Renovating for a Growing Family: 11 Home Design Tips with Children in Mind

by Brittany Worrell BoyceApril 23, 2014

Brought to you by our friend, Kristin Hackler:

Whether you’re starting a family or just considering it (or you already have some active tykes toddling around the house), there are a number of renovations you can do to your home that can make it safer and more enjoyable for both you and your little ones.

Child-Friendly Floor Plan Ideas

Doug Smith, president of Ilderton Contractors in the upscale beach side community of Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, South Carolina, has been building and renovating homes for more than 35 years, and during that time he’s seen and built some pretty creative family floor plans.

“Suites are a good idea for new families. One concept is to incorporate the nursery into the master suite and have both rooms connect to the bathroom,” says Smith. “Later, when the child moves out of the nursery, the parents can convert the space into a study or office.”

If improvements are being made to the kitchen, incorporating a mud room at a back entrance can save untold amounts of mopping time, plus it provides a convenient storage area for coats, backpacks, bags and dirty shoes.
When it comes to designing kids’ rooms, it’s important to keep in mind that your child’s interests will not only vary in the next couple of years, but you also might want to sell the house at some point. So creating rooms that are uniquely theirs but are also appealing to a larger market can be an exciting challenge.

“We did a house once that had three bedrooms for three boys, all along one hallway, right next to each other,” says Smith. “The way it was designed was that each room was accessed through a door equipped with barn door hardware, so they could slide the door open to get in. What was especially interesting, though, was that the closet for each room was parallel with the bedroom door and the hallway, with access from the hallway as well as the bedroom. It also had a barn door access that connected to the bedroom door, so that when you closed the bedroom door, you could get into the closet from the hallway and vice versa.” Smith adds that the boys also shared a common bath that the parents designed specifically for them, complete with a trough sink and urinal.

Child-Unique Home Design Features

Renovations don’t necessarily mean gutting and rebuilding rooms from scratch, however. There are a number of kid-friendly upgrades that families can make through simple updates and piecemeal improvements.
“For the kitchen, families should give some real thought to their appliances. Do they want kids to have access to food storage, as they would with a low freezer, or do they want it out of the way with a high freezer? Does the range have front knobs and if so, is it gas or electric? We personally had to remove the front knobs from our range when we weren’t using it because it was gas and we had a couple of close calls,” says Smith.
If possible, says Smith, families should consider a range with an induction top and have the stove separate and placed higher up, where it’s harder for children to access. If this isn’t an option, however, look for ovens with doors that are cool to the touch, even at maximum heat, and look for ranges with knobs along the back or on the surface; out of range of little fingers.
Other smaller projects you can do around the house to protect small children include:

  • Ensuring that all cabinetry and drawers have a soft-close function to avoid pinching little fingers.
  • Installing magnetic locks and sturdy safety latches on low level cabinets and drawers.
  • Incorporating cabinet space for trash cans in the kitchen and bathrooms to keep them safely out of the way.
  • Installing pocket doors in doorways and hallways that you want to keep little ones out of, but don’t want to seal off on a regular basis.
  • Having bookshelves built in where possible instead of using freestanding cases that could potentially fall.
  • Purchasing a dishwasher with a lock to avoid accidental openings and potential scalding.
  • Having your contractor or woodworker create custom, removable baby gates that match your current or new stair rails or home décor.
  • Installing an intercom system to avoid yelling across the house.
  • Consider installing hardwood floors throughout the home. Smith notes that hardwood is soft, warm, easy to clean and maintain, lasts a long time and is sustainable, as opposed to carpet or vinyl.
  • If you’re updating the stairs, incorporate a landing, if possible. That way if a fall occurs, the person will only fall halfway.
  • Installing power outlet covers with sliding covers that seal off the socket when not in use.

Additionally, keeping electronic hazards out of reach is especially important for parents with young children. “If you can, consult with a home media specialist about installing electronics so that the cords for things like the television and media electronics run behind the walls,” says Smith.

Regardless of the extent to which you plan on updating your home, any adjustments you make for the safety and well-being of your little ones are steps in the right direction. So whether you’re using masking tape to bundle and tuck wires or you have a team of specialists scouring the home for loose cords, you’re still taking the best steps possible toward a happy and healthy child-friendly home.

Kristin Hackler writes about home, DIY and family topics for eBay, where you can find just about any stove, kitchen appliance or hardware you need to complete your family’s perfect floor plan. You can follow Kristin at Google Plus and on eBay.

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Brittany Worrell Boyce

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