PlanToys interviews gROH! Playrooms
Close your eyes and envision the playroom of your dreams. grOH! Playrooms can make it a reality! Founded by two highly accomplished educators, Anne Gillyard and Jodi Arellano, grOH! is a design firm that specializes in creating beautiful, functional, and inspiring playrooms for children and their families.
Their approach to design is inspired by the notion that a child’s play environment serves as another teacher in their lives. The grOH! Team design and build a playroom surrounding the 8 essential types of play: Art & Sensory, Building, Gross motor, Imaginary & Dramatic, Music, Puzzles, Games & Kits, Skill-Based, and Small World.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Anne and Jodi to find out their solutions to the most common playroom challenges, plus tips on how you can create an ideal play space within your home.
All photos are courtesy of @laurametzlerphoto
We love your dedication to creating an inspiring and fun playroom for children and their families! Can you share how grOH! Playrooms came to fruition and the type of work do you do?
Anne and Jodi co-founded grOH! in 2018 after working together at the same school in Washington DC for several years (coincidentally, when both of them were on maternity leave!). What started as a mere idea has evolved one of the only companies in the nation focused on creating educational kid spaces well beyond decor. grOH! designs are based in child development research, grounded in organizational systems, and polished through cohesive finishes. It’s a dream come true when families around the globe can grOH! together!
At what age are children ready for a playroom?
A play space has value for kiddos from tummy time to teenage dreams. Learning and development takes place at every age and stage; it’s only the priorities that change. Our babies and toddlers need skill-building, our kiddos get exposure to all kinds of things to explore interests, tweens and teens hone-in on specific interests and have more room for social interactions. A timeless environment stays the same, the chairs just get taller!
What is the best way to maximize space in a bedroom for families that do not have a room dedicated to playing in their homes?
Creating a predictable, dedicated place for children to play gives them a space that feels like theirs, a spot to do their work. It helps them feel safe to explore and process their feelings and can lead to increased independence, better focus, and massive creativity! Sometimes, it’s a bedroom, sometimes it’s the living room, sometimes it's both! Here are some grOH! tips to foster play in spaces that serve multiple purposes: add storage, live by less is more, and choose open ended toys.
When the news of this interview came up, we received many questions surrounding storage. This seems to be a popular challenge with playrooms! What are your storage tips?
Establishing a toy rotation is the BEST! It’s an undertaking for sure, but you can do it!! This system takes a bit of storage away from a closet or under a bed; however, this system creates the opportunity for daily peace in your playroom. The toy rotation puts fewer toys into the playroom and fosters more independent play. There is less pressure in decision making, and less for them to clean up. The toy rotation also reinvigorates independent play when toys are routinely swapped out. To set up your rotation, use opaque bins with lids and labels to sort your toys by type and store in a non-kiddo-accessible area. Here is a big tip, overbuy storage bins, organize and then return what you don't use.
There are so many design possibilities for play spaces! What do you find most helpful when beginning a project? Is there a list you follow, and/or any unique questions you ask a family? Ex: Favorite colors or materials, favorite food, or astrological signs?
Our clients are definitely our biggest source of inspiration! Everyone is unique so we have a grOH-mazing visual quiz that we show our clients to get a better idea of what specifically peaks their interests. Leaning into what makes individuals and family units special allows us to create spaces that are incredible…just like them!
We're curious as to how you meet a child’s current interests, while also considering the (almost certain) possibility that these interests could change sooner than later. What is the best way to keep a playroom modular and adaptable?
Kiddos’ interests can change daily! It’s hard to commit to an interest that will last, like diving deep into a singular theme for the playroom, for example. One of our favorite ways to feature current interests is through wall art! It’s such an easy swap and you can play a lot with size, layout, and color!
We received a few questions in regards to designing on a budget. Could you share the core essentials of a playroom, budget-friendly tips, or any favorite DIY hacks?
We suggest prioritizing implementation by first investing in organizational structures and committing as much as possible to a floor plan. You can even use a laundry basket to start your toy rotation; believe it or not, laundry baskets are a great way to get started! Next, purchase high-impact items like your toy hub and bins. There are some great options at Ikea and Target! Here is a big budget friendly tip: avoid filling the room with furniture; keep the floor as open as possible. Approach different areas of your playroom one at a time, overtime, like your toy hub, then art area, then imagination space. Remember it’s always better to fully design a specific area than to half-design an entire space.
Some of our favorite grOH! playrooms are the ones that encourage children to be active! What's the best way to create an indoor climbing space that is fun, but also safe?
First and foremost, safety is our top priority. All Gross Motor features should be installed by a licensed contractor. Monkey bars are incredible! You can use them on walls or ceilings and they are an easy way to incorporate movement without completely changing the functionality of your space. Don’t forget…monkey bars are super fun for grownups too! Just remember to have a fall-safe mat underneath.
What have been the most popular of your recent playroom buildouts? Are there trends that have surprised you?
Any time we have a ceiling mural, there is an overwhelming amount of celebration! Believe it or not, ceiling murals aren’t something you see everyday…we often find a feature that initially feels a little risky, becomes our clients’ favorite part of the space!
Another popular (and rather humorous) question we received is, how do I get my kids to clean up? We suppose we can frame this question by asking, do you find that when children have a space of their own, they are more inclined to maintain it?
It’s very interesting, maintaining a space doesn’t actually come from ownership, but from empowerment. grOH!’s signature organizational infrastructure reaches beyond the playroom into bedrooms, living spaces, mud rooms, landing spaces, etc… Our consistent, easy-to-use system is throughout the spaces your kiddo interacts with everyday, which makes a huge difference in the functionality of your home. Here is the secret, make sure that everything, from clothes, to toys, to dishes has a "home" that your kiddos can reach without your help! It is also best when that home is located right next to the place where they will be using the item that lives there, the dishes are in the lowest cabinet, closest to the table or the play food is right next to the kitchen for example.
The PlanToys community is largely made up of people who are passionate about sustainability. Do you have any tips on creating an eco-friendly playroom?
Supporting eco-friendly businesses, small businesses, and local businesses is a core value at grOH!. The way to create a sustainable playroom comes from sourcing responsibly-made products, focusing on open ended toys, and toy-sharing your gently used toys with other families or donating to a charity.
If you had to select only 3 PlanToys to add to a playroom, which would you choose?
grOH! focuses on 8 types of play: Small World, Imagination, Gross Motor, Skill-Based, Building, Music, Puzzles and Games, and Art and Sensory. PlanToys has so many AMAZING toys that fall under these categories. Our favorite PlanToys are any Small World, Imagination, and Building toys!
Anne's kids cannot live without: the Classic Tea Set (she drinks a lot of coffee, so the kids are constantly "making" her more); the dollhouse (they have Slide N Go) and accessories (her daughter is a big story teller); Dump Truck (both kids love making construction sites.
Jodi's kids cannot live without: Dancing Alligator (her littlest is a mover! and loves taking the alligator on a walk), Vehicles, all vehicles (there is an 8 year age gap between the oldest and youngest, so vehicles make it easy for all the kiddos to play together); lots of playfood (the youngest and middle kiddo love playing at the kitchen together with the play food!)
If a family is interested in working with grOH! Playrooms what are the steps in which they can start the process? Where can we find grOH! on social media?
The first step is to send us an inquiry on our website: grohplayrooms.com! During the complimentary inquiry call, you will describe your family, your space, and your goals! We have several options for services, so we will make sure we find the right fit for you!