Kids room – part 1
Your wee little baby we prepared for in the last article has quickly grown into a child. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children in life is to teach them from a young age how to organize their own bedroom, because an orderly room is their pleasant haven from which they experience the fullness of their unique life. As your kids grow, the organizing skills you teach them as a parent will serve them well. (Who knows, your organized child of today may become your successful CEO, doctor, or astronaut son or daughter of tomorrow!)
All Kids Can Learn
Please never think for a moment that young children can’t learn organizing skills, because they can. As a former certified school teacher and tutor who has taught every age from kindergarten to teens to adults, I can vouch that even kindergarteners can learn some organizing skills. In fact, it’s been my experience that most children like to learn how to organize things if someone is willing to teach them, and they are proud of themselves when they are praised for doing so.
Keys to Success
One of the keys to success in organizing your child’s room, no matter what their age, is to enlist their help as is age-appropriate. Gently teach or coach them along rather than doing it for them just because “it’s easier for you to do it yourself.” Remember, they need to learn. Be sure to make it fun and perhaps offer a reward like lunch out together or an ice cream cone after you’re done. Praise their efforts often and don’t criticize them. Keep in mind that every child is different, so observe your child and plan accordingly to their personality and age. And once again, as you set up your child’s room for maximum rest and enjoyment, their safety should always be your first priority.
What exactly should you take into account about your child’s particular personality when helping them organize their room? Well, for one, have realistic expectations, because although every child can get organized, not all have a natural penchant for it, so it will take a little more work and patience on your part. And some children also have learning or attention issues, so you may need to settle for a room that’s “organized enough.” Kids are not adults; they’re active children who are a work in progress, so don’t expect perfection. As children mature, they can be expected to be more organized than when they are young children.
Vive la Différence
To illustrate the differences between kids and their penchant (or lack thereof) for organization, here’s a real-life example that you’ll be able to relate to if you think about your own children, or those you know.
I once knew a mother whose very logical eleven-year-old daughter was so naturally organized that every hanger in her closet faced the same way and there was not a piece of paper in sight on her study desk. (Yes, really! ) Contrast that to her highly creative nine-year-old son who continually stored ice cream bar wrappers under his bed and left soiled clothes lying on the floor of his closet, much to his (fastidiously organized) mother’s chagrin. The point being, every child has a different organizational style, or lack of it, so go with the flow and work around the personality of your particular child.
Small Bedroom Challenges
A small bedroom for a child in the twenty-first century can pose organizational challenges. What with everything from mountains of toys to their own TVs, computers, and electronic games—not to mention prolific rock and seashell collections and school papers—kids’ rooms can quickly become overloaded clutter castles. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Once again, the big “organizing secret” is to realize you only have so much room, and make wise choices. In other words, practice the KISS principle: “Keep It Super Simple!”
The main organizational goal for your child’s room is to set up systems and arrange furnishings so that everything has its own place. Of course, it’s only in a perfect world that kids will keep everything in its place, because they are, after all, kids. The important thing is that there is a base of organization, which means there are systems and containers in place to store their belongings. With just a “quick pickup” after a busy day of playing and studying, order can be achieved rather easily.
As you make this transition and turn the nursery into a child’s room, begin by evaluating the space. What pieces of furniture do you have that can be used, and which ones may need to be stored, donated, or sold? What baby theme items need to be donated, and what should replace them that’s more age-appropriate? Sit down again with your three-ring binder to take some notes, make a plan, and a budget. Decide if the room needs any repairs, painting, or flooring updates and plan accordingly. Be sure to use nontoxic no-VOC paint. It’s also a good health practice to have an air purifier in your child’s room.
As you decide which furniture to purchase, keep the long-term picture in mind and avoid cutesy and trendy furniture designed only for very young children. Sure, all those glossy magazine photos of celebrity kids’ over-the-top theme rooms are dazzling and fun to look at. But I know that you are wiser with your money than the marketers hope and will instead shop carefully to purchase the best quality furnishings at the best prices.
Choose classic furniture of good quality that will serve your child from toddler through teenager. Make sure the design is timeless enough that they can take it to college and then to their first apartment. Take your child shopping with you to help pick out their own furniture, and explain why you’re avoiding trendy purchases.
One special note: I’m personally a big fan of Ethan Allen furnishings and stores because of their quality furniture and timeless/classic design appeal. I consider their pieces a long-term investment rather than an expense. Their retail showrooms are set up like real rooms at home, so you can get a true picture of how your own room will look. Their in-store designers can help you choose furnishings that will grow with your child.
Keep furnishings for kids’ rooms to the basics, choosing from the list below.
- Twin bed, with possible pull-out trundle for sleepovers (Note: It’s healthiest to buy organic mattresses that are free of chemicals.)
- Twin bed, with built-in drawers underneath for clothing storage
- Bunk beds if your children share a room
- Study/computer desk, chair, and lamp, or two of each if your children share a room
- Cozy chair for reading
- Bean bag chairs for having friends over
- Dresser or armoire for clothing
- Bookcase for books, games, TV
- Rocker or reading chair
- Bulletin board for hanging art and messages
- Whiteboard or chalkboard
- Small table for young children to color and play
- Clothes hamper (tall covered wastebaskets are slim and work great inside closets)
- Adjustable closet shelving
- Nightstand and lamp by bed
- Toy boxes, trunks, or bins
Arrange furniture around the perimeter of the room so that maximum floor space is available for playing and for having sleepovers. Avoid placing the bed near the window where too much light might keep your child from sleeping or where they might catch a draft.
As I mentioned in the previous article, if you want a theme room, it’s best to keep the furnishings, wall color, and carpet neutral. Create the theme by using colorful accessories that are less expensive and that you can change from time to time as your child matures. Let your child choose their own theme, or at least let them help to choose it. Painting wall stripes, using removable wall decals, and a buying a themed rug are fun and inexpensive ways to change a room quickly and economically.
I like the concept of what I call “zone organizing” for teaching kids how to organize their room and keep it organized. Zone organizing avoids getting overwhelmed since instead of having to reorganize their whole room, kids can organize one zone at a time, see results, and quickly feel successful. Start with one area (zone) below and teach your child how to organize that area. Then take a break. And when your child’s room needs maintenance, ask them to tackle one zone a week to keep things streamlined and maintained over time. Zones include:
Bed. Teach your child how to make their bed the minute they get out of it, and praise them for doing so. It’s easiest to provide them with a comforter and one pillow that they helped choose so that all they have to do is pull the comforter over their bed and it looks fine. Avoid “fussy” bedspreads that have to be just so or will get very wrinkled. The bed is the largest horizontal surface in a room other than the floor, so if the bed is made, the whole room looks more orderly; if it’s rumpled, it’s the first visual mess you notice upon entering the room.
Dresser. The dresser is a zone and individual drawers are smaller zones within that zone. Pants should be folded in one drawer, tops in another, socks and undies in another, and so forth, with no mixing of clothing types and no stuffing of unfolded items together in one drawer. Teach your child to sort their drawers by clothing type and to always fold everything. Again, show them how it’s done and teach them to make it a habit, just like brushing their teeth. Use shoeboxes or plastic bins inside the drawers to keep socks and undies and small clothing items separated.
Desk. A desk encourages good study habits. Provide colorful containers for pens, pencils, stapler, and other office supplies. You can cover juice cans with colorful contact paper if your budget is tight, or buy small clay planters at your local nursery. Keep drawers neat using small plastic containers to divide supplies. Checkbook boxes also work well for this. Make sure there is a comfortable desk chair and hang a decorative hook on the wall near the desk for your child’s school backpack. Finally, a plastic file bin with hanging files works great for organizing school paperwork.