My house could easily be overrun by my kids. My three sons are 5 years, 3 years, and 8 months and we live in a 1600 sq ft house. Like many American children they have more toys than they need and they also like to play with all of their toys at once. They generate a constant river of adorable artwork and classwork. For these reasons, my house has kid-free zones.
Kid-free zones are rooms that don't have any toy storage or kid artwork. These rooms may have framed pictures of the children and the kids are permitted to be in these rooms but they know these are not areas where they can make a mess or be loud.
Why do I do this?
I need my sanity. My home is not a playhouse; it's a place where my family lives and grows. It reflects our love of food, our enjoyment of music, our cherished extended family, and our traditional style. Yes, my children are the most important part of my life and my house certainly shows any guest that. However, it’s important to maintain clutter-free areas for my husband and I to unwind and have a sense of peace.
Kids thrive when they have limits. My kids are perfectly happy that all their toys are in one place, in the family room. They know there are areas to play and areas to be quieter. There are areas where they can be a bit wild and areas where need to be respectful. The family room and their bedrooms are large enough where they can be kids and have fun and they actually don't need any more space than that. By permitting them spaces of their own, I show them that I am (rather than they are) in charge.
I can feel like an adult. Frequently the whole family spends time together in these areas but the spaces don't cater to the children. These spaces are really for adults and the decor reflects that. These rooms are my bedroom, the home office, and the living room where my husband and I can be grown-ups. Five of us co-exist so I need some places where I can feel like an adult and where my environment reflects that. These rooms are safe with rounded corners and stain-resistant furniture and so they are kid-friendly but not extended playrooms.
If there are kid-free zones, there should also be kid zones.
These areas are where the toys are stored and where their artwork is displayed. Their bedroom is one such room and the boys had input in the decor which reflects their current interest in space. The family room is another kid zone. This is where most of the toys are stored and the kids can make as big of a mess as they want (as long as they clean up when they are finished). Their artwork is framed and hanging on the wall proudly. Additionally, the boys know there is a large section of the backyard that is just for them. They know because their outside toys are stored there. All these spaces were designed just for them and so there they feel truly comfortable.
Of course, my children are allowed in every room of the house. We often have dance parties in the living room and my kindergartner does his homework in the kitchen while I cook dinner. The kids do puzzles or bring a toy or two into the living room occasionally. But the kids know that it all goes back in it's place when they're done.
4 easy tips to create your kid-free zones:
- Ensure the kid zones have proper toy storage. If there are more toys than storage can handle, store the extra away in closets/basement/attic or donate them. Kids don't need all their toys readily available. In fact, rotating out to storage 25-50% of their toys keeps their interest fresh. Don't allow extra toys to creep into your kid-free zones. As new toys come in, old toys need to move out.
- Create a permanent rotating artwork area. A cork board, fridge front, or magnetic panels are perfect for displaying the latest artistic efforts and schoolwork. Then, really consider the location. Avoid showcasing in a kid-free zone but if you must, displaying within a thick frame will make it look neat. The children's bedrooms are the ideal place.
- Avoid a TV in kid-free zones. TVs attract kids and a lack of TV inevitably bores them. Instead, have a small bookshelf of books from your reading list or buy a wireless speaker to play to music.
- Design kid zones with the kids' input so they feel included and “bought in” to these spaces. If they like red, make sure there's lots of red. If they like space, include lots of galaxy and planet decor. As a result it will truly feel like their own and where they feel most comfortable. They will naturally gravitate to there.