Whether or not you have children of your own, there are plenty of reasons to make your house child friendly. Maybe it’s making space for your own children. Perhaps it’s entertaining friends and relatives. Given the generous mortgages for professionals available these days, maybe it’s making a multi-bedroom house more appealing to families when the time comes to sell.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to balance the interests of children and adults when working on the house. Children need distractions and space they can make their own, both for themselves and so that they’ll leave the rest to the grown-ups. But as an adult you also want a house that feels calm and secure, not over-run with the chaos of childhood.
So how can you cater to children’s interests without being overwhelmed by them?
Children’s toys and craft materials don’t just clutter your mind when they’re cluttering your floor. Boxes full of brightly coloured blocks or shelves full of stuffed animals are visually busy and can make you feel closed in. So look for ways to store them that reduce visual clutter while remaining accessible for children take out and put away their toys.
A toybox that also acts as a footstool is one good solution. You can buy footrests with built in storage, or find a wooden storage box and add a cushion top. Children will enjoy finding toys in the ‘secret compartment’ of a piece of furniture, and the toybox now lets you put your feet up at the end of the day.
Shelves with hangings can also help. Again, there are options available to buy, but if you already have shelves then it’s easy to hang a sheet or curtain from the top, concealing the clutter behind. Children can easily pull this aside for access, and you won’t have rows of teddy bears giving you accusatory glares as you open a drink in front of an action movie.
The interests of children constantly change as they grow up. If you’re an aunt or a grandparent with visiting relatives then their interests may change with who’s in the room this weekend. So make life easy on yourself, use temporary decorations.
Keep the furniture, walls, curtains and carpet plain, so that they will suit any taste. Then personalise the room with posters and hangings that can be easily changed around. Don’t get distracted by the novelty of a rocket shaped bed – the sleeper might love it for a year but he’ll soon grow out of it. Instead make use of exciting sheets that will be regularly changed anyway, taking the extra effort out of redecorating.
Channel their creativity
Kids love to draw, and sooner or later they’re going to want to draw on the wall. It’s the same impulse that leads to teenage graffiti and adults redecorating a new home – the desire to control and shape your environment. So give them an opportunity.
Pick a section of wall, paint it with blackboard paint and keep a box of chalks nearby. Now small hands can have the excitement of scrawling across the house, but in a self-contained, easily cleaned space. It doesn’t even need to be a big area, just enough for them to feel that it’s theirs.
When it comes time to redecorate get the kids involved. They’ll love joining in painting with the adults, and be less likely to mess up a space whose decoration they take pride in.
Balancing them and you
Making a child friendly house isn’t about giving over your space to the tiny hordes. It’s about finding compromises that will keep you all happy and your house in order.
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