What do you love/hate about your home design, with toddler
March 23, 2019 9:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the position of being able to make a wishlist of what I'm looking for in an apartment redesign. This question about kitchens has been super helpful to me, preparing a wishlist for the interior architect. So this is basically the same question, but about the home in general, with a toddler in it. What do you love/hate about your home's design?

Some areas of particular interest:

1. Storage of medical supplies
2. Kids bedroom
3. Play area

I am specifically making a wishlist for a very limited amount of space -- so feel free to answer if you have a house, not an apartment, but if you have particularly brilliant space-saving features for the space constrained, I am particularly interested in those.
posted by Cozybee to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Having standard doorways/entryways that a child gate can fit in. Our stairs and entry ways into some rooms are extra wised or have bannisters that prevent the use of a baby gate. This makes it super hard to keep Toddler kitty isolated to certain parts of the house.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:54 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Having laundry on the same level as the kid's bedrooms.
posted by AugustWest at 11:09 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe not for the early years, when you're just trying to prevent chaos, but anything that encourages the child's independence has been super helpful since year 2. Things like: reachable door knobs and light switches, mini toilet seat integrated into the adult's seat, reachable sinks and wash basins (with a stool), reachable kid clothes storage etc.
posted by gakiko at 11:28 PM on March 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes to relatively low vanities and single handle sinks - my toddler cannot figure out the dual handle one and just turns the hot on full blast.
posted by brainmouse at 2:18 AM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

No stairs, zero rise entries, so that the kids could navigate without tripping. Also, we could get into the house without tripping.
Some physical distance between the living room (parents talking and watching TV) and the kids' rooms. One of our daughters is sensitive to noise and this was a problem for her at night. Ditto awareness of noise zones in a multi-family dwelling (window overlooking a parking area, rooms near the stairs, etc.)

Light-blocking curtains or blinds (loops are dangerous, cut them and double-knot the ends). Nightlights to navigate to the bathroom (the built-in electric outlet lights might be helpful).

Fun, sturdy storage chests to toss the junk into at night. Make it a game, get the floor cleared, set the lid in place. We had a large plastic turtle that doubled as a flat surface for play. It's okay to have similar things in each room, because toys migrate throughout the house.

Prescription meds and over the counter stuff: keep in the parents' bathroom in a locked case, in a high storage area. Nothing here that kids need to be curious about. Be aware that adults have meds in their purses and jacket pockets, where children can gain access. Be aware that visiting other homes will require a safety check for random bottles laying about, including meds for pets, gardening chemicals, cleaning supplies, etc.

Some meds are stored in the refrigerator. High and hard to access is a thing here, too.
posted by TrishaU at 3:31 AM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

- A play area that is visible from the kitchen. It makes it much, much easier to have kids playing independently while dinner prep is happening. Having a little table where kids can draw or do art projects and I don't care if it gets stained/stickered/markered.
- Low hooks so kids can manage their own coats on their own.
- Storage bins in the kids bedrooms so they can just sweep things in quickly to clean up.
posted by papergirl at 5:21 AM on March 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

My kid's room has built-in storage and it's kind of glorious. It makes great use of weirdly-shaped space (converted attic), there's no tipping risk even when they climb it, they can reach almost everything in the lower tier (current clothes, stuffies, extra blankets) readily while the upper one is completely inaccessible (clothes in bigger sizes/for other seasons, extra linens, a paperback book series I'm saving for when they're older, and the medicines they use), and nothing can get lost below/behind anything. Also, their mattress is just directly on the floor, so there's basically nowhere to fall and it's fine to jump on (imo; your risk tolerance and toddler's exuberance may vary). I also love that the ceiling light has a dimmer switch.

For adult medicine, we have a little "closet" in the hall, maybe 20 inches tall, cut into the space between two studs. It's the perfect size for those plastic "shoebox" storage containers, which makes it easy to pull them down and get stuff out, but the whole thing is just above my eye level so it's plenty secure.

For stairs: I installed a second railing below the adult one. It was easy to do because I just followed the course and bracket positioning of the first one, cost maybe $20, and has meant so much for our kiddo's confidence and independence.
posted by teremala at 5:27 AM on March 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Having the parents' bedroom on the same level as the kids' bedrooms. First-floor masters are really common in my area, but would be frustrating and potentially dangerous if a toddler tries to come downstairs to snuggle/get away from the monsters.
posted by basalganglia at 5:30 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

(Definitely agree about child-accessible bathrooms, art supplies, and play areas too. Makes such a difference. "Montessori" is a good search term if you want to see lots of examples.)
posted by teremala at 5:30 AM on March 24, 2019

Built in EVERYTHING. All the built in storage, forever. The one thing that I have yet to accomplish in our smallish house is a space that my (older than a toddler, but toddlers do quickly turn into not toddlers) is a place where he can play that isn't a common area. His room is just too small and there's no available surfaces, so he plays in the living and dining rooms. We set up the furniture down here under the assumption that these are mainly adult spaces, but the toys don't really every make it all the way back up to his room and I'm in the process now of just giving in and installing toy storage in every room of the house except our bedroom. That's more realistic and less of a constant battle than trying to make a child clean up his toys the instant he's done playing and packing them up and taking them to a whole other floor and putting them neatly away.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:42 AM on March 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Our home has a loop on the ground floor — you can walk from the living room around a powder room to get to the kitchen, the dining room, and then back to the living room. And it turns out that this is great for kids (and grow ups); umpteen games of “hug monster” chasing the kids around and around and around the loop.

Our play area is in the basement, which is not great for toddlers because they need a lot of supervision but is totally awesome for older kids because they can make a lot of noise while adults talk upstairs (and because the mess is less bothersome.) We found that having a little space in the living room for play, with a small rotating toy selection, worked great in the toddler years.

Laundry upstairs with the bedrooms sure would be nice!
posted by wyzewoman at 5:53 AM on March 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is not really a design tip but we have an IKEA Kallax unit (varying sizes) in the kids rooms and common rooms. Then we have the fabric bins for them. This meant they could move toys to different rooms easily, since my kids always at young ages wanted to play where we were, not in designated play areas.

It depends on your plans but I wouldn’t install anything specifically toddler height for the long term. We did build in room for steps for them to get up to sinksetc though. Nothing as fancy as this but I love it.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:57 AM on March 24, 2019

Our kids’ room has no overhead lights, just a switch that controls an outlet. When they were toddlers and super crazy, I didn’t even trust them with a lamp, as the cords would be a toy. It was a huge pain to have to carry light in. So I vote overhead lights!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 8:30 AM on March 24, 2019

I love fairy lights, so would love to have some of my light switches have a power outlet; the electricity is right there anyway.
Right now, everything is USB-re-chargeable, so think about having USB ports in outlets in bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms.
A place for keys, chargers, re-usable grocery bags, all the stuff that accretes near the door.
I have the stand mixer, crock pot, blender, etc., on a cart under a counter/ breakfast bar. It can be pulled out for easy access, and the cart top is butcher block, so it gets used as extra counter space, unintended but nifty.
Do you have pets? In my old house, there was a quirky space in the kitchen that was like a closet with no door, a leftover from its 1910 design. I put a shelf in, and cupboard door on it and it was the cat's room, with litter box on the floor, food on the shelf. The door was mounted high enough for the cat to get in, but not the dog, and was not full height, so the cat had plenty of light. She almost forgave me for getting a dog. almost.
Your kids will grow up. Useful to have a few lockable cupboards for meds, liquor, etc. Your kids will be perfect angels, but they will have friends.

Safety. Hard-wired and battery smoke/ carbon monoxide detectors. Hand-rails. Shower grab bars are not just for geezers. In every room, what is the exit plan and the 2ndary plan?
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don’t do an open plan kitchen. One where you can see the play area is great, but the kitchen needs a door where you can put up a baby gate. Our kitchen has a big open archway that is too wide for a baby gate. I was envious of my grandparents’ house, that had a kitchen door you could close! A door isn’t necessary, but a doorway where you can put a baby gate is.

Interior doorknobs that either don’t lock or that have locks that are easy to open from the other side of the door. Conversely, exterior doors should have some locking mechanism that can’t be reached by a toddler. I’ve had to rescue both of my kids from rooms they’ve locked themselves into.

We have a living room with a step down into it. This isn’t good for toddlers. If it’s got an entry that is too wide for a baby gate, that’s even worse (ours fortunately doesn’t have that). Stairways should have walls on either side of them, so you can put up baby gates. Having just a railing on one side will limit your baby gate options.

Walls should be decorated in a way that you can use a Mr Clean Magic Eraser on them, and should be easy to repaint if that fails. You will want to be able to secure furniture to the walls, using quake straps or brackets.

Make sure the table you will be eating at (kitchen or dining room) has enough space around it to accommodate a high chair. Keep in mind that modern high chairs generally have wide bases (to make them harder to tip over). Flooring in the eating area should be easy to clean.

You want ALL the storage in your bathroom, especially storage at medicine cabinet height. There should also be kitchen storage at a height that toddlers can’t reach. Cabinets with doors are better than open ones, especially for the ones that are low enough for a toddler to reach.

Glass doors aren’t a good idea. Doors with windows in them above toddler accessible height are fine, French doors or sliding glass doors aren’t so good.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:57 AM on March 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love our open plan kitchen facing a play room with a bar we eat all our meals at in betweeen.

If you can possibly swing a separate play area, do so. Otherwise the whole house becomes where the toys go.

We have a kid sized coat rack mounted in the wall right next to the front door.
posted by shothotbot at 6:40 PM on March 24, 2019

Overhead lights or some other thing that isn't a torchiere. I don't know why so many bedrooms are built without fixtures. Torchieres are dangerous in a toddler's room.

If there are stairs they need to be padded + carpeted, full stop, including at the bottom. Toddlers gonna fall down stairs. You yourself are not unlikely to fall downstairs carrying a wiggly toddler.

If there are railings (like at the side of a staircase) they need to either be very close together or wide apart or lined on both sides with plexiglass, because if they're at an interval anywhere near the width of a kid's head, that kid's head is getting stuck between those bars. It just is. And you don't need that aggravation even if the kid isn't actually injured which of course she could be.

Disable the locks in the bathroom if you don't want your kid locking herself in there by accident.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:55 PM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

it's fun for your toddler to have a low kitchen cabinet whose contents she can play with. Not toys: put pans, pots, strainers, things she can't hurt or hurt herself with, in that cabinet. My kids loved that and it was great to have them with me, reliably distracted and not underfoot, in the kitchen while I worked .
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:58 PM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cordless blinds so you don't have to worry about strangulation.
posted by carolr at 8:16 PM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

marking as best answer every answer that added something to think about I wasn't aware of or reminded me of something I had periphery awareness of but forgot. These are all great, please keep them coming!
posted by Cozybee at 9:37 PM on March 24, 2019

oh, I was wrong when I said the bars on a stair railing could be either narrowed or wider than a baby's head. They have to be narrower. Their wiggly little bodies are actually narrower than their heads, so they can slip right through if the bars are wider than a heads-width. Plexiglass temporarily sealing off all the bars is best.

Also, if you have anything like a landing they could theoretically jump off, make sure there's no furniture nearby they could drag over and use to climb up. My friend's kid did that (fell/jumped from landing) and they were very lucky he only broke his ankle and not his neck.

Are we talking a total remodel where you can make any changes you want? If you have the chance to NOT have stone or tile floors, even in the kitchen, it'll save you a lot of grief. Babies learning to walk/run on carpet or vinyl or wood = adorable. Babies learning to walk on hard tile = trauma all around.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:33 AM on March 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Landing strip. I knew there was a name for the place you put your keys and stuff when you come in, and it finally came to me.
posted by theora55 at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2019

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