Children’s furniture – how would a child psychiatrist design it?

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Children’s bedrooms are their environment. This is the one space which should be their own, where they should feel comfortable to play, relax, socialize, study and be themselves. It should be their fun, stimulating place of learning, as well as a retreat and sanctuary. Yet, I am not sure how much time an adult thinks about a child’s bedroom when they are designing them. For many children, a bed is put in, some toys and a bookcase with books, et voila. Kid’s bedroom, done, dusted. Tick. Now let’s get on to the really important room, the Master bedroom. This seems topsy-turvy to me as most children will spend more time in their rooms than the adults. This is why in our house, the best room in the house, the biggest one with the most natural light is for the children. Yes, they have to share a bedroom, but it is large, and at this age it is my preference for children to learn about sharing and that goes for rooms too. I shared a room with my two sisters throughout primary school and we had a blast. Come secondary school, when adolescence makes everyone annoying, it became tedious and I hated sharing a room, but  I have fond memories of chatting to my sisters at night as a younger child.

My pet hate are the catalogue magazine children’s bedrooms which are predominantly white and where every toy is a designer toy designed to be looked at and not touched. GET IN THE REAL WORLD! These pristine white rooms are children’s rooms designed by adults for adults. Adults with cleaners I am presuming, because I cannot fathom who else would want to be constantly cleaning this gleaming white paradise. Hopefully the children who possess these rooms have another room, a colourful, practical and messy “playroom” and a “study” where they can do all their finger painting, gluing and sticking and general romping about, but I can’t imagine any of that going on in the all-white rooms.

Equally sad, I read somewhere that the majority of children do their homework on the dining room table and have no dedicated work space. Whilst often a necessity these days at work, as an adult, who would prefer hot-desking to having their own desk? Even though I did not have the most advantaged of childhoods, my sisters and I always had a table for writing, drawing, painting and working on. A little square table that we all sat around taking up three sides. I think it is important for children’s education to have somewhere dedicated to learning. Not only as it is good to have a sanctuary away from distraction and with the proper equipment conducive to study, but also as a symbol that work and study is valued. Having emptied out the children’s bedroom of toddler and baby toys (see last week’s post), I was in the grand position of having a bit of space to work with.

I have been lusting after these designer desks and chairs which adjust in height to see children from infancy to adulthood. Indeed the promotional literature suggests that your children won’t be going to University unless you purchase this table and chair combo due to the benefits it will bring to your child’s posture, concentration and learning experience. I don’t quite buy it, but I love them anyway and they are definitely on my wish list. Unfortunately, as we are planning to do some major renovation on our house (to be able to provide the children with their own rooms come adolescence), I am not keen to purchase any furniture that will require expensive storage in the near future, and so, I was tasked with providing a work space for children without buying anything large and expensive. Further, having got rid of all the toddler toys, including a very lovely toy wooden kitchen for imaginary play, I had felt very sad that the children’s room seemed to have been stripped of fun and childhood, and I wanted to put a little of this back (without taking up so much room), especially for Lil Bro, who is after all still only 5 years old. Here’s how I got on:

Design Brief:

Provide area for study and homework

Provide area for painting, drawing and creativity

Provide area for constructive play: e.g. Lego

Provide area for imaginative play

Provide storage

Provide fun

In my view the best children’s furniture should allow everything to be easily accessible for children to take out to play by themselves. This allows children to be independent and to select and decide for themselves what they want to do, rather than be reliant on being led by an adult.

Equally, as a parent loathe of tidying up, the best children’s furniture should allow everything to be easily PUT AWAY by children themselves, so you can have some semblance of a tidy room.

Not take up too much space

Oh, and for a budget of say, 25 pounds?

 

How I got on:

How delighted was I to find that the same little square table that my sisters and I sat around as girls was still in my parent’s shed? There is something lovely about the thought of my children sitting and starting their educational journey from the same starting point that I did some 30 years ago. The table was stained a revolting mahogony, but with some elbow grease Banker striped it back to a bearable shade, and I spray painted the top of it off-white, and coated it with spray-on sealant. Secondly, given that the kids can now sit on normal dining room chairs at the kitchen table, their Stokke highchairs were recomissioned as desk chairs for studying. They are height adjustable which is great for getting the right seat to desk position. Did you know that a well known Swedish furniture store will sell you a table for £5? For storage, what better than a couple of wine boxes? Sturdy and ready made, even better if your next door neighbours are avid fine wine consumers and regularly throw out boxes, which can be snapped up free of charge (but you can also get them cheap from any wine shop). A few accessories and my favourites: “No more nails” glue, tape and castors and we’re done.

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The end result:

Here it is all tidied up.

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A work station for 2, with easy access to pens, paper, pencil sharpener and all the stationary goods that a budding young creative might wish for. A blackboard for messages and doodles and seating with built-in storage to house all bits and bobs. School essentials are kept tidied away but in bags slung over the chairs for easy access. At the side, a handy mini-shelf to store toy cars, and when the mood takes, flip it open and supported by a storage box from beneath the table, you have a mega-ramp with which to race cars down. When homework is over, pull out the Lego and craft table from underneath. The storage box below the table slides out on castors too and hold all the Lego and beads that you need. Flip over the boxes and move the cushions from the Stokke chairs to the boxes and you have two sturdy little stools at just the right height for crafting and constructing. When it’s bed time, but you haven’t finished playing, just slide it as-is back under the table and it will be out of the way, but safely stowed to be completed whenever the mood takes you.

Very practical. But wait, what about the imaginary play? Well, when Lil Bro left nursery, the nursery asked all the children to draw what they would like to be when they were older. In among the pictures of doctors, dentists, astronauts and human rights lawyers was Lil Bro’s picture of an ice-cream man. How could I resist?

 

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And finally, empty the storage drawers, turn the blackboard over and lay out your ice creams…

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2 comments

  1. Krishna

    Nice..you`ll be giving Kristie Allsopp a run for her money at this rate lol. I wish possessed the creativity/DIY nous to attempt this sort of thing but I blame the cognitive inflexibility of the male brain for that-Sadly, it looks like I`ll be sticking to the well known Swedish flat pack furniture store for a while yet (until my little one starts making her own furniture)

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