The need to entertain is common to all of us, no matter our age. It is especially evident in the very young.

With children traditionally getting the smallest room in the house, carving out a space for sleep-over guests can be a real challenge. And parents who don't like to hassle with bunk beds are legion. Anyone who has had to make up an upper or lower will readily agree.

Trundle beds are one good answer. These space savers are designed so that one slightly smaller bed rolls neatly under the other, and they certainly are practical. The bed that slides under can't be rolled completely out, so changing the sheets on either bed can be easily accomplished.

But for those who would like to try a different route, why not a sleep platform?

The sleep platform is a variant of the trundle. The upper portion remains in place, while the lower portion rolls out. The basic difference is that the room-dweller uses the lower bed, while the upper portion, the platform itself, is for an occasional sleep-over.

The platform, however, can be used for other purposes. It is a great place for a sitting area, raised above the floor and equipped with soft seating. It can also double as a table, with a hard surface such as a plastic laminate top, for a functional work surface.

The uses of the platform can change with the needs of the growing child. I designed a version of a sleep platform for a child's room recently, for instance. It was your basic, mini-room, to which so many of our children are relegated -- eight-feet wide and 11-feet long -- meaning that the sleeping had to be parallel with the longer dimension, in order to have any floor space at all.

Fortunately, there was only one small window at the end of the room. This meant that an ample work surface could be built wall-to-wall under the window. Three shallow drawers were hung below the shelf in a row. The surface could make the transition from coloring books to typewriter easily.

I built the platform of plywood, covering a frame of sturdy 2-by-4 construction, with plenty of bracing across the length for greater stability. The platform is covered in the same industrial gray carpet as the floor.

The trundle bed, a mattress on a plywood platform, is covered in the same white plastic laminate as the work surface. Large concealed casters make it easy to roll out for nightly use.

Bright red, ready-made plastic cubes serve as storage for records and toys, and wall-mounted, clamp-on adjustable lamps on all surfaces can be used for work, play or reading in bed. On the platform, a quilted wonder that works as a seat or a neat place to sleep occupies a place of honor, and can be easily rolled open to make a full twin-sized bed, a perfect accommodation for guest quarters.