Durban - Compromise: something adults do the day they become parents. It is a known fact.
However, although they grudgingly make peace with the knowledge that long, quiet baths, alone time, and uninterrupted sleep are things of the past, many parents struggle finding the balance between child-friendly living spaces, and the stylish, sleek homes they had before toys lay scattered around, and mud, food, and drink became part of the flooring.
For, once homes are inhabited by little feet, glass tables are no longer practical, ceramic decor is unadvisable, and light-coloured linen and furniture is an absolute no-no.
Or is it? Can parents still have the homes of their dreams? Or do they need to pack those desires at the back of the toy cupboard for 18 years?
According to home decor and design experts, there are ways to strike a balance between family living spaces and elegance, and these all boil down to making the right, clever choices when deciding on certain aspects of your home furnishings and finishings.
According to an article on HGTV (http://www.hgtv.com/)– an American television channel which broadcasts a variety of how-to shows with a focus on home improvement, gardening, craft, and remodelling – balance can be achieved by following a number of simple dos and don’ts, including:
* Incorporating decorating styles that stand up to sibling food fights, vomiting babies, indoor hockey matches, incontinent pets, and slobby spouses.This also means checking the colour of the stains on your sofa before choosing a new hue.
* Opting for a clean-lined, but casual and comfortable look. This means avoiding couches and chairs with skirts – which attract pet hair, dust bunnies and dirty shoe prints – in favour of exposed legs. Well-loved vintage items and contemporary pieces with a slightly weathered look survive kids more readily than precious antiques or new items.
* Opting for vibrant colours, a bit of pattern, and touchable textures which help camouflage inevitable spills, fingerprints and other mishaps. When it comes to paint choices, keep in mind that colour appears lighter on larger surfaces, so go a shade deeper on walls than the colour chip you like.
* Choosing indestructible materials and finishes, including wipeable and washable wall paints, wipeable wooden blinds or roman shades instead of curtains, flooring that cleans well with a damp mop, and making use of area rugs to soften and warm spaces in the home.
* Opting for heavy, solid furnishings that will stand up to years of abuse and can be reupholstered. Cheap furniture will break easily. Also, opt for rounded corners on tables and countertops to prevent bruises and black eyes.
* Accessorising out of children’s reach
* Making space for kids by carving out areas in common rooms for children to do the things they enjoy doing. This is better than relegating them to bedrooms or basements.
Child-friendly spaces both inside and outside homes also encourage children to play creatively and imaginatively.
American child and family psychologist Kathy Eugster said, currently, one of the most concerning aspects of raising children, was the amount of time they spent in front of screens, including TVs and computers. She said when children focused their attention on screens, they experienced a passive form of learning or entertainment.
“Instead of using their own imaginations to learn about the world and create something, children are passive recipients of visual and auditory stimulation that may or may not require some response using fine motor skills. However, this is a very artificial way of learning about the world and does not engage children in a kinesthetic manner using their entire bodies.”
To set up safe play spaces within homes, Eugster advised parents to choose areas that are child-friendly and stock them with toys that would spark their imaginations and creativity. She said children needed clean and organised spaces for play, where they could play freely by themselves, with other children, or even with their parents.
Dedicated playrooms are a popular way for parents to ensure that their children have places within their homes which are all about them, including housing their toys, featuring things they enjoy doing, and decorated in ways which make them feel happy and free.
Due to the country’s weather making outdoor play possible almost daily, many South Africans go the route of buying/building wooden Wendy houses/huts for their children, which they decorate and equip with play items. This option gives children a sense of freedom as they play in their own little worlds. East Coast Radio presenter Jane Linley-Thomas makes use of an outdoor wooden cabin for her children to watch DVDs.
A number of options are available throughout the country, with many companies offering a wide variety of kids’ playhouses, some with verandahs and fences, or added windows. Prices can range from R4 000 upwards.
According to Decoist (www.decoist.com/)– an interior design and architecture web magazine – designing playrooms can be just as invigorating and enjoyable for parents as the finished products are for their children. Creating spaces that inspired kids to experience the joy of play was an “amazing opportunity for whimsical decor choices”.
Some of Decoist’s tips include:
* If space is no issue, place storage and eating pieces along the wall and leave the centre of the room free for creative endeavours.
* Include plenty of table space as children use tabletop surfaces for activities ranging from arts and crafts to small block building, as well as sensory activities such as play dough. If tables are smaller, try an L-shaped arrangement.
* If the play area is part of your child’s bedroom, there are plenty of layout options to ponder. For example, with the bed taking up a portion of the wall space, there may not be room for tables along the edge of the room. A table in the centre of the floor is a wonderful alternative.
* A comfy sitting area is another playroom layout possibility. A couple of kid-sized armchairs or beanbags can designate a reading nook. However you plan the space, make sure your child’s personality shines through. For example, hanging kids’ artwork on the wall adds vibrancy to a room.
* Storage can be one of the biggest playroom design challenges. However, a number of options are available to address this issue, such as cubes that open and close to conceal their contents.
Outdoor play spaces are also great options for allowing children their own, creative spaces within their properties.
Interior design and home decor site www.lifestyledspaces.com offers gorgeous ideas on how to do this, including setting up sound areas, outdoor chalk areas, rock walls, truck play areas, and bean forts, to name just a few.
Safety is, of course the priority for such areas, and fenced in yards were recommended, a blog post on the site stated.
“Also make sure any wood is sanded well…and avoid using chemical fertilisers or pesticides in the garden. Little hands like to go straight from dirt to mouth.
“Use bright colours. Kids love them and they will make your backyard look like a wonderland. Involve all senses: touch – a soft lamb’s ear plant; smell – fragrant flowers; hearing – wind chimes; taste – yummy vegetables.”
Bonny Fourie, Sunday Tribune