Design With a Kid in Mind Design With a Kid in Mind

When you first suspected you were going to have a baby, your first thought may not have been that now you'd have to give up your highly-polished dining table and your spotless tile floor. Little did you know. Now, if you had time to really sleep at night, you'd probably dream of a far-off childless life, a time you when you had a white sofa and flocked wallpaper - or at least you had the option to have a white sofa and flocked wallpaper.

For now, you're stuck with durable linoleum and brown cordurory, another load of laundry and scratch marks on that table.

But having a well-designed, nicely-kept home isn't really impossible, even with a few rugrats underfoot. You just have to plan for it, and unless you're in a very cramped apartment, you should be able to encourage Junior to find his creative voice without needing a home improvement loan by the time he's in first grade.

First of all, make sure the kids have their own play space. Even if you don't have much room, if you insist that they do their art projects and other playing in one place every time, you'll only have to worry about that one spot in the house. Usually the kitchen is good for this, as you can be part of the play while you prepare for or clean up after meals, and you have lots of water and soap readily available.

In addition, the kitchen is usually the hardiest room in the house for cleaning. Floors are often linoleum or easy-to-clean tile, as opposed to Persian carpet over polished oak, and kitchen wall paint is most often washable. While it would be a good idea to have all your walls painted with washable paint as soon as the bunny dies, not everyone can do this, but most homes come with kitchens and baths painted with more durable paint.

There are lots of portable art supplies that can help make your children's creative time of playing less destructive. A portable child's easel can be folded up after playtime and stored in a kitchen cabinet; when you take it out, and Junior draws way outside the lines, he won't be drawing on your $1500 table , but will be drawing on the easel.

Make sure that whatever paints you buy for your young Van Gogh are washable. This may seem obvious, but you should always check the package. Fingerpaints, water colors, and washable tempera are good choices, and will wash out of most fabrics with normal laundering. They'll also wash off of little hands with soap and water just make sure you get Junior to the sink before he gets to the Chinese silk "Happiness" pillows in the parlor.

  • Tip: Of all the materials kids use to express their inner visions, crayon is the worst culprit when it comes to clean up. Because crayons are wax-based, cleaning them off of fabric, floors and walls can be as bad as cleaning up spilled candle wax. You do remember the days when a romantic dinner led to a great night, and the next day you had to clean up the candle wax that had run over the table as you succumbed to passionate kisses? If you can't remember this, it's time to hire a sitter to spend a few of these creative kitchen hours with the kids, while you get to have a date with that person of your dreams.

To clean crayon off walls, there are a variety of solutions. You can make a paste of dishwasher detergent and water, and gently scrub, following this with an all-purpose cleaner that's safe for walls. Or, you can try a little baking soda and water.

You might think that the decal and sticker craze is safe as far as cleaning goes, but unfortunately Junior may decide your antique desk needs a little decoration instead of his sticker book. To get anything sticky off, try pouring a little vegetable oil onto the sticker, and scrape gently, probably with your fingernail. Remember when you used to get manicures? Don't think about it now.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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