Q&A With Tonille Barnhill

Hello and welcome!

Today on the blog I am chatting with the very lovely Tonille from @the_gorman_lane. We have had the pleasure of working with Tonille for a while now and thought it was time we picked her brain and found out more about her and how she created such an incredible play room for her children.

Her continually growing and engaged following of over 44k on Instagram are inspired by her amazing set ups and love admiring her continually evolving and epic playroom which is full of beautifully coloured open ended toys, including some of our favourites! If you’re not already, then make sure you head over to @the_gorman_lane on Instagram to see what I mean!

Colourful Wooden Toys

Now, let's get into it!

Q: You’ve been building a loyal following on Instagram for sometime now, what are some of your favourite aspects/experiences of being on social media?

A: Definitely the beautiful community I have come to know and love! I have connected with some really wonderful, creative people. 

Also not to mention the amazing small businesses. The faces behind these accounts are some of the most genuine, down to earth people and lots of friendships have formed. It's pretty special when you find your people on here.

Q: You have created an incredible play space for your children, how long did it take to build up your toy collection?

A: Our play space is forever changing as my kids grow, our wooden toy collection definitely didn't happen over night. I have been slowly building our collection of sustainable toys for the past 5 years. I really put a lot of thought into what I buy my kiddos especially now I know what they love.

Wooden Toy Playroom

Q: What has been the most played with toy over the years?

A: This is a tough one but the most played with toy has definitely been our wooden blocks, they are used in so much play, small world, ball runs, we have built dollhouses, boats, epic towers. They have always been a staple item in our playroom.

Q: Is there a toy you purchased and thought it was going to be a hit but then it wasn’t for whatever reason? If yes, what was it?

A: Peg dolls. I actually went a tad over board and bought a heap of blank peg dolls and painted them, like I mean soooo many 😅 they just don't get the love here, even now. I have culled them down to just the 1 Grapat together set which gets played with regularly.

Q: How often do you rotate your play area?

A: If you follow me on Insta, you would know I love a good playroom shuffle, we don't do toy rotations so to speak, but I do change things around a lot, things that are in baskets will come out on the shelves and vice versa.

I love to change furniture around and freshen it up for the kids, they really love the frequent changes. Keeps it new and exciting!

Wooden Stacking Toys

Q: What toy do you think has been the best value for money in terms of how often it’s played with and it’s durability?

A: Best value - again definitely our block sets, our LSP, Kubi Dubi and our Grimm's 1001 Nights are played with on the daily and really are worth the price tag! They are just so beautifully made and are always ones I recommend when someone asks.

Q: You have so many incredible toys available for play at anytime, do your children still have screentime?

A: They definitely get screen time, the last 12 months we have become a bit more strict, they get 30 mins in the morning before school and get an hour in the afternoon after school normally whilst I prep dinner, weekends are a bit more relaxed, although they don't seem too interested in the TV, we do family movie night on Fridays. When we are feeling under the weather all of the above goes out the window! 🤣

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to create an open ended play area at home?

A: My advice would be to start small, you don't need all the things *as tempting as it may be* having an open shelf to display some toys in reach is important.

Stick with age appropriate toys, if 1 to 3 years I would stick with a basic block set, some loose parts some stacking bowls and a rainbow and then slowly add in things that compliment each other, so if you have a rainbow add in some semis or building boards for your blocks.
If your children are older and you are just starting out I would add one or two things at a time. If your kids like to build and construct then definitely add in a block set with various shapes and magnetic tiles are a must have too!
One thing I always recommend is to get amongst the play, share ideas with your kids on different ways to play, it will help spark their imagination and also yours.

Wooden Toys In Playroom

Q: What is your favourite part about your playroom?

A: Favourite part - all of it! Lol no, my favourite part would be the fact that everything is accessible for the kids, everything has a place and it just looks bright and inviting and I love being in there playing with them.

Q: What is your proudest parenting moment?

A: As most parents, we want to raise our children to be kind and considerate of others. I have two recent proud parenting moments to share.
Milly my 7 year old was running in her cross country race, she was in second place and a girl tripped and fell and my daughter stopped mid race to go help her up and made sure she was OK, I stood on the side line with tears in my eyes.

Another one was with Thomas who is 5, I went to pick him up from preschool and his teacher pulled me aside to tell me a new child started today and Thomas took him under is wing and showed him around all on his own, sat and played with him and introduced him to all the other children, the last bit got me when she said he walked him out to his mum, holding his hand.

It is moments like these ones that make you feel like you are doing something right, this parenting gig is tough at times and sometimes I feel like I don't do enough but seeing and hearing moments like this makes me proud as punch of my kids.

Q: If you could go back in time, and knowing what you know now, is there anything that you would do differently in terms of the space and your content etc?

A: There isn't really anything I would change content wise, as I totally just wing it most days lol! I love taking photos and that's a big reason as to why I started this account. Our playroom on the other hand will always continue to change as my children grow, there isn't anything I would have done differently.

Thank you so much for chatting with us Tonille and sharing your space, thoughts and experiences with us. Your account is so inspiring and we will continue following along on your journey and being in awe of what you and your children create together!

Amy x
Educational toysKids playroomPlayroomWooden toys

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