Design a space versatile enough to accommodate your child’s growth – from tittering tot to thriving teen – with these expert tips on sleep, play and study areas.
Nur Diana, children’s Ikea sales leader for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand
Mala Balani, founder of The Maia Concept and an interior designer specializing in children’s rooms
For Babies to Two-year-olds
Curb your excitement so you don’t go overboard creating thematic rooms for your newborn’s nursery. These are generally not feasible if you want the room’s design to last for the next eight to 10 years, says Mala. “Themed rooms require more effort to remodel – especially if you have painted or decorated the walls and furniture – when you or your child gets bored.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Pick reusable basics – The essentials in a nursery are your baby’s cot, changing station and dresser – get these in colours that are easier to match with other furniture, advises Mala. For example, a dresser with a changing pad on top works as a changing station, and can be used as a chest of drawers when your child is older.
Plan for the needs of your growing child – Try to anticipate what Junior will need in his room as he grows – sockets for Wi-Fi or computer cables, for instance. “The last thing you need is the hassle of having a contractor come in every few years to add on things like electrical sockets,” says Mala. If you’re worried about the dangers of having these sockets in your kid’s room, conceal them in childproof casings and remove the casings when the sockets are needed.
For 3-7 year-olds
This is the time for you to engage in play with your kids before they enter formal education in primary school, so design spaces suitable for playtime, says Nur.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Create “bubbles” for family bonding. Young children play and crawl on floors a lot, so lay carpets or rugs in the bedrooms to protect their hands and knees. “Arrange furniture around your child’s room to create a ‘bubble’ in the middle or install a craft table, and use a nice, big carpet to mark that as a family play area for spreading out toys and games,” says Nur. And create them for quiet time too. Kids want a space to call their own too, so dedicate another “bubble” for quiet reading or activities like drawing, painting and colouring. “Place a child-sized easel or table and chairs – these should be mobile as children like to drag them around – in that ‘bubble’. Keep their art materials at their height and within arm’s reach too,” elaborates Nur.
Put safety first – Nur advises against placing stools or shelves under windows – younger children may climb onto them. “Also avoid having furniture with sharp corners, and opt for acrylic photo frames and mirrors – glass ones may shatter if your child knocks against them,” says Nur. Mala agrees, adding that while collapsible beds or pull-out desks are great space-savers, children may get their fingers jammed in the gaps. “Drawers with self-close functions – to ensure that they don’t slam backwards – are not advisable either. Kids have a tendency to slide their hands behind drawers to pull them out, and if the retraction force is too strong, they won’t have time to withdraw their hands. A better alternative is to store toys in buckets that can be stacked on a fixed wall shelf.”
Choose adaptable furniture – “Modular furniture – separate add-ons that provide the flexibility of personalization – are especially useful in space-challenged environments. Start at a low height and utilise wall space for building up adjustable shelves to suit Junior’s growing needs,” suggests Nur. Better yet, choose furniture that lets you modify the colours of the doors and shelves to match your child’s ever changing preferences.
Design for little adults – “Ensure that everything in their bedroom – from the wardrobes to bookshelves and toy buckets – is built or arranged at their height. That way, you can teach them to dress themselves or put their toys away neatly after playing, so they can learn to be independent,” says Mala.
Favour subtler colours – “Vibrant colours visually excite children for playtime. But to encourage sleep or study, the space must have a calming effect,” says Mala. The sleep zone should preferably be painted in muted or pastel colours; you can include anything that relaxes the child, like family photographs or automated night lights. To create a cheerful play area, keep the loud colours to one wall and make sure it doesn’t directly face the bed.
For 8-12 year-olds
Once your child starts school, the play area has to make way for a study corner, with enough room for a desk or computer table, textbooks and schoolbags.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Transition smoothly – “Remove carpets and cushions from the floor. Replace them with a desk and reuse the storage shelves for school materials instead of toys. Make sure there is ample lighting for Junior to do his homework and study,” advises Mala.
Repurpose furniture and spaces – Citing a personal example, Mala says: “My children love to draw and write, so I turned one wall of their room into a huge chalk-and-magnetic board. This designated space allowed them to express themselves without vandalising the other walls. When they started school, they began using the boards to pin up important school notices or write reminders to themselves.” So think about using furniture or design elements that your child can use regardless of whether he’s three or 12.
Involve them in the design process – Tykes can grow into opinionated tweens, so listen when they voice their preferences and modify their rooms accordingly, says Nur. “Your tween may prefer darker or more ‘grown-up’ shades like navy blue, instead of pastel pink; some may start carving out their own entertainment ‘bubble’ for their game consoles.” Teenagers generally want more privacy, so create the illusion of segmented space by using curtains to cordon off a bedroom or reading area, for instance.
By Cheryl Leong, Simply Her, August 2014