Category Archives: HOME & GARDEN

Playroom Makeover – Create the Space Your Child Needs, Without Losing YOUR Mind!

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I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn the day we signed a one year lease for a one bedroom apartment.

We ended up sticking it out until we found a place we were really comfortable with– we found it when I was about 6 months pregnant. Too close for my comfort, but at last we found it. I fell in love with this quaint townhouse in a desirable neighborhood. Quite possibly for the playroom opportunities.

There was an awesome sized room right off of the kitchen, pretty centrally located in the home. I decided this was going to be a really “fun” room. Playroom planning began at about 4 months old (overachiever alert). I started to realize that everyone was willing to contribute to my madness and soon the toys just flowed in from friends and family members.

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The problem with this was that I didn’t have much say on what toys made the cut or not, and before long my beloved playroom was looking like a toy graveyard! I always knew I wanted to keep things simple “toy-wise”, and that less would be more.

It just seemed to get out of control so quickly.

Reading up on plenty of research over the years about the importance of “true play” and how commercialized childhood has become, I was determined to make a drastic change. The theory is that there are different types of play, each inspired and driven by the toys that are offered to the child.

“Imitation Play” is inspired by single-use toys such as Spiderman or any action figures, pistols from cowboy sets, swords from pirate play sets, etc.. These toys can only be used for a single purpose, so the opportunity for imaginative play is limited. A gun can only be a gun, a car that lights up only has one function and the fun can run out pretty quickly, therefore fostering a need for endless single-use toys to occupy a child’s time (See how this can be attractive to the toy industry?). “Imitation Play” takes place when a child is acting out a scene from a cartoon or movie, they are only repeating what was seen or heard. This isn’t pure creative play and doesn’t require much imagination, therefore isn’t exactly ideal for a developing brain.

“True Play” is encouraged with open-ended toys, such as blocks, erector sets, play dough, etc…

Open ended toys can be ANYTHING, therefore inspiring endless imagination and creativity. A stick could be used as a sword in an epic battle one moment, or as a Maestro’s baton while composing a symphony another. Play Dough can be formed into a worm one moment and then change into a train or a ball. The possibilities are endless and completely up to the child.

Toys as a whole are believed to be an introduction to children as parts of the world and parts of themselves. The materials we surround them with at the earliest stages in life set the stage for the type of environment they accept, and build around them as adults. The types of material we offer to them at such an impressionable age sends a message and communicates values that we wish to instill as parents.

If we surround a child with an endless supply of plastic, bright, shiny light up toys that require not much interaction from them and is completely disposable, can we really be upset with unmotivated, entitled children with no real sense of appreciation or responsibility? Hey, I didn’t do the research (don’t kill the messenger), but I have to say it all adds up for me and my family at least. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the children of my generation and the technology-driven, disconnected adolescence I see in schools and on television today.

Anyhow, I decided it was time for a change and I slowly but surely removed everything battery operated or mostly plastic. I started by watching what they no longer played with and removed it from the room to see if they would notice it even went missing. Then, I started removing toys that served only a single purpose (most not all at once) and kept it outside of the playroom.

My next job was to give the room some functionality and “flow”. By observing the setup at a couple of my favorite play spaces at Sunflower Creative Arts or The Bees Knees in Boynton Beach, along with following a few of my favorite blogs for inspiration such as www.YouAretheRoots.com, www.TheKavanaughReport.com or www.ImagineOurLife.com. These are all women whom I admire and respect; they are incredible moms with wonderful blogs.

I get a lot of questions about our Tot School / Play Room area, so I’m going to give a tour / breakdown of this high traffic area of our home!

Tot School is all about learning through play and immersion. Its framework lies somewhere between Montessori and arts and crafts. It’s popular with our boys and really just gives us new fun and interesting ways for us to spend time being creative. I’ve acquired some additional shelving over time to accommodate the different activity trays / invitations to play. Here is an outside view of the room:

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The alphabet mural was a wonderful project that took quite a bit of time because I handpicked each letter separately and then had to paint them all. Pinterest has lots of different variations of this mural that I love. Pinterest can single-handedly end save my marriage depending on the week.

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The work bench is a great place they practice motor skills and its all just made up of different pieces they can create / build with, definitely a keeper! The bin on the side is filled with balls and their fave throwback dinosaurs they can pretend to ride to their hearts’ content.

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The chalkboard wall is always a hit, every couple of months I slap on a new coat for their blank canvas and see how it develops over time. I figured if I gave them a place they were allowed to draw on the walls, I would limit the accidents of them actually drawing all over my walls. This has worked, to some degree. There were a few minor incidents, but hey it’s part of the process! I also have their puzzle basket and the infamous Montessori Pink Tower. They absolutely love this tower and can play with it for hours.

I knew I had wanted a “Cozy Corner” where they could nestle up and “read” books. They have one at Sunflower that the kids love and I wanted to re-create that quiet space here at home. I found some on Pinterest called a “Book Nook“, I keep it close to the books and some fun little ‘touch n feel” books in a basket as well.

Next up are the shelves…

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Here I have some of the Montessori materials such as the Cylinder Sequence Blocks, Zipper Practice Board, Alphabet Box and Number set. These grow with the boys and they delve into new ways of approaching them each time. I added a globe for some of the matching trays I plan on tackling this year and of course STUFF, which is mostly finger paint. I keep the “class plant” here as well. It aides in teaching responsibility and the difference between “living” and “non-living” objects.

The middle shelves are where we keep books and some toys that are great for play like wooden blocks, lacing beads, art supplies like crayons, colored pencils, glue and paint brushes. All accessible to them as they need. As well as a few goodies like their fave truck and a basket with all of their dinosaurs and animals. Mostly Toobs from Safari Ltd. that are a hit with us!

It’s also home to our “class pets” Henry & Maury (R.I.P. Percy), our hermit crabs.

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The rest of the shelves hold Instruments and their Super Sorting Pie, along with another favorite truck and their erector set. These all get switched out as I put out trays for a new week of adventures.

Up top is the Montessori inspired crayon sorter, these are actually Del Monte fruit cup cans that I was able to clean out and paint, then screw onto a piece of 2 x 4. (Yes I did buy the fruit cups and dump out the sugary processed fruit, all in the name of a crafty project!)

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They also have their own music corner (just like Mommy) next to their instrument basket, piano and record player. Many a jam sesh is enjoyed here!

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Alas, the infamous train table! Where all the action goes down.. I love that their obsession at least requires them to use their imagination building new tracks every day and working together to create new scenarios.

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Did I mention the wonderful storage options this provides? #ThriftyMomScore for $35!

Over on the Art wall, is the Kitchen Set. This beloved natural all wood kitchen is home to hours of creative play and plenty of “birthday pies” for Mommy. (Don’t even ask how long this took to build on Christmas Eve.)

On this wall, we display any art or pictures that mean something to the boys; they do get to choose which makes this space even more special.

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Here they’ve chosen their geometric tape art projects and Evan’s Seedlings class picture. They also have an original painting by #MBCDad and a sweet picture of Evan on his beloved trike in his pajamas (my favorite).

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Throughout the space I’ve tried to help incorporate bits and pieces of themselves, personal touches that make it feel like its truly their space. The “Play” sign that they helped to paint, or the picture gallery of some of their play time together. The hanging art display where they dry their art or just proudly display which piece they wish that day. This space is constantly evolving, because they are constantly growing and changing.

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I wanted a safe space at home where they could do so freely, creatively and expressively. In my research, I’ve found plenty of articles supporting the theory that the window for the most creative and expressive time in a child’s life is in the first six years, coincidentally the same time frame in which compassion and empathy are taking form in a child’s development.

I don’t want to spend that time cramming facts, shapes, colors or even reading and writing techniques down their throat. I hope to instead provide a space where they can learn about themselves, strengthen their creative muscles, fall in love with life and hone their craft whatever that may be.

You only get one childhood, I intend on letting them have it. It’s a sacred space that shouldn’t be tainted with ulterior motives, adult agenda or coercion. The way I see it, they have the rest of their lives to feel the pressures of fitting in and doing what is expected of them. Even then, I hope they follow their dreams because they took the time to learn what those dreams were early on. Because they were allowed the time to truly be themselves and learn what it is that makes them shine.

What would you like to change about your playroom? Tell me about it!

Essentially Yours,

Modern Boca Crunchy Mom


If you would like some more information on the effects the toys you introduce may have on your child you can check out this article at: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/why-fewer-toys-will-actually-benefit-your-kids/

You can also check out the following books:

The Case for Make Believe or Consuming Kids both written by Susan Linn
Taking Back Childhood by Nancy Carlsson-Paige
The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv Continue reading Playroom Makeover – Create the Space Your Child Needs, Without Losing YOUR Mind!

Living East of Federal for South of $1Million

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Happy Wednesday everyone!
This week I’m back to share three neighborhoods that will give you total access to the East Boca lifestyle, without the East Boca price tag. Downtown Boca is getting revitalized, no doubt about it –  there’s new construction everywhere you look – new luxury rental buildings and hotels in and around Mizner/ Royal Palm speak to that, and to support this influx of people there are new businesses, shops and restaurants opening weekly.
While new construction is everywhere, there are still some great deals to be had. The key with these neighborhoods is that you’re buying based on LOCATION. These are hot areas where the greatest reward is to be had long-term.

First up is: Boca Villas/ East of Mizner Park
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Located north of Palmetto Park Road and East of Mizner Park this neighborhood, formerly filled with old-Florida style “granny” homes are knock-downs waiting to happen. Developers have steadily been buying up these old homes to build spec and custom homes in Mediterranean and West Indies styles.
A brand new home in this neighborhood will start at about $1.2M, and homes on the intracoastal to the East are mega mansions (like $10M+). Even with its proximity to Mizner Park, this neighborhood is really livable, walkable and pleasantly quiet while still having total access to everything that downtown Boca has to offer.
  • East of Mizner Park/ North of Palmetto Park Road
  • Prices for a brand new home start at about $1.2M
  • Older homes start at about $500K
  • 5-10 minute walk to Mizner Park
Some tips for buying in a transitional East Boca neighborhood:
1. Look at lot size – the larger the lot, the greater the possibilities to renovate or knock down.
2. Is the property already plumbed for gas? Gas lines are run street by street in many of these East Boca neighborhoods, and while it’s possible to get natural gas installed, it can be quite costly, especially if it needs to be run from another street. (Tip: If you’re planning on doing a major renovation or knock down and your property does not have gas – a propane tank buried deep below ground is a popular and cost-effective option.)
3. Order a soil density test. If you DO plan to knock down the existing home or do any major renovations down the road, make sure to order a soil test in addition to your home inspections. Closer to the ocean, the soil is less dense, so you’ll need to find out if the property will need pilings to support the larger home you intend to build. The soil density test itself is not cheap, but if pilings are needed, they’ll cost around $50,000 so it’s worth it to know in advance!
4. Look at what new homes on similar lots are selling for. When choosing a transitional neighborhood, you sometimes have to see it for what it WILL be, rather than what it is. Purchasing a property in the entry price point of a neighborhood where there’s a lot of upward mobility (i.e. new homes on comparable lots selling for considerably more) is desirable because as long as you renovate or upgrade appropriately, your investment is protected.

My next pick is just across the bridge from Boca Villas: Boca Riviera 

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Nestled between A1A and Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton is the Boca Riviera neighborhood. It abuts the affluent and popular Sun & Surf community where homes start at about $1 Million (and go up from there). Public beach access is just a short walk or bike ride away and you truly get that “sleepy beach town” feel, while being mere minutes away from downtown. Homes on the water start at well over $1 Million, but under there are older Florida style homes as well as some historic bungalows.
  • Between A1A and the intracoastal North of Palmetto Park Road
  • Prices for a brand new home start at about $1.3M
  • Older homes start at about $600K
  • 5-10 minute walk to the beach/ 15 minute bike ride to Mizner 
  • Public beach access with pavilions at Palmetto Park Road

     Slightly further South from Boca Rivera is the neighborhood of: Spanish River Land Co. 

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A short distance from the Boca Raton Beach Club and swanky One Thousand Ocean at the Boca Resort is the Spanish River Land Co/ Spanish River Land Estates neighborhood. Homes on the water in this neighborhood easily start at $4 Million and can top $9 Million. Neighborhoods like this one are particularly interesting because there’s a range of homes for sale not on the water in a variety of price points.
Typically in South Florida you see homes on the intracoastal in the million-dollar range, but landlocked properties across the street often sell for far, far, far less. That’s true in this case too, but instead of $2 Million and $300,000, it’s $7 Million on the water and $2 Million not on the water. Not too shabby. Here are some neighborhood stats:
  • Between A1A and the intracoastal South of Camino Real
  • Prices for a brand new home (not on the water) start at about $1.9M
  • Homes start at about $700K
  • 5-10 minute walk to the beach
It’s so exciting to see so many new things coming to Boca Raton!
If you’re looking to make Boca your home, or are considering a move, call me! I’d love to work with you! (561) 789-7084

Margaret Schaffer, aka Modern Boca Real Estate Mom, is an active Realtor with The Samantha DeBianchi Team (as seen on Million Dollar Listing: Miami) living, working and raising two little ones in beautiful Boca Raton! Margaret@DeBianchiRealEstate.com

Faking “Fall” in South Florida…How to Do It!

It’s fall y’all! Even though it doesn’t feel like it when I get into my car mid-afternoon and it reads 100 degrees. I don’t know about you, but I am sooooo over this lingering summer heat! So this New Yorker is going to fake it till we make it! We’re officially in “fall in South Florida mode” here in our home, and you could be too!

Continue reading Faking “Fall” in South Florida…How to Do It!

5 Ways to Totally Transform Your Space: NO Painting!

Temporary Decorating Ideas Hi all! I loved reading and responding to all your comments on my ‘How Much House’ Post last month – (which you can read here). This week, I’m back to show my DIY side *revvs power drill* – I find my inner peace when wielding a paintbrush or getting crafty, so this week I rounded up my absolute FAVORITE ways that you can totally transform your space… wait for it… in a weekend. Temporary decorating ideas! My friend is thinking about moving into a Piermont Grand apartment so I shared some of these ideas with her so she could decorate as soon as she moves in.

So whether you want to stage or spruce, these tips will make your home show-worthy in no time and no paintbrush needed!


Temporary Decorating Ideas

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You’ve probably seen decals in the form of owls, trees, butterflies and flowers in nurseries, but what you might not know that vinyl decals can be an awesome way to add graphic interest to a big. blank. wall – and they’re not just for the nursery. I especially love these for renters – using them in a living room or bedroom will add tons of pizzazz without putting your security deposit in jeopardy. If you feel like switching up your walls by using something similar to simple shapes marble wallpaper , then go for it! When it comes to making changes like these, they can make such a massive difference to the overall look of any room.

If you’re really on a budget- here’s the DIY option that I did for my daughter, Edison’s, nursery. Using a circle cutter and metallic contact paper (intended for appliances, if you can believe that) I created this darling polka-dot wall. (psst…You can read the full tutorial on my blog here.) Temporary Decorating Ideas


Temporary Decorating Ideas

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Faster and less permanent than hanging actual wallpaper, and certainly less cumbersome than stenciling a pattern, removable wallpaper comes in a variety of patterns and even textures like faux brick and grasscloth!

It’s great for adding a dose of personality to any space – try it for an accent wall, or add extra ‘wow’ factor by going all- out in a smaller space, like in a powder room or breakfast nook. Then, when your lease is up or you feel like redecorating – it just peels right off!


Temporary Decorating Ideas

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Hanging a gallery wall like this one is an inexpensive way to create visual interest, not to mention a fabulous conversation-starter! A gallery wall is equally at home over a couch, in a hallway or in a bedroom.

Structured rows with a series of similar prints (for example, architectural photos or botanical prints) add a sophisticated vibe, while a collage approach mixing frames and objects of different sizes, textures and colors is a first-class ticket to causal elegance. (Tip: Make your child’s artwork the star with a collection of white frames!)


Temporary Decorating Ideas

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At a minimum, curtains with coordinating pillows will make your room feel pulled together in a snap. IKEA sells fabulously inexpensive curtains and if you’re handy with a sewing machine, I love to use these curtains as an inexpensive source of fabric to make my own pillows. If you’re NOT handy with a sewing machine (or, let’s face it– who has time??) Sites like etsy.com have a wide array of accent and throw pillows in all the trendiest styles.

For a sophisticated neutral look (I like this one above for staging!), keep textiles to the same tone, and vary your patterns and textures within that color. To liven things up a bit – choose a pop of one bold color (like indigo) and keep everything else a complementary neutral. Accessories and textiles in the same shades add texture & dimension, and chances are you can use stuff you already have!

I love Home Goods and thrift stores for knick knacks that will really give your room that ‘finishing touch’ and temporary decorating ideas.


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Looks like tile, but it’s actually vinyl! Online companies in addition to retailers like Lowes and Home Depot offer these peel & stick vinyl tiles of all shapes and sizes, literally.

They’re sold in sheets or as individual tiles and are fabulous for adding a kitchen backsplash or redoing a tired tiled floor (say that 5 times fast) on the cheap! These are phenomenal for renters who simply can’t stand their ugly floor any more, or to get you through while you’re saving up for the big reno!

These tips are just a few ways to show that no matter how stretched your time (or your budget) there’s always a way to bring your signature style home!


Margaret Schaffer, The Modern Boca Real Estate Mom is a REALTOR living, working and raising two little ones in beautiful Boca Raton, FL!