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Transforming a Basement into a Place for All-Season Play



Emily Vonachen and her husband created an indoor playground in their basement to keep Adam, 3, and Sebastian, 1, climbing, sliding and tumbling all year round.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

Don’t expect these West Seattle parents to bemoan rainy days indoors with the kids. After their second son came along, Emily Vonachen and Samih Fadli decided to create an indoor playground in their basement so that the boys (Adam, 3, and Sebastian, 1) could enjoy physical play year-round. 

The playground consists of staple pieces such as a rock wall, a Quadro playset (similar to a small jungle gym, with endless configuration possibilities), tumbling mats and a swing. In addition, the basement is full of smaller toys they consistently rotate in and out. The couple felt it was important to provide a wide array of options in order to make the most of the 350-square-foot room.

The idea for the playground came about as a way to keep Adam busy after Sebastian was born. As Vonachen was finding it more difficult to get out of the house in the rainy winter months with a newborn and a toddler, the indoor playground offered a solution to meeting Adam’s physical play needs at home. “I started off with a kitchen set, construction set and other toys that have a lot of accessories,” says Vonachen. But “I noticed that when my oldest was in a play space that had both tumbling toys and accessorized toys, he always gravitated towards the toys that met his gross motor needs, such as climbing and swinging.” 

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

The family opted for features that exercise gross motor skills, including a rock wall.

In addition to providing entertainment, the easy access to physical activity has other benefits, too: With all the expelled energy, Vonachen notes that there are fewer struggles when it comes to cleaning up toys and less rambunctious play on the furniture.

Keeping things fresh in the basement is no problem for Vonachen, who has become known as “The Purger” among other West Seattle moms: “Any toys that they lose interest in or outgrow, we resell.” Indeed, twice a year she sells the family’s toys to other families and hunts at consignment sales and thrift stores for new ones. She’s even able to afford larger toys that are harder to find used — like the Rainy Day swing set — with the money made from her famous purges. The rotation of toys is great for the kids, she says. Without an overwhelming excess of toys, the boys can enjoy what they have while not getting too attached to any particular objects, and it cuts down on the general clutter. With this approach, they are able to make the best of the space they have, and always find fresh ways to have fun. 

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