With small changes home can adjust to small children

June 13, 1993|By Ro Logrippo | Ro Logrippo,Contributing Writer/Universal Press Syndicate

No matter how comfortable or well-equipped your kid's room is, it's not likely to captivate the occupant around the clock.

Once crawling begins, so does discovery beyond the perimeter of personal quarters. Rather than squelch exploration in spaces Mom and Dad occupy, why not encourage it so that the home is a welcoming environment all over?

With thoughtful consideration and planning, a few inexpensive acquisitions and/or minor custom touches enable most rooms to pass the child-friendly test.

A kitchen for kids, too

For a young child, being in this hub of activity translates to imitating the cook by cutting out cookies, using pots and pans, etc. To encourage this play in a safe area away from hot ovens or foot traffic, localize it to a spot where junior chefs can store utensils. A toy box or plastic bin will do if shelf or cabinet space isn't available.

Once school begins, the kitchen often becomes an extended classroom with the dinner table as a desktop. For a student claiming this room as homework terrain, set aside a bottom drawer for supplies. Or, hang a wire storage rack on the back of the kitchen door and consign paper, pencils and other basics to lower shelves.

Other kitchen ideas that make the young feel at home include:

* Reading nook: Keep a young reader's cookbooks and literature on a low shelf. If there's a breakfast nook or window seat, designate it as a child's reading retreat during non-mealtime hours.

* Project spot: If there's room, set up a child-size table and cover it with a plastic cloth when projects are in progress.

* Art showcase: A refrigerator, walls or sliding glass doors are ideal spots for art displays if hung at child viewing level. For a gallery effect, prop masterpieces on the ledge of a chair rail.

NOTE: Some gadgets could be harmful in kids' hands, so lock cabinets or drawers unsafe for exploration. Conversely, touch latches guarantee easy access.

In the bathroom

A sturdy rubber-footed step stool stored by the sink tops the list of prerequisites in a bath a child uses. The stool should be high enough so faucets can be reached for clean-up. Replace water knobs with levers if manuevering them is difficult.

Other small changes that make a big difference include:

* A small mirror hung low.

* A measuring tape against a wall permits growth spurts to be charted.

* A low towel bar puts a child's washcloths within reach, and a bottom storage drawer or basket keeps grooming aids handy.

* A bathroom night light assists sleepy eyes. During daylight, make the overhead light accessible with an extension that allows toggle switch manipulation from a low vantage point.

* A whimsical shower curtain enlivens the bath and delights a young bather. For a personalized design, let a child decorate an unadorned canvas curtain with colored fabric markers that are waterproof. Back this curtain with a waterproof liner.

NOTE: For safety's sake, get grab bars so small hands grip something firm getting in or out of the tub, and slip-resistant strips for splash areas. Temperature-controlled anti-scald units on faucets are other good safety measures.

Family room features

Family relaxation is the name of the game in a den, so make sure some casual seating welcomes wee folk. Used furniture is OK as long as it's in good repair. New and inexpensive options are beanbag chairs, large floor cushions and futons.

A shelf, a modular cube or a decorative trunk are worthwhile candidates.

With every member of the household frequenting this spot, it is also an ideal area for an informal grouping of family photos.

The living room

Since the living room is usually the "best" room, it stands to reason children should be on their best behavior using it. If this room is for special occasions, you may want to restrict it to specific childhood pastimes such as reading or playing the piano. In that case, allow only select items to be kept here in something like a big basket sprayed to match the color scheme.

A small bench, a miniature rocker or other child-size furniture is appropriate here. If there's a piece from your childhood languishing in the attic, reupholster it to fit the decor. But don't worry about condemning living quarters to dark, dirt-proof colors until the kids grow up. With today's materials, sturdy finishes and stain-resistant fabrics allow even light surfaces to survive childhood if designed to withstand a rough regimen.

Protective sprays like Scotchgard extend the life of fabrics that aren't pretreated.

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