October 2010: Your kids


What I’ve learned from writing this column about clever home design for kids is that it’s not merely about organization. The families featured here this past year have inspired me with their thoughtful solutions to give kids exactly the kinds of spaces they need to live, play and work in their own unique manner. It turns out, making a home kid-friendly isn’t about being overrun with kid accoutrements, it’s about recognizing and addressing the needs of the little people so as to make life easier for the big people.

The author’s dining room went from barely used to fully functional after turning it into a playroom for her toddler.

Case in point: my family’s dining room-turned-playroom. Before writing this column, I was reluctant to devote an entire room beyond the bedroom to child’s play. I felt strongly that if I organized toys really well for my preschooler, I could integrate them in all the common areas, but this strategy never worked. 

I learned that toys out of sight are also out of mind, meaning that if your child can’t see her favorite LEGO set, she probably can’t help herself to it, even if it resides in a cute, recycled shoebox that you smartly labeled “Starter LEGO set” together with a picture of the thing on the third shelf up from the bottom cabinet of the TV armoire. That’s the shelf you’d mentally designated for building toys and blocks, but somehow your 3-year-old didn’t get the message. Maybe it’s because she already was struggling to recall that the second shelf down from the top of the family room computer cabinet was designated for puzzles, paper and crayons.

These are the kinds of problems I was having, and with another child on the way and baby toys coming back into circulation, I knew something drastic needed to be done. I bit the bullet and turned our barely-used formal dining room into kid play and craft central. 

The formal dining furniture went into the formal living room (as yet unfurnished and unused), and all the toys and art supplies went on white metal Metro shelves from The Container Store that blend well into the wainscoting. A whole room gave me space to add a kid craft table—no more paint splattered on the kitchen rug!—and since it’s just off the kitchen, the new playroom is still close enough for those inevitable “Where’s my…?” questions.

School days

Permission slips, PTA meeting notices and a plethora of new artwork can get lost if not captured and organized immediately upon being dumped from the backpack. These bamboo accessories are attractive enough for an entry table. Letter Sorter and Tray, $9.99 and $17.99, at Staples.—K.L.