Designing for Children


Show Notes:


Today we’re going to discuss designing for children. Not immature clients, but actual children.

First I just wanted to say congratulations to a friend of mine who recently had twins. So awesome.

This is what really sparked this idea in my head about designing for children. What are the needs of children versus adults? What are the aesthetics that appeal to children over adults?

kids adapt very quickly. They understand they’re small and they find ways to get around it. Quickly climbing anything they can to get elevated. They also grow so fast that designing everything to a smaller size really makes it difficult for them in the future. It might work perfectly for one particular stage of their life, but they will outgrow it as fast as their shoes.

And this mostly relates to bathrooms. When people with kids decide to build they often freeze the project in time at the age their kids currently are. They even go to the extreme of putting in small toilets and lower sink vanities.

This might be really nice for that young age but how does that adapt to your child later? How can they grow into that? If you plan on using low vanities and small toilets be ready to change them all out at some point. And that is ok if that’s what you want to do.

A lot of couples tend to really ramp up their ideas of renovating or building before they have a child. Most often they are expecting when they realize they’re going to need more space or some other arrangement to make things more efficient or more comfortable.

One thing that is often overlooked is the time that it takes to do certain projects. Be sure to allow enough time when you’re planning that you can make it through the construction before you deliver if possible. Moving and dealing with a construction project on top of having a new born can be stressful.

You might make some decisions that you are not entirely happy about, simply because of your lack of time to provide attention to the project. Obviously the baby is the more important of the two, so one has to give and it will be the attention to the project.

So lets just look at the room. Kids really need three things outside of the eating and sanitation. they need a space that can accommodate

and play.

These can be handled a variety of ways. Lets talk about study first. There are really two theories. The first is to provide a desk in the room. In the bedroom, so that the child can have privacy and quiet while studying. The second is to not have a desk in their room. Have them study in another room of the house like the dining room or kitchen some where with a table or surface to write.

And that second thought is ok if you take the time that they are studying very seriously and are able to get everyone in the house to appreciate that time as quiet time. Turn all the tv’s and audio off. The advantages to this is they will be able to discuss certain questions they have with you. They will be able to work through problems in a room with you as opposed to being alone in their room possibly getting frustrated with a particular challenging new idea.

But on the other hand there are times when you just need to have absolute quiet. This would be one of those times that you need to have a private space for them to set up and really get down to work. A space that is only used for work.

I have heard before that when you combine areas of a room you tend to fall into that behavior when you use that area of the room. For example if you lay in bed to study or read you will start to fall asleep because your bed is for sleeping. If you always play some video game on the couch you will be thinking about that video game when you are sitting on the couch.

I don’t play video games but it does seem logical that if there is an activity that you enjoy doing perhaps more than reading a math textbook you will be more associated with that activity when you are in or at a place where that activity happens.

When I was growing up, I didn’t have a desk in my room. I think I did have some kind of desk in another room at some point but it was moved or something happened to it. So a lot of my studying after school was kind of done in a weird way. I would come home from school and this is mainly the middle to high school years. I can’t really remember the elementary years. I think I just played outside after school. But during those middle and high school years after watching an episode of the Brady bunch, I would set out my books on the bed and do all my homework on my knees.

It was a good thing we had some soft carpet in my room but i would also usually put a pillow under them. So not sure why this was my setup but it was. It worked ok. Not the most comfortable of setups but it was ok. I was also able to take my books to the breakfast table if I wanted to. But with an older brother and younger sister it was hard to concentrate in the more public spaces.

So think about how you would envision your child using their bedroom or other spaces of the house for study.

The next activity that needs to be planned for is sleep. Maybe the most important of the three. Sleep is awesome and I need much more of it. So when I was young I was lucky enough to have my own room. I had a double bed that was pretty old. It was a large brass bed with a head board and foot board. I can’t remember which grandmother this was passed down from but it was pretty old.

Every part of it would move. Like it was barely put together and would just fall apart at any moment. but on the other hand it was extremely heavy and solid. I think all the parts were just loose but the structure was solid. So kind of a contrast there but this thing was tall. And I mean tall. for a small child it was a mountain of a bed.

I still have this bed, its in storage but even now the bed is super tall. The top of the mattress is at around 42 inches probably, maybe 48. I remember having to grab the sheets like a horses mane when pulling myself up and into it. I think I had a stool as well. It was a small wooden stool and the top was a design my mother had done in needlepoint. Hi mom. I know you listen. Hi.

I can remember under the stool near one of the edges there was a staple or something poking up and if you stepped on the stool just right it would poke your foot. I stepped on the right spot every time. ha.

Another thing i learned is that the higher you are the harder you fall. I fell out of that bed at least 2 times that i can remember and it was a long way down. I can actually remember the dream. I was somewhere high and tripped I started to fall. and fall. and fall. and bam. I woke up hitting the floor. if you have ever fallen out of bed or can remember that usually you just roll out and bam. this seemed to carry on forever. free falling.

What made me think of all that is when you see kids rooms the first thing the parents often do is build or buy bunk beds. And of course bunk beds have rails on them or at least you hope they do because that would be a fall even greater than my brass bed.

Let’s look at this. The stages that kids go through. You start with the crib. There are several models with this bed. You have the low solid model that does not have moving parts. you have the tall models with the drop down panel. then you have the ones that convert and the first and the convert model might be the same.

With our daughter we went with the tall crib that had the drop down side or front panel. It was a nice crib well made and pretty solid. I can’t remember the manufacturer of it but it was well made. With the sides fully up it was a little lower than chest level for me so I could easily put river in and take her our without dropping the sides. My wife had to drop the side in order to comfortable put her in.

The panel was kind of difficult to drop you had to lift it a little push your leg into it to get it to unlock at the base and slide off the track then lower it while pushing with your leg. And I remember that when you did all this the whole crib would move around some because it had wheels on the legs and was on hardwood floors. We did put some of those rubber cups under the wheels and that helped keep it in place.

Eventually River got bold and climbed out one day. So we went to a mattress on the floor for her. She slept on a low mattress as her bed for a long time. I’m not going to tell you what she sleeps on now.

Other people I know got the low cribs with the fixed sides and they said positive things about them. I always thought they were too low but they said it was fine and not an issue at all.

Like I said earlier, a friend of mine had twins recently and talk about a surprise. So How do you plan for surprises? How do you adjust the space for two. You don’t necessarily need each and every item for each baby. There is a lot of sharing and there will be for a long time to come.

The biggest thing you will need to get for each would be a bed. It would be difficult to share a bed. Maybe not for the first couple of months but eventually they will need their own bed.

As they get older they will most likely share a room as well. There are a lot of ways to share a room and typically the most common way is with bunk beds. They are fine I have never really been a huge fan of bunk beds. I would much prefer to have two twin beds cleverly arranged if possible.

One of the new things to do is to actually build the bunks in. build them into the wall. Make them more permanent fixtures rather than a piece of furniture. There are some really cool looking ways this has been done, so that is an option as well.

The key to making any kids space work effectively is to make sure there is some system of organization. Children whether you know it or not actually want a system of order. They want things to be tidy.

Give them a place to put their dirty clothes and they will put them there if it becomes habit. Give them a place to create, color whatever and they will create there. You will have to guide them of course, but if you instill the behavior early on they will keep their room clean and organized.

When I was growing up part of my routine was to make my bed each morning. That was something I was expected to do as well as put clothes in the laundry room. More or less I did it. My room stayed pretty clean 90% of the time. That translated to who I am today and I try to keep things orderly and clean as an adult as well.

So this is always a big debate. Do you decorate the room with a bunch of childish things or do you keep it rather simple. If you go on Pinterest and search for nursery or children’s rooms you will find a plethora of projects or crafts you can do to decorate the room for your child. Everything from stencils on the wall to hanging butterflies from the ceiling.

If that is fun for you and you will enjoy doing those projects then by all means do them. They make the room look really cool. some of the more permanent things you can do is to pick a carpet that is fun or exciting. A paint for the walls that is unique or different. The furniture. There are so many options out there for children’s furniture. You will not have a hard time finding furniture.

One thing that I would suggest not getting are the beds that are like cars and trucks. I don’t see those as growing with your children and are a more temporary purchase or a waste in my opinion. Of course that is my opinion.

More important than all the decorations is the lighting. Give your children light. Enough light so they can create, read, study, and play without having to strain their eyes. Most children have pretty good if not great eye sight as children. Over time our eyes get tired. Mine are tired right now. ha.

There will be plenty of opportunities for them to strain their eyes later in life so give them the proper light now so they don’t have to. Most everyone will recommend going with some form of task lighting.

This leads me to another topic. Do the kids have technology in their bedroom? Do they have TV’s, computers, any of that stuff?

Everyones lives are different and everyone has their own opinion on this topic. I want you guys to weigh in on this. So go to and leave a comment under this show. episode 36. Let me know what you think. Should children have technology in their bedrooms?

Well that is going to do it for this show. If you enjoy what I am doing here, I would love for you to go to iTunes and leave me a review for the show. Go to whitewash studio and click podcast. At the top is a link to take you to iTunes so you can leave that honest review. It would really help the show.

Thanks for listening and I will talk to you next week.

I hope that you are having great success with the planning and construction of your home. If you want to get in touch with me please reach out to me on twitter or google plus.

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