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Several years ago some folks came to visit our home.  After spending a bit with us, one lady commented, “You’d never know kids live here!”

I know she meant it as a compliment, but it cut to my heart.  Our house was orderly and furnished in a way that reflected my tastes for home fashion.  The “kid area” was out of sight, and *mostly* out of earshot.  It was very comfortable for adult guests to visit and relax.  But my kids lived in that house and it didn’t reflect them at all.  Our house said, “children should neither be seen nor heard.”

Tile Mural of Kids at PlayI realized that my kids were living in a museum – and not the “please touch” variety.  They were in bondage.  They were not free to be kids.  They adorned the home, but they did not adore it.

So I started making changes.  There are things I did to make our home appealing to our kids and I have lots more ideas (much to my husband’s dismay!).  Some are more elaborate than others, depending upon our resources (financially as well as time and energy to complete the tasks).  I want our home to reflect our interests, protect each other’s privacy, communicate belonging, and to be a place we want to be.

Reflect Kids’ Interests

  • Decorate kid bedrooms in a way that reflects their interests.
    • In our last house the girls’ room was painted to look like a garden.  My sister and I painted a white picket fence, grass, flowers, bugs, clouds.  It was a sweet place for little girls.  It cost about $8 in craft paints and an afternoon of painting.
    • It took a little while to come up with a theme for the boys’ room in our current house that would appeal to boys ages 1 to 12.  We ended up settling on pirates.  There is a 6’x4’ antique-looking map on a wall, a ship wheel mounted to the wall (I attached it to a lazy-susan swivel so that it really spins), and a fun pirate-y quote painted on one wall.  We also hung a Jolly Roger flag and some keys.  With all of that, can you guess their favorite thing?  A play on words – I hung a “poop deck” sign over their potty. LOL.  Hey – it’s a boys’ bathroom and it appeals to them.  At least the potty humor is contained to the bathroom.
    • Our current girls’ room only has a 6’x6’ mirror on one wall and a window seat with a fun cushion.  The mirror was moved from a bathroom we renovated (yes, this huge mirror was over the tub!).  My step-dad and I built the bench using parts of table legs we’d salvaged from another project.  My mother-in-law made the cushions.  It’s pretty low key and inexpensive – mostly reusing what we had on hand.
  • The point is to make the bedroom a place that reflects your kids’ interests.  It could be…
    • a trophy shelf
    • a poster of a favorite singer
    • a latch hook pillow for the bed
    • a bedding set that reflects your child’s interests
    • a fun switch plate for the light switch
    • a cool night light
    • a bed that looks like a boat or a car or a tent
    • a plane hanging from the ceiling
    • walls painted in a favorite color
    • a rug with roads and houses
    • a mirror that looks like a window
    • anything that rates high on the kid-coolness scale

Protect Privacy:

  • If you have a lot of kids, this can be hard to accomplish.  For our boys (five share one room) it amounted to hanging canvas curtains (in keeping with our pirate theme) along the open side of their bunk beds.
  • My oldest has a trundle, so he had zero privacy. I refinished my grandmother’s secretary for him.  He has a place to keep his “stuff” and his own desk for school, drafting, whatever.  For him, three drawers, a desk, and the open shelving at the top to display his favorite things are enough personal space to make up for the public nature of his bedroom.
  • Our kids all have a plastic bin with a lid on it in which they may keep anything (except food) they want to keep.  Bins are off limits to anyone but the owner.  I think the bins cost about $4 at Ikea.  A toy that they are not ready to make available for public consumption, special post cards from traveling grandparents, a rubber band collection, that special feather or rock – there is a place for what is important in their private worlds.
  • We hung a curtain across the nook where the girl’s have their window seat.
  • We have friends who partitioned off part of the basement with bookshelves so a teen could have his own room.
  • Some rooms are large enough to use a room divider or curtain to define spaces.
  • Maybe your house has a room with double closets and you can separate kids by closet or provide a small get-away space in one while the other one houses clothes.
  • Maybe there is space under the stairs or an unused closet somewhere else in the house that can become a reading nook or secret hide-out.
  • We cut a hole in the boys’ room ceiling and “finished” a small portion of the attic above their room to look like the belly of a pirate ship.  Get creative!

Communicate Belonging

We wanted to emphasize that our kids are part of something bigger than themselves: a community we call family.  We want them to feel like they belong, like they have a place with us.  Their individuality can affect home decor.

  • Hang their artwork
  • I have a collection of Willow Tree figures – each is a woman with a child at varying ages.  I have one figure to represent me with each of my children.
  • Hang letters, or their name, on the wall in their rooms decorated in a way that appeals to them.
  • My sister gave us 7 cardboard Q’s.  I let each child choose a sheet of scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby and we decorated them and hung them in the kitchen.
  • I painted a tree on the wall in our entry way and we have pictures of each person in the family hanging on the tree – our family tree.
  • Use their favorite colors throughout the house.

Create a Place You All Want to Be

  • Low bookshelves invite them to read
  • Clear bins invite them to play (and put things away!)
  • A swing set, fort, and trampoline invite adventure out of doors
  • We don’t have room for ping-pong or a pool table or Foosball, but these are great ideas for inviting kids and their friends to be part of the home.
  • A constant supply of popsicles, hot cocoa, Kool-Aid, Goldfish, pretzels, raisins and string cheese.
  • Basketball hoop, sidewalk chalk, plasma cars, and extra bike helmets.
  • A playroom that incorporates their interests
    • A pair of tilted desk tops for the artsy kids form the roof of a play house for a little girl.
    • Several sets of plastic drawers for Lego storage topped with a long shelf with base plates attached for easy building.
    • Bean bag chairs for sitting – but fill them with stuffed animals and you’ve doubled storage space.

This really gets my juices flowing again!  My husband will NOT be excited, but how about you?

By Brbbl (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons