How to create an open-ended, inviting playroom

How do I put together an inviting and beautiful playroom? We see this question asked all the time on social media and so we thought it would be a good idea to ask the creator of one of our favourite playrooms on Instagram for her tips and ideas.

© Tonille Barnhill @the_gorman_lane for Milk Tooth

How to design an open-ended playroom copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Our story

It was always a dream of mine to create a magical play haven for my children but we haven’t always had the space. When my eldest daughter was just a toddler, our first playroom set up was a corner in our dining room. This worked for us at the time but, my goodness, toys scattered all over the place wasn’t ideal, as I’m sure a lot of parents can understand. It’s the season of life we are in, we have young children so of course our homes are going to be filled with toys. I will miss these days because we all know just how fleeting this time is with our little ones.

When we were house-hunting, we lived with my in-laws. It was only supposed to be for 12 months maximum but then the pandemic hit and 12 months turned into two-and-a-half years. In that time, I really thought about how I would like our playspace to be once we were in our own home (it also made me realise just how many clothes we owned - sharing one wardrobe between four people wasn’t an easy feat!)

Our collection of beautiful, sustainable, wooden toys grew and I was able to create a little space at my in-laws. I built our own open shelving and added in a colourful rug. It wasn’t a massive room but it really was a beautiful set up and it gave me an idea of how I would like our playroom to be. It also showed me that you don't in fact need one big designated room to create something magical. I was inspired by so many amazing playroom accounts and I would note down things that I could really see adding to our space.

When we moved into our own home, the first thing I unpacked was the playroom…priorities right? I was excited about having a lot of natural light. We have a big window, which I think is a necessity in any room. There’s nothing better than that afternoon golden hour light seeping through and emphasising all the beautiful tones and colours of our wooden toys.

Golden hour in an open-ended playroom. Copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

I’m going to share some things I’ve added to our space that I love, as well as some must-haves to create a beautiful, inviting playroom for your children.

Playroom storage

Playroom storage is a big one. No matter how big or small your space is, it’s important to try to have a place for everything.

Open shelving

I am a sucker for an open shelf, especially for younger ones. Open shelving is a great way to display each toy, which in turn makes it more inviting for the kids.

Open shelving is great for toy rotations, you can have as little or as much out as you like, whatever suits you and your kiddos. Having the shelving at a child’s level is important; you want things in reach. If your child cannot reach something then they will quickly move on to something else.

Adding baskets to the shelves is a great way to stop it looking overcrowded; you can have a single shelf with toys displayed and then the next with baskets. In ours we keep loose parts, gem and window blocks, play silks, balls, and blocks.

Ikea Trofast

I LOVE our Trofast, It is one of my must-haves! Such a great storage solution. The tubs are so practical and you can label everything for easy pack-away.

One of the main reasons I love Trofast so much is they are not an eye sore; they look really beautiful in a playroom and the layouts are endless. The tubs pull out from both sides, which means you can set them up in many different ways. One of my favourite set ups is to place them back to back, making a square for an amazing space to build on and for small world play.

Playroom storage ideas copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Trofast are also great as room dividers and for creating separate nooks within the one space.

Storage containers

Storage containers with lids are great to store the toys that aren’t in use. Pop them away in a wardrobe if you have the spare space, or slide them under the beds. This is great for those that do toy rotations and again they’re super easy to label.

Playroom furniture


We added in a slim, front-facing bookshelf to our space and it looks incredible. This has seriously transformed our little play area. It doesn’t take up much room, which is important for me.

The bookshelf is perfect for our toy rotations and it allows us to have books facing forward, which makes it easy for the kids to see all their books and is way more visually appealing, especially when you have beautiful quality picture books to display. A shelf with only the spines of the books showing makes it hard for the kids to pick something. You’ll find they’ll pull multiple shelves out before finding the book they were looking for.

Copyright. Picture books on shelf Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Play stand

We just recently added a play stand into our playroom, and my goodness I am obsessed! Best. Investment. Ever. The playstand is so versatile. If you aren’t sure what a play stand is, have a google, you won’t regret it.

I've already experimented with different layouts with this piece. I love it as a playstand with the arch but you can also remove the arch and have it against the wall or use it to create little nooks. The kids love to play shop fronts, bakery, sweet shop, cafe, small world play…the play potential is endless. It’s also perfect for forts, to create a cubby house or reading nook, or even to form a little study nook.

This piece will definitely grow with my kids and I know it will be loved in years to come.

Playroom layout

If you follow me on Instagram then you would already know I don’t mind a playroom shuffle. I regularly change our space around.

The kids’ playspace isn’t overly massive and I’ve learnt to change the room around to suit the space. Think outside the norm, you don’t always have to have your shelves along a wall. Bring them out to the middle of the floor, try to create little nooks, arrange them into different layouts.

If you have smaller open shelving that doesn’t need to be anchored, like the bookshelf I mentioned above, use it as a divider across the room, have fun with it. You will be surprised just how incredible you can make a space just by changing a few things around.

Playroom toys & decor copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Playroom decor

I love a beautiful statement art piece or two in a playroom, including original art, prints, and fabric wall hangings. There are some amazing wallpapers and decals available now too.

I haven’t added a print in our playspace only because we just don’t have the wall space. What we instead have at the moment is a wooden “Playroom” sign, a wooden sign above our bookshelf, and a banner. I don’t mind having the walls not too busy; we already have so much colour in our playroom and some larger pieces of furniture cover most of the wall anyway.

You can even add in your little one’s art pieces. I love a wall covered in children’s art, truly special and extremely cost-effective!

Don't forget about decor for your floor. An incredible playmat or rug with beautiful colours and designs can add instant impact to your space.

Open-Ended Toys

Wooden block sets

We have three larger block sets. There’s one more I’d love to add when it becomes available in Australia and then I think that’s an ample amount for us. They all get used in play frequently and I’ve found the older my kids get the more incredible and loved our blocks have become.

Grimm's creates a range of beautiful large block sets and our front runner is definitely our Grimms 1001 Nights. This is such a beautiful set and has a lot of different shapes that make for some really fun builds. We’ve made some epic castles out of this one.

Grimm's 1001 Nights Building Set copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Grimm's Large Stepped Pyramid is a huge favourite amongst lovers of open-ended toys. It provides you with lots and lots of rectangular and cubed blocks in all different sizes and rainbow colours, and it just a great base to add on to with other sets.

For something a little different to the bright rainbow colours, you might like to consider SABO Concept blocks, which come as Alphabet Blocks, Castle Blocks, or Cube Building Blocks. They are such beautiful quality and come in stunning earthy colours of olive green, muted pink, teal, milk chocolate, and fawn. The Alphabet Blocks double as a learning resource for small children who are just learning to recognise their letters and put together simple words.

Other brands to consider for beautiful blocks sets include Bauspiel and Papoose, both of which set sparkly gems or translucent windows into many of their sets, and Gluckskafer, which is famous for its super versatile Rainbow Building Slats but also offers a range of intricately shaped block sets that double as puzzles.

Good quality wooden block sets are an investment but completely worth it; their quality means they’ll stand the test of time. Ours will be kept away for safe keeping once my kids are all grown up. One day they can pass them down to their own children.

Stacking toys

We love our timber stacking rainbows! Not only are they beautiful to look at but they’re also a really great open-ended toy to add to the playroom. We use ours as tunnels in our small world play and we build ball-runs. Our favourite is the squiggly ones, which are great for ball-run races.

Grimm's Stacking Rainbow wooden toys copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Stacking and balancing is fun too. There are so many cool ways to arrange a rainbow; some are super tricky and require some patience. They’re a great learning tool for kids, perfect for hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, fine motor skills, and sparking the imagination.

You can find a wide range of stacking rainbows, conical stacking towers, and other stacking toys at Milk Tooth. The most well-known are from Grimm's, but Gluckskafer stackers a very similar finish and range of colours, and the Ukrainian brand SABO Concept creates the most stunning range of earthy-coloured rainbows.

Magnetic tiles

Magnetic tiles such as Connetix Tiles are such a great open-ended toy, another wonderful learning tool. Magnetic tiles can help with independent play, encourage kids to work as a team, develop their problem-solving skills, and exercise their gross motor and fine motor skills. They’re all about learning through PLAY. Such a staple item to have, a definite must-have.

My kids reach for ours every single day, they use them in all types of play. They create houses for their animals, car ramps, ball-runs, and colour sorting games. They build with them along a window and watch the sun work its magic on all the colours.

Grapat Mandala

Grapat mandala pieces are such a great toy to add into your playroom. They’re perfect as a learning resource, for example your children can practice their maths by counting, grouping, adding, subtracting, and more.

Other ways we use our Grapat Mandala include: small world play, colour sorting, pattern making, and creating flatlays and pictures. The kids also use them in role play as pretend food.

Grapat Mandala wooden toys play at Milk Tooth

Small world play toys

Small world play is an absolute favourite with my kids, especially my eldest daughter Milly. She’s the reason I started collecting small world play items to begin with. Her sets ups are unbelievable; she’s always has had an out of this world imagination.

Milk Tooth stocks an incredible range of beautiful small world play items, including from Ostheimer, Bumbu Toys, and Australia's very own NOM Handcrafted. They create wooden animals and birds from all around the world, as well as landscape pieces such as trees, flowers, bushes, river plates, bunny burrows, and more. Ostheimer and Bumbu also handcraft delicate people figurines.

For something a little bit different, also take a look at Milk Tooth's Holdie range from Olli Ella. They include fairies, mermaids, witches, wizards, princes, princesses, dinosaurs, mythical creatures such as unicorns, animals, and more, all crafted from a wool blend for cushy softness.

My weakness is trees! You can NEVER have enough trees! We have a beautiful variety and they’re all reached for regularly. We have a bunch of different brands of trees. I don’t like to play favourites but Bumbu Toys are definitely at the top of my list! Our Bumbu Toys Large Oak Tree and Willow Tree are spectacular. Their craftsmanship is faultless. So much time and effort goes into their pieces. We own quite a few now. I’ve started a collection of their animals too, which are equally as amazing!

Bumbu Toys Wooden Trees at Milk Tooth

Road tracks

Our Waytoplay flexible roads are another item that are reached for regularly. We love ours, they really help set the scene for incredible small world play. The kids use them with ease and have used them indoors and out, in water, sand, even in the bath and shower. Honestly could not speak more highly of them.

Wooden cars, trucks, & boats

Grimm’s Convertible Cars are the perfect pairing to our Waytoplay roads. My littlest one loves them, especially the little peg people that come with them. Such a great one to add for little car lovers.

Waytoplay road tracks & Grimm's Convertible Car wooden toys copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth

Grimm's offers a range of other cars and trucks as well, and Milk Tooth also stocks the stunning Debresk range of cars, trucks, vans, and fire engines in beautiful, natural timber, the smaller Lubulona cars and vehicles, and the cleverly detailed Candylab range of retro wooden cars, food delivery trucks, emergency vehicles, and more.


I hope this helps inspire you to create a beautiful play space for your little one(s). Remember it doesn’t have to be picture perfect, you want it to be loved and played in, that’s the most important thing. And don’t forget to get amongst the play too, your kiddos will love it!

Playroom with open-ended toys copyright Tonille Barnhill for Milk Tooth