The Collins English Dictionary defines a house as a “dwelling,” which is a mere structure of a building. A home, on the other hand, is defined as “the place where one lives.” Home is the castle to some and hopefully a haven of safety and love to all family members.
Some brave parents, like Sue and Hank, have turned their dining room into a play space for their two young children. Of course, one day they may choose to turn it back into an eating space or a reading space or whatever best serves their household. Houses can easily become family-friendly homes. Growing families need organized storage and sensible but comfortable furnishings.
There are three important questions parents can ask:
1. What appropriate activities may children do in this room? Young children, especially, need to be able to safely explore their surroundings and all that is in it.
2. Have we provided appropriate activities so that all family members can function in this room?
3. What could we add or eliminate from this room to make it ‘livable’ for children?
Here are some considerations:
Children’s bedrooms – Be cautious about juvenile wallpaper children will developmentally outgrow before you have the energy to remove and redo. Choose durability and color rather than theme-defined wallpaper. Create themes with accessories like posters, books, toys and pillowcases. Older children will want to participate in the decorating of their room and legitimately deserve the opportunity to make their mark in their space.
Make sure you purchase a quality mattress. For young children, hang mirrors and pictures lower so they can enjoy the view. Low closet rods and hooks allow young children to better care for their clothes. Provide open shelving for toys that invite quiet activity. Avoid toy chests as they are impossible to organize and can be frustrating for children to find what they are looking for. Other ideas include dressers with coded drawers, a bedside table with a manageable light and alarm clock. A bulletin board is appreciated by any age. Some disciplined school-age children will want a desk in their room for doing homework. Many other children need a defined time and place near caregivers to complete their school assignments.
Activity place – Young children’s activities are given a sense of importance if they are accepted within the home’s hub of action – near the kitchen, dining room or family room. Many homes have toys strewn about because young children naturally want to be near the attention and sight of their parents. “Look what I just made, dad!” If you can find space in that central area for a small table with chairs and shelving for games, paper, crayons and bins of toys, you’ll have a warm hum in the middle of your home that can invite participation from all members.
For school-age children, often the dining room table becomes the centre for homework and projects. Wood tables that can be refinished one day can alleviate adult anxiety when the inevitable marks and scratches take place. Give special consideration to where the computer centre is located. Some families are fortunate enough to have computers hooked up in each child’s bedroom. The downside of this arrangement is that Internet requires monitoring and it can also become a habit where families spend more time interacting with their computer than one another.
Living room – Oftentimes, the living room is not utilized for any child-centered activities. However, reading, listening to music, viewing the family photo album, playing a musical instrument or cuddling a pet could easily occur in this living space – especially if there is a bookcase with some children’s books, a musical instrument or two and a sound system available. Consider a collection of kaleidoscopes.
Dining room – Many formal dining rooms are unused space. Suggested ideas for this room include family meetings, board games or family meals, at least weekly. The people you love the most deserve to have meals in the dining room. Turn the TV off, use the fine china and share a conversation about the worst, best and funniest things that happened today.
Kitchen – Introduce children to the world of food, nutrition and cooking. Provide a simple cookbook when they can read. At an early age, establish a ‘snack drawer’ that is low and accessible so that children can slap together their own peanut butter sandwich, grab a bag of raisins or sneak a fruit strip.
Bathroom – Be sure your children can see into a mirror and reach taps, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Perhaps a footstool is required. Label towel racks with children’s names, a fun picture or a photo. Don’t forget water play toys. Some 10 year olds continue to enjoy them. Some days, so does Grandma!
Basement playroom or ‘wrecked’ room – These rooms are great when playmates are visiting or for some especially noisy activities; but generally, preschool and early elementary school-age children prefer to play near their caregivers. Observe where children are most comfortable playing and arrange for storage there, and you will most likely have fewer toys strewn around the rest of your home.
Conversely, the basement is the perfect place for teens and their friends. They want space from adults. Go figure? Your house will be a popular hangout if you provide not-so-perfect, comfy furniture, techno stuff and a TV ‘down there.’
Homes exist to serve family lifestyles. As parents of very young children, we can take a look at our home from their perspective. We can get on our hands and knees and crawl around noticing the view. Test the ease of living at that level. Analyze your children’s needs and make some adjustments. Notice the habits of older children and ask their advice. And don’t forget yourself! If they fit the budget and you desire them, arrange a spot for a Trisha Romance print, a lazy boy recliner, a steam shower or a hot tub. ‘Family Home Sweet Home!’
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