Conventional wisdom may say it’s location, location, location that sells houses.
Parents with young kids will tell you what sells houses: playrooms.
Back when we lived in the mildly urban suburbs, the houses were smaller and older. Builders in the ’60s didn’t have time for playrooms. Kids played outside more, or at Grandmas. I don’t know what kids did, but they did NOT have large rooms filled with miniature kitchen sets and train tables and walls of IKEA cabinets.
The mildly urban houses did have huge formal living rooms. Apparently while the children of the 1960s were playing outside, their parents were having cocktail hour in their swanky sitting rooms around their wet bars. Because every house in our old neighborhood did have a low-ceilinged formal room right next to the front door. Smack-dab in the middle of the living room, there was always a wood-panelled wet bar.
For years, we looked for our next house in these mildly urban suburbs. Before every showing, we asked our realtor, “Does this house have a playroom?” She understood what a commodity this was to young moms, how a playroom would seal a sale for her.
So, she tried, “It does have an extra room! It’s a converted garage, and there will be no place to park your car, but your kids can have a place to play!” Or, “You could use the sitting room for a playroom. Your kids could even store their toys in the wood-panneled wet bar!”
Or, occasionally, she would say, “The family built a playroom over the garage! But the kids will have to cross a catwalk to get to it. And this house is a hundred thousand dollars more than any other in the neighborhood. Because of that playroom.”
We have a lot of kids, and playing outside in the 100 degree heat is sometimes child abuse, so we really wanted a playroom. We had no choice, we started to looking at newer houses in the Deep Suburbs.
If the mildly urban homes were Playroom Purgatory (almost there but not quite), the deep suburb houses promised Playroom Paradise. All the houses featured dream play rooms with beautiful built-ins. Another bonus, the playrooms were hidden deep in the houses, located several hundred square feet away from the prying eyes of front-door guests.
Obviously, we were sold. We sacrificed living next to kitschy Thai restaurants and M’s work to have a  two-leveled playroom where our kids could do their thing for hours. When they were done doing their thing, they could put Barbie and Kit Kitridge and Thomas and all his friends and paraphernalia back in their rightful places.
What a sucker I was.
I thought this extraordinary space would also make my kids extra ordinary. Like, if we had the right organizational systems and intriguing toys, my kids would play independently and happily for hours.
The right space would be large enough to entertain an army of guests, but it would also feel small enough that Playroom Time could be counted as Quality Together Time.
I really believed our kids would learn geometry from the brightly-colored blocks, but we would also have tons of space for the entire My Little Pony collection. The room would look like a Pin, like no one ever touched the rows of xylophones and American Girls, but our kids would also never leave the room.
I’ve learned the hard way that this Playroom Paradise is just a suburban myth.
Our playroom is nice, but at the end of the (long and messy) day, it’s still just a room and some toys. I am still my kid’s favorite play thing. No matter what kind of shelves or bins I put in there, they never, ever put away the toys without some serious nagging.
So, it you’re living in Playroom Purgatory, lusting after a Playroom Paradise for your kid to play for hours, I get it. I have so been there.
Trust me. The self-entertaining playroom is just a suburban myth, the playroom you have (even if  you have to store your kids’ toys in a wet bar) is probably as good as it’s ever gonna get.
Not only will a kick-butt playroom not make your kids extraordinary, your kids will probably grow up hating play rooms and lusting over houses with huge formal living rooms and really, really nice wood-panelled wet bars.

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1 Response
  1. Oh, you’re cruel, Tina. You know that I just bought a new house and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT THE PLAYROOM. You are a dream crusher…you mean I WON’T have an independent, play-on-his-own child in a pristinely clean playroom at all times?

    Cruel, just cruel.


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