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Building Blocks For the Right Playroom

"The first thing to consider is how old your children are. Then you need to consider how long you want a room to function as a playroom," said Karol DeWulf Nickell, editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

When DeWulf Nickell's children were young, this meant that her home's playroom needed to be in a location where she would always be able to keep a close eye, and ear, on them. The home's family room, then, became the playroom.

Jonathan Korobkin, 10, of McLean plays a video baseball game in the family's playroom. His father, Alan Korobkin, president of Saratoga Construction, says playrooms, kitchens and family rooms "are the rooms that people now want -- rooms they actually use and live in." (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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"It was a great place for our kids to play," she said. "There was plenty of room for pillows, toys and books. The furniture was comfortable and could take a dousing every once in a while from apple juice."

When the children grew older, the family-room playroom was no longer appropriate. Now that they are teens, they hang out in a basement playroom that includes a pool table, entertainment center and floppy chairs.

"It's important that playrooms change as your children change, and that may include their location," DeWulf Nickell said. "It's amazing how fast these changes take place. We all think we have tons of time between these transitions, but we really don't."

Jen Singer, author of "14 Hours 'Til Bedtime: A Stay-at-Home Mom's Life in 27 Funny Little Stories," has nothing but praise for her home's playroom. She was lucky: Her house in Kinnelon, N.J., came with a finished playroom in its basement when she and her husband bought it, years before they had children.

Now that the Singers are the parents of two boys, 8 and 6, they realize how important the playroom is.

"It's like Siberia for the kids' Rockin' Elmo, toy piano and the talking toy grill," Singer said. "You know it's out there, but it's not in your way. Our playroom sure has saved us a lot of money on headache relievers."

Singer is also pleased with her playroom's location and wouldn't change it to an upstairs or main-floor room. The children are within earshot of her when she's cooking dinner or otherwise working in her home. But the space is remote enough so that her sons' toys don't drift too often into the rest of the house.

Singer, though, has one piece of advice: Sometimes it pays for parents to boost their hearing power just a bit.

"Take a baby monitor and place it down there. That way you can hear if your son is hitting your other son in the head with a light saber," she said.

When adding a playroom to an upper level of a home, consider exactly where that room will be. Parents who put their children's playroom directly above the family room may regret it once they start suffering through all the thuds and crashes when they're trying to watch some TV.

"They can get very noisy if they're upstairs," said Guyton. "I'd say it's always ideal to have them below you, not above you."

If an upstairs playroom is the only option, consider placing it above a garage, if possible, or above some other out-of-the-way spot in the house.

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