Children's needs in a house?

pumpkinhouseJune 26, 2013

We are planning to build a new house soon, and have one baby so far. I understand the needs of one baby in a house, but I was hoping to get some insight from BTDT parents in terms of house design. I've read about the perils of two story great rooms...what else should we be considering when determining if a house will be kid friendly? The plan we have now has an en suite bath with each bedroom, so bathrooms won't be an issue. I have a feeling there are lots of little things you don't think will be a problem until it is.

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Planning for an infant is much different than planning for high school age children. The first need much more supervision and the latter much more privacy. It's difficult to design a home for both.

One approach would be to have the "double master" with one upstairs, and one downstairs. You use the upstairs as the master while the kids are small and need your attention in the night, and the downstairs serves as a guest room/library area. When the children are older and more independent, you swap the parental location to give them (and you!) the privacy that is more appropriate for that age group.

And actually, en suite baths for all bedrooms is an expensive extravagance that should be the first thing on your list to lose. It's good character building to share. Younger kids should share baths and bedrooms, and only be "promoted" to having their own bedrooms as they reach young adulthood. Creating mini personal suites with all of the electronics and personal baths does the opposite of fostering independence and social integration. They never want to grow up or leave home if you don't create a desire to do so!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 10:11AM
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A few come to mind:

Install fire sprinker system and tamper-resistant electrical receptacles throughout, even if your local jurisdiction doesn't require them yet.
Consider areas you might want to gate-off and make sure a gate can be securely installed there. Wide openings, or extremely open plans can make this challenging.
Sharp edges (drywall/plaster outside corners, certain tables, fireplace thresholds) should be avoided, or designed to minimize chance of injury, or fitted with after-market protection.
Provide for secure/remote storage of toxic substances.
Consider appliance controls that have child locks or are placed out of easy reach.
Don't defeat good guardrails by placing furniture or other scalable objects against them.
Avoid trowel-finished or polished concrete
Open riser stairs, if you must have them, should be designed in accord with the 4" sphere rule, even if your local jurisdiction doesn't require it.

If you're planning on parenting a lot of infants/toddlers or will operate an in-home daycare, then there may be other considerations.
Unless there is always going to be a little person using a fixture, I would set its height for adult use.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Have a foyer. Keep main living area out of view of the foyer. Kids make huge messes very quick.

Stairs: If you have stairs have them broken up with a landing. Like the U shape. If they do fall down them less like to get really hurt.

Yard position: Keep the kitchen and family room at the back of the house. So when at the right age they can play outside yet you can still supervise them. Have 3 boys and they want to go outside more than I do. Has been a great thing.

Bedrooms: Avoid bifold doors. Doing a walk in closet for each room to keep clutter down and avoid pinched fingers.

Kitchen: No stoves on an island or in front of a counter seating area.

Counters: We have a bar height counter. My kids are always bumping heads running around playing. Wish I had done counter height or left it out all together.

Fireplaces - Our gas just has a thin mesh as it is not vented outside. If vented out the back it can have glass. We have never used our fireplace because of that. If you go electric they have units that are just warm to the touch.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 3:13PM
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Plan spaces that can change as they do. A playroom off the bedrooms can be a study area, when they're in school. A large basement play area can be a rec room/teenage hang out when they're older.

Also, think about lower railings in closets (that they can reach) and maybe a window seat with built in storage under and bookcases on each side. Great for toys at first and books/collectibles, later on.

In the rest of the house, plan on places they can help in the kitchen (that can grow with them) and if you have stools...make sure they're weighted and don't tip. Even if you have an island, space for a small kids' table is great and it can be changed out later to a fun reading/conversation corner...or even loveseat for coffee (think coffee shop) later on.

As mentioned earlier...have lots of storage for toys in the living spaces. Shelves with baskets, ottomans with lids, and coffee tables with extra storage areas are all good ideas. Have fun with your planning :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 7:58PM
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Plan on lots of storage space for bikes and outdoor toys and sports equipment. All of the balls and jump ropes and roller blades and bikes take up almost a whole bay in our garage.

Our island has a table-height part with outlets that has proven to be a great spot for a couple of laptops. The girls and I have spent a lot of time together there-me cooking and them doing their homework or playing games or whatever. Much nicer (and internet-safer) to have them close by rather than being holed up in their rooms. And I loved being able to use chairs rather than stools-as someone else mentioned stools can be tippy and kids are very adept at tipping themselves by pushing off the counter.

Shower doors with frames on bathtubs make bathing toddlers difficult and painful. Shower curtains are easier.

A place for messy crafts is also nice, even if it's a table in the basement. Someplace where you won't worry about play-doh or paint ruining the floors.

Enjoy your children and good luck with your build!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 8:23PM
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I agree about considering axing the ensuite bathrooms. I wouldn't want a really small kid to have access to their bathroom within their bedrooms-- bathrooms are dangerous! And while it is nice for teens to have a private bath, that's a long way off, and not most of the time your kids will likely live in this house (even if you do stay in it forever).

Aside from that, I think for small kids, you want a place they can play and be near you-- they won't want to go down to the basement or up to their room to play until they're 5 or so. Also consider that growing kids eat LOTS, so you will need more food storage than you do now.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 11:54PM
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Toys migrate down. Do you live in an area with basements?
Toys also migrate to where you are.

When they are older, they will want their own space (but when they are little, they won't want to be alone).

Having a nice flat place to ride bikes in a place that is easy to supervise is very handy when you need to make dinner... (driveway? cul-de-sac? patio?)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:41AM
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1. Stairs that aren't one straight shot, falling down a max of 8 steps is much different than 16+
2. Square Newel posts on the stairs (for anchoring gates)
3. Short toilets and vanities. We installed super tall, easy to squat toilets for adults, my kids are under 5 and practically jump to get onto them. Even with two steps on a stool, the vanities are tough for hand washing and seeing the mirror. These items aren't tough to replace later on.
4. We chose double key deadbolts on exterior doors, no child just walks out on us.
5. shelves/cubbies in closets, kids really struggle with hangers.
6. Hardwoods and Tile, no carpet. OMG, potty training would've been in Dante's inferno if he'd had wall to wall carpet.
7. We chose to do a Jack and Jill Bath for the kids rooms, toilet and tub shared, but they each have a sink. As mentioned, learning to share is important.

I'll post in 15 years about design for teenage kids. :-)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:37PM
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