A new addition to the family brings with it a mixture of emotions; the excitement of arriving home with a new baby for the first time, the uncertainty of how to care for and nurture him or her, and, perhaps a month or two down the line, how the fabric and contents of your home will need to be modified to make the environment as child-friendly and durable as possible.
For the first few months, no drastic action will need to be taken, but once baby begins to crawl and later takes its first tentative steps, all that will change. For starters, cupboard doors will be opened and the contents emptied out onto the floor, so ornaments, potted plants – effectively, anything easily moveable or breakable – should be moved out of the reach of tiny hands and mouth; there comes a point when anything that can be picked up is sure to find its way into your toddler’s mouth.
Next, crayons, ballpoint pens and pencils will be used to make the walls more attractive, at least in the youngster’s mind. The simple solution is to redecorate using vinyl silk or washable emulsion, which can simply be wiped over to remove crayon marks and tiny handprints. Floors frequently suffer from similar attacks by artistically inclined children, so consider covering carpets with cheap patterned rugs in areas of highest use; patterns are great for hiding stains. Wooden floors are more resistant to staining and marking, and may be worth the investment.
When it comes to furniture, specifically armchairs and sofas, it is worth bearing in mind that fabric finishes are much more difficult to keep clean than leather. Spilled drinks, vomit and bits of food will rapidly soak into fabric surfaces, while leather is considerably less porous and is readily wiped clean with cloth. What’s more, leather tends to look better as it ages and begins to develop a patina, while fabric simply starts to look grubby over time.
When purchasing items of furniture, go for a shabby chic look; it’s difficult for youngsters to do too much harm to pieces that are designed to look worn. Avoid tablecloths – they are sure to be given a sharp tug, either purposefully or by accident, at some point. In a similar vein, replace curtains that pool on the floor (they are perfect for tripping kids up) with shutters or blinds. When buying furniture, look for items with rounded corners; you’re probably already aware of how much pain a sharp corner can inflict when you bang into it.
Other areas that will require attention include providing stops to prevent doors being inadvertently closed on tiny fingers, and ensuring that swivel chairs are locked to stop them turning and trapping or twisting your child’s limbs. Electrical cables are particularly hazardous and should always be kept tucked well out of sight behind furniture; it is advisable to unplug appliances such as vacuum cleaners and hairdryers when not in use.
Finally, no matter what the age of your children, involve them in selecting furnishing and fixtures and when redecorating walls and ceilings. By doing so, they will begin to feel a sense of inclusion and hopefully recognise the effort you are putting in to improving the home environment for the entire family.