toys, tucking away some items. When they come back out, they will (hopefully) feel like long lost treasure.

Create a calming corner near a bookshelf, with blankets, pillows and cushions. “Kids gravitate toward things that are soft. They can jump into the beanbag, that calms them,” said Ms. Bowen-Poole, who also recommends sheepskin rugs for their plush, cozy feel.

Your children also need to move, and when you can’t get them outside to a playground, they’re going to look at your living room floor as the next best thing. So create a soundproof (and safe) way for them to get that energy out. You could buy a foam or inflatable mat for tumbling, something you can fold up and put away when you’re done with it. Hang a swing from a beam in the ceiling, if your lease allows it.

“It’s redirecting the energy and understanding that all kids and all adults need physical activity,” Ms. Bowen-Poole said. “Which is why there is recess.” So until recess resumes, we’re going to have to get a little creative.

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