I've always enjoyed setting up my kids' playroom sort of like a mini preschool room.
"Blocking out" the room into different "centers" - or individual play areas - really organizes the room in a way that I find kids enjoy.
And guess what - this is scandalous...I even clean it up every day!
I don't even wanna fathom how many of you may be shaking your heads and rolling your eyes at that, but really, ask yourself, "Just how fun can playing in a total chaotic mess actually be?" My totally UNscientific observations have revealed that a chaotic mess leads to chaotic play. Organized - even sometimes *gasp* supervised - play leads to an experience they can focus and concentrate on, as well as very early mastery of turn-taking, and cleaning up (or "putting things back in their homes" as we like to call it here).
Of course, now that there's quite an age difference between the two boys (9 and 1), "Matchbox Car Center" butts right up to the TV and Gamecube Game hell - er, the "Entertainment Center". And in the "pretend bin" very realistic-looking machine guns and swords are mixed right in with the Fisher Price Lil Doctor's kit.
Just in case you are looking for ideas for your playroom, here's the "centers" I currently have zoned out in our playroom:
"magnet center" as mentioned in the below post (and no, I don't actually call them by these dorky names... - Okay...maybe when I'm babysitting and the only people around is a room full of toddlers!)
"car center" which consists of a car mat, a box of about 20 (not too many to pick up, not too few) Matchbox cars, and big spiraly garage-plaything handed down to me from my cousin's boys
"dress up/pretend" center
"music center" which consists of a keyboard on a little toddler sized table, and a gigantic rolling cart filled with musical instruments we've collected over the past ten years
and the aforementioned "entertainment center" for the tweenyboppers.
Also on shelves I have a puzzle organizer with about 6 wood-knob puzzles I scored for 14 bucks at the local kid's clothing consignment shop (we have about 10 other puzzles, which I rotate in and out of the playroom closet), and a wide assortment of blocks I'd like to continue to add to.
I keep pondering what to do with the ten tons of miscellaneous sized bouncy balls which Sam won't let me chunk, and Charlie is so fond of, but neither kid plays with currently. I wonder if I could find a good plan for a giant-sized PVC ball maze? Something the kids could easily engineer in different configurations, and send bouncy balls through? Hmmmm....
And there are still many ways in which our playroom could be enhanced (like livening it up with paint, for one, and hanging kid artwork on the walls, for two...both of which you'd think I'd have already done since I'm a painter by trade, hah!), but I've found that labeling things in clear, easy-access bins, shelves and other containers, and blocking out the room in fun mini-centers, leads to kids exploring and role-playing in a fun-to-discover environment. Also, keeping a clean, organized space motivates me more to frequently update it and switch things in and out of use and actually go in there from time to time to play with them!