9 Cool Ideas for Under-Bed Storage in the Kids’ Room

Okay, a few weeks ago we made the monsters leave the space under the bed to make room for welcome guests.

Today I’d like to look at a lot more ideas to make use of the space under the bed in a kid’s room.

If you aren’t already using it for a mattress for overnight guests, you might like to consider one of these ideas.

Ideas for Under Bed Storage in Kid's Rooms

  1. Simple, large drawers on wheels are a great way to contain & store toys in a child’s room.
  2. Single-tower, cube-style shelves can be installed sideways the full length of the bed to house books – it’s easy to reach a book from bed, and blocks kids from stuffing stuff way in the back.
  3. If your child has a high bed, there may be space for a secret hide-out under the bed. A shoe shelf can be placed under the bed along the headboard for treasure maps, flashlights, books, games, and other treasures needed in a hide-out. You could install under-cabinet lighting or the little battery-operated touch disks to make it extra fun. Some throw pillows and a blanket will comfortably furnish it, too. And if you don’t like looking at the hide-out, you can use a cable-style curtain rod attached to the bed frame to hang a curtain that can close the whole thing off to the outside world. From a kid’s perspective, that only adds to the coolness factor.
  4. You can also do a take-off on my office/guest bedroom storage idea: Affix furniture glides to the underside of a large board. Also attach drawer pulls to the side of the board that will face out from the bed. Make sure you sand any rough edges, since this will be used by children. Cover the whole surface with felt, and you have a great pull-out play space for board games, puzzles, train tracks, or low-profile lego cities. The felt helps keep the noise down. 🙂
  5. You could use the under-bed board idea covered with Lego base plates for a great building surface. Or paint it with roads and buildings as a city or race track for boys who like to play with cars. You could paint farmland for the child who enjoys animals, a jungle for the dinosaur lover, or a pretty garden with walkways and buildings just the right size for her hand-held dolls and animals.
  6. By keeping it painted and not raised, it really can be used for anything. Throw on a table cloth and you are all set for playing restaurant or having a tea party.

 

Of course, no children’s room storage idea would be complete if we didn’t suggest a couple of options for clothes.

  1. Short, but spacious plastic bins really do pull out nicely from beneath a bed, making “drawers” without a dresser. They are all floor level, so even toddlers can safely reach the clothes. You could add pictures to the front of the bin so they can identify which clothes go in which bin, too. Then they can find what they need and help put clean clothes away.
  2. You could also store dirty clothes baskets beneath the bed.If they are going to stuff dirty clothes under there anyway, you could give them a way to do it that’s actually helpful! However you sort, you could have a different basket for each load (whether it’s whites/lights/darks or one for each person).
  3. And last, but not least, you could use the space for out-of-season or next-size up clothes. (I’d encourage you to just go ahead and get rid of the ones no one will be able to wear again.) Well labeled bins will keep you from missing clothes at the right size. Storing them in the kid’s room gives access so even the kids can get into the bins when they discover their pants no longer fit.

Relics, Resort, or Run?

As a kid I remember accusing Mama of keeping our house like a museum – “keep it clean, keep it neat, make your bed, put stuff away.”  

I thought a little layer of dust and a few books/toys strewn about would give our house a welcoming, lived-in look.  Now that I’m the mama, I see the “little layer of dust and books/toys strewn about” a little differently. lol.

Still, museums can be interesting places to visit if you are interested in the subject they keep and display.  I’d be fascinated to see the sword of Napoleon.  I’m not as interested in the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum of the Smokeys.  Somebody else might be, but me?  Not so much.

Museum RulesThere is something appealing about the idea of living in a house like a museum, though, isn’t there?  Clearly defined spaces, a place for everything, nothing gets broken or misplaced.  There are rules for being in a museum offering structure and protection.

We might forfeit a little bit of freedom, but we gain peace, right?  So what if we can’t run?

My house is far from a museum in the traditional sense of the word.  While we do have a place for everything… not everything is in its place.

So, maybe I would rather live in a hotel.  

Think about it.  When you walk into a hotel room, it’s nice to be there because there is no clutter, right?

Hotel BedsThe bedroom has a freshly made bed, clear bedside tables, and an uncluttered desk.  The dresser is empty with ample room to put away your clothes.  The closet would be a bit small for an entire wardrobe, but there is available hanging space and shelf space and a clear floor.

Hotel BathroomsThe bathroom has clean towels, an extra roll of toilet paper handy, and a tissue box with tissues actually in it.  There are two bars of soap and a pair of little bottles with shampoo and conditioner.  There is also a small sign telling you where you can get a toothbrush, razor, or comb if you need them – but they are not lying on the counter cluttering the bathroom, are they?

There is plenty of everything you need, but no excess.  It is an oasis of refreshment.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an oasis of refreshment as a house?

Yes, I think I’d rather live in a hotel than a museum.  I also think this idea is what organizational experts are selling.  And it sounds really good.

Actually, I think it is also what God offers.

I kind of think God invites us to live in the place where we are free from excess, but see the signs that anything you need will be provided if you ask.

Now it’s time for a confession:  I have a clutter problem.  Those of you who have been to my house will want to strongly disagree with me on this point, but I do.

And if we think of a museum as a place where items are kept and displayed, my clutter qualifies my house as a museum.

Clutter puts my unmade decisions, my lack of discipline, and my idolatry on display.

Have you ever thought about the nature of clutter that way?  Did you ever think of clutter as a heart issue?

Dealing with clutter is like dealing with any other heart issue: if you try to fix it from the outside, it won’t get fixed.  Clutter is a heart attitude, and until we deal with the heart, any number of organizational systems will continue to work for a while, and then fail.

It is kind of like losing weight.  Until our fundamental attitude about food changes, we cannot get off of the diet roller coaster.  We lose weight only to gain it back again.  One diet drops pounds, another holiday, baby, crisis, vacation… (fill in the blank) brings them back.

Clutter is like that.  Organizational systems often play the part of the fad diet.  I think we often fail to truly change because we are only addressing one component of the problem: lack of discipline.  And we beat ourselves up over our inability to be disciplined.

Clutter is much bigger than lack of discipline.  I mean, really…

  • Why is the pile of mail still on the counter?  Most likely it is because I didn’t decide where it should go (unmade decision) or put it there (lack of discipline).
  • Why do I keep clothes I don’t wear anymore on a top shelf in my closet?  Why are there boxes of china in my attic?  Because I may need them someday.  I’m afraid I’ll regret getting rid of them – it’s a way to make sure I have what I need rather than trusting God to provide (idolatry).
  • Why do I keep the platter I got as a wedding gift even though I never use it?  Guilt, a.k.a. fear of man, in this case (there it is again: idolatry).

Clutter affects my calendar as much as my countertops.

  • Pride encourages me to say “yes” to commitments I am not called to accept (idolatry)
  • Fear of man keeps me from saying “no” to requests I should not fulfill (idolatry)
  • Procrastination obligates me to attend certain events (no decision is a decision)
  • Repeated meetings occur because I am not prepared for the first one (lack of discipline)

Clutter keeps my home and my life from being an oasis of refreshment.

The God who promises a peace that passes all understanding also provides the way to that peace – and it always involves being a conduit of his blessing rather than a container for it.  He has not called us to a burdened life, to a life weighed down with a cluttered mind or a cluttered heart.  He promises freedom.  Freedom to live according to his ways and for his purposes.

If you, like me, have a clutter problem, I invite you to seek God’s place of refreshment with me over the next several weeks.  I invite you to throw off the clutter than entangles you so you can run God’s race unhindered.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1, NIV

Where the museum says, “No Running!” God says, “Please run!”

Do you want to run with me?

Just say “Yes!” (The Child Friendly Home – Part 4)

Nancy Regan did us a great favor in the 1980’s with her “Just Say, ‘No!’” campaign.  She had a great idea, and it wasn’t just about forbidding certain behaviors.

Just Say No

She advocated having an answer prepared before you encounter the question.

So, what would happen if we were prepared to just say, “yes”?

“Yes” Grants Freedom

When God originally created the world, he put Adam and Eve in the garden and said, “yes” to almost everything there.  That was paradise.  In the Garden of Eden there was only ONE thing that was a “no.”

We were created to live with that kind of freedom.  Of course we chose the one “no” and things changed dramatically, so there will always be a lot of “no’s” in our lives.  But part of our job as Christians, and as parents, is to push back the effects of the fall not to wallow in them.

I want my home to be a picture of that.

I don’t like the idea that Christianity is a list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s not.  Christianity is about freedom and grace:  freedom from the power and penalty of sin and grace because of the power and penalty of sin.

As parents I think we need to be prepared to say “yes” a lot more often.  And having a house that is ready for kids makes that a whole lot more possible.

We can make choices that give us the freedom to say “yes” and our kids the freedom to be kids.  It doesn’t have to mean using melamine plates and sippy cups until the kids go off to college either.

Some things we’ve discovered about filling the home:

  • Leather sofas (yes, leather) are a lot more forgiving with spills and even ball-point pen than their fabric counterparts.
  • If you already have fabric sofas, a quick coating of Scotch Guard or a washable slip cover are great options.  (Please stop short of those clear plastic covers that were popular in the 60’s and 70’s!  Those do NOT make children feel welcome.)
  • Floor cushions make great seating and fort building supplies.
  • Fleece throw blankets in favorite designs keep kids warm during movie nights and keep good sheets and blankets from being used for said forts.
  • Already-distressed furniture offers a great way to relax and let kids be kids.
  • Satin or eggshell paint on the walls doesn’t glare in the light, but has enough sheen to keep crayons and markers from soaking into the wall.
  • Wood or tile floors are preferred for kids with allergies and they also bear up well under spills, traffic, muddy shoes, and bloody noses.
  • Wood or metal dining chairs take spilled milk with a lot less tears than upholstered ones – because let’s face it, our kids do cry over spilled milk, but we don’t have to. (Again, Scotch Guard and slip covers can be a great alternative.)
  • Washable placemats.  Enough said.
  • Mix and match dishes, so that you don’t have to worry about the ones that get broken.
  • Coasters, coasters, and more coasters.
  • Rags available in every bathroom or kitchen – this keeps them fairly close to any room in case of an emergency.
  • Hooks.  Hooks. And more hooks.
  • Do I need to mention hooks again?
  • Labels.
  • Step stools.

Freedom Requires Grace

Our Father granted freedom and furnished grace in the garden of Eden.  He gave Adam and Eve the freedom to choose life or to choose death.  He knew they would choose death and was already prepared to repair the damage while letting them live with the consequences.

Parenting with grace calls us to the same thing: provide a great environment, give instructions on how to live in it, and be prepared to repair the damage while letting our kids live with the consequences.

It doesn’t do our children any favors to raise them in such a child friendly environment that they don’t know how to behave in the adult world.  Part of having a home where kids are comfortable is giving them a safe place to mess up as they learn what is right.  If I know how recover from their mistakes, I can relax a bit and let them make them.  I can also let them help in any “repair work” that needs to occur.

Some things we’ve discovered about fixing the damage:

  • LockTite Gel is awesome!  We use it to repair plastic, wood, ceramic, glass, and cuts that almost (but not quite) need stitches.
  • Easy access to first aid essentials: happy ice (ice packs), alcohol swabs, safety pins, band aids, and triple anti-biotic ointment.
  • Gorilla Glue has it’s place, too, especially for wood and on things with surfaces that match precisely.  Don’t forget to use clamps – it expands.
  • Duck Tape is not just for decorating anymore. lol
  • Nail polish comes off of tile, laminate, and counter tops very well (wood & carpet, not so much), paint nails over a hard surface and nail polish remover can remove spills.
  • Mayonaise lifts water rings from wood (just in case they forget to use a coaster).
  • Baking soda is your new best friend.  It works wonders on stains, odors, and glue.  Do a web search of uses for baking soda in the home.  It is definitely worth the time.
  • Hand sanitizer will get permanent marker out of fabric.
  • Salt will remove the gel beads from your washer when/if someone throws a disposable diaper in there.
  • Olive oil and lemon juice can help work pen marks off of leather.  It also makes a great wood conditioner for finished furniture.
  • Ice followed by boiling water will remove candle wax from fabric.
  • Baking soda (again) will absorb remaining liquid and odor from carpet, bedding, clothing that has been soiled by an upset stomach.
  • A salt paste will remove rust stains.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide will remove mold from grout and caulk and rust stains from bathroom shelves.
  • The adhesive portion of flexible fabric bandaids make great patches for the back side of torn fabric that cannot be washed (sofa cushions, throw pillows…).  Add a tiny bit of satin-finish clear nail polish to the top to keep threads from unraveling.
  • Baking soda will get crayon off of paint and glossy surfaces.
  • Paint on fabric should be rinsed immediately with water and followed with a mild detergent like Dawn dish soap.
  • Ready access to spackle, dry wall tape, and touch up paint is a good idea.  A paper towel or q-tip make great disposable paint applicators.
  • Old t-shirts make great rags to use to lift stains from carpets, upholstered furniture, etc. Plus it helps the husbands feel better about getting rid of them if they have a further useful purpose. 🙂
  • Fabric softener sheets will remove stubborn, burnt-on food (especially helpful for rescuing pans when young folks are first learning to cook).
  • Effervescent denture cleaner removes coffee stains.  It also works well on odors and tomato/grease stains in plastic storage containers.
  • Baking soda + vinegar + boiling water = grease removal in disposal and kitchen sink drain.
  • Keep a good plunger in every bathroom.  Really.  They aren’t that expensive.  With kids toilets often receive wrong things or wrong quantities of things.  Many a potty-overflow can be averted by having the plunger handy. (True story:  when we sold our last home I overheard the buyer ask his Home Inspector if he thought we had plumbing problems since we had a plunger by every toilet.  The Home Inspector said, “They don’t have plumbing problems, they have kids.  See, they are all dusty except for the one in the kids’ bathroom.  It’s a good idea, actually.”)

It is important to know how to repair damage, and then to remain calm when accidents happen.  I know, easier said than done.  But having the right tools for repair, really helps.  And don’t kids need to see that there is a cure for brokenness?  Doesn’t the opportunity to redeem their mistakes open a door to talking about the Redeemer?

For me to “Just say, ‘Yes!’,” I have to prepare a place of freedom and be faithful to repair the accidents that happen there.  I can act in my children’s lives to help them experience the grace God has given me.  I can model the same freedom and faithfulness I have experienced. When I succeed, I point them to the only one who grants true freedom and is faithful to cure brokenness.

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Photo Credit:  This image is a work of an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Free at Last! (The Child Friendly Home – Part 3)

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?

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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

Making Life Possible (The Child Friendly Home – Part 2)

In The Child Friendly Home I mentioned that we have deliberately designed our house to accommodate children.  I promised some practical ideas we have used to child-ify our home.  (Yes, I totally made that word up.)

Three Must Haves

LabelsLabel Maker.  Small investment, huge return.  I label everything from files to light switches.  I label bins in the closet, bins in the playroom, bookshelves, desk drawers, plastic storage containers with dry goods, and DVDs (I like to put the movie length on the spine so we can easily choose something for the time we have time to watch).  You name it, it can be labeled.  Our label maker has labels that are removable and they go through the dishwasher, too.
Hooks

Hooks.  We put hooks everywhere. In our house, we hang hooks first, ask questions later.  Even the smallest, mobile child can hang a coat, backpack, towel, or toothbrush bucket on a hook.  Don’t forget the inside of cabinet doors and interior cabinet walls.  Command Hooks are great for hanging things like measuring spoons, a whisk broom, or colander on lower cabinet doors.  An upper cabinet door is a great place to hang scissors and super glue.  Hang them high; hang them low; hang them often.

Stools.  Lots of stools.  I like stools that nest for storage, are lightweight and are dishwasher safe.  Ikea and Rubbermaid make inexpensive stools in various heights that do all this.

What next?

I get down at the level of my children and look around.  I pay attention to the little things that add frustration to their lives.  In reality, it often comes down to finding the things that irritate me and seeing if the reason is an environment that prevents my children from easily obeying.

Think Low

Children tend to be short.  At least, they are usually shorter than the adults in the house.  I like to arrange cabinets and closets from the ground up, literally.

  • In our kitchen, things like dinnerware, cups, storage dishes, small appliances, baking supplies, cleaning rags, and snack foods are stored in the lower cabinets.  Now, I am tall (5’11”), so this arrangement is a sacrifice for me, but it does several things for our family.  Small children can unload the dishwasher and put almost everything away by themselves.  They also have access to the things they are likely to need for their chores, snacks, and meal preparation.
  • Likewise, our linen/cleaning supplies closet has boxes of tissues on the floor, hand towels and dust rags on a low shelf with sheets and pillow cases above that.  Basic first-aid, chemicals, household tools and guest towels – things that little people don’t really need – are all on the higher shelves.

You get the idea.

Think High

Since children are short, and adults are tall(er), high cabinets and shelves are reserved for things kids won’t need as well as for things they shouldn’t have.  Hazardous items are beyond the reach of young children (who are quite adept at opening cabinet locks).

  • We keep medicines, asthma inhalers, and epi-pens (we have food allergies) in an upper cabinet in the kitchen.  It is high enough that my youngest children cannot reach, but low enough for my babysitting-aged children to reach easily in case of an emergency.
  • Our upper kitchen cabinets house things like chemicals, tools, coffee, serving dishes, and the meal ingredients our kids are not likely to need.
  • Older children get the upper shelves in the closet.
  • The upper row of hooks is for adults and teens, leaving low hooks for young children.

Think Possible

In Acts 1:4-9, Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit and gave them instructions for later.  And what would the Holy Spirit do exactly?  Give them power to obey the instructions Christ gave.

That is a grace I can extend to my kids.  I can train them in practice that God provides what we need to do what he asks.  I can give them what they need to obey my instructions.

We used to have an incredibly hard time getting out the door with kids. I don’t think I’m alone in this since most authors, comedians, and speakers who address parenting refer at some point to this very thing.

When I ask my kids to load up and the car sits empty in the driveway it doesn’t really matter to me whether my child can’t find his shoes or won’t stop reading.  We still aren’t in the car.

In that moment, my calling is to respond calmly with grace and mercy and to come alongside them with correction or instruction.  In all honesty, that is not what usually happens.  For me, when we are late and frustrations are running high, I am not likely to instruct or correct well.

What I can do is choose a sane moment to think through what I could provide to make it possible for my children to obey my instructions the next time.  Providing an environment that accommodates my children helps me to clarify the difference between whether my child can’t or won’t obey.  I don’t want to accommodate my child’s heart idols; I want to accommodate my child.  By removing the “can’t,” I can tell when I am facing a “won’t.”

Practically speaking, grace for the Quillen family to get out the door well means:

Entry & Launch Pad

  • Shoe Cubbies.  We have them by the door, labeled by person (another Label Maker use!).  Keeping the shoes by the door means: we can find them when we are ready to leave.  Keeping them in labeled cubbies means: we can find them when we are ready to leave.  You may think I’m a bit over-the-top on this one, but seriously, 9 people x 3 pairs (at least) of shoes each x 2 shoes per pair = 54+ shoes in a heap by the door, or worse,  scattered throughout the house.
  • Launch Pad.  Every person has a “launch pad” by the door.  They have a hook (or hooks) for backpacks/purses/coats and an enclosed bin for Sunday School materials, Bible, sports equipment, and anything else that they need to remember when they are heading out.  I even put rolls or cookies for a pot-luck on my launch pad so I don’t forget them.

In case you were wondering, getting out the door is not our only struggle.  I need to stop and think about the major areas of frustration in our lives and admit where I have failed to provide what is needed for my instructions to be possible.

Cleaning house is a struggle.  Ideas?

  • ToolsA lightweight, cordless hand-vac.
  • A vacuum cleaner that automatically adjusts between hard floors and carpet.
  • Remove a section from the handle of a Swiffer and it is the right length for a child to use.
  • Front loading washer & dryer.  Which parts of the laundry process you choose to have your child do will vary, but they won’t be limited by stature.
  • Pocket feather dusters.  The duster retracts into the handle when not in use.  They are the perfect size for little hands and take up minimal space on the cleaning supplies shelf.
  • Dusters, dust pans/whisk brooms and other tools designed for use in cars or an RV are smaller in size, but retain important features that toy versions don’t.
  • Baking Soda as a great gentle cleanser for the bathtub.
  • Homemade Cleaning Wipes and paper towels or rags are available in the kitchen and every bathroom for (un)expected messes.
  • Duplicate tools.  Multiple sponges, dusters, cleaning bottles reduce waiting for supplies to do the work.

Keeping the house tidy is a struggle.  Ideas?

  • School RoomA plastic bin with a lid for each child (labeled, of course!).  Two rules: (1) No food and (2) the lid must close.  This is a great place for the treasures I might mistake for trash.
  • A drawer in the kitchen for craft supplies.
  • A bin in a cabinet for school or homework supplies.
  • We have a great organizer for common materials – crayons, markers, construction paper, pipe cleaners, stickers, stencils, etc.  The bins are clear (so you can see what’s in them) and labeled on both ends (so it doesn’t matter which way they get put back).  {Our craft center was part of a Group-to-Group Gift.}

I could put Velcro on the wall and put a matching strip on a crayon box if I had to.  Kids just need a defined space to put their stuff away before I tell them to clean it up.

Little things can be a struggle.  Ideas?

  • One child improved handwriting because we changed his desk chair.  An adjustable office chair, a bar stool, a high chair with the tray removed, a junior chair, or a booster seat allow a child to sit at an adult height desk.  Child sized tables and chairs are another option.
  • Learning to jump rope is difficult if the rope is the wrong length – but it is easy to find the “right length” online and custom fit the rope to the child.
  • BathroomsEach child has a towel with a ribbon loop sewn on the side and their name embroidered on it in their favorite color.  It is easy for them to hang the towel up using the loop, and it is easy for me to see who has left their towel on the floor.
  • We had a toilet paper problem.  Either a child would sit screaming that they needed a new roll of toilet paper or I would find a new roll of toilet paper sitting right on top of the empty roll in the dispenser. Turns out my kids couldn’t manage the spring-loaded toilet paper holder or reach a new roll in the cabinet if they ran out while on the potty.  Now store TP is within a child’s reach of every toilet.  And we chose toilet paper holders that make it possible for our kids to change the toilet paper roll.
  • Shower heads that are on a hose are great for cleaning bathtubs and shower walls.  (As an added bonus, it makes it easy to bathe babies and toddlers.)
  • Not all of our kids can reach the medicine cabinet to put toothbrushes away, so we keep toothbrushes, toothpaste, cups, floss, combs in hanging bins (labeled!) that everyone can reach.
  • A small office organizer with drawers houses all of the ponytail holders, clips, barrettes, combs, headbands, bandanas, and costume jewelry that come with little girls.  (Yes, the drawers are labeled.)

With a little effort, I remember what it was like to be a child.  With a little imagination I can improve the experience for my children.

Please leave a comment below and tell me what practical changes you’ve tried that brought grace into your homes.  I’m always looking for new ideas!

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All pictures are from around the Quillen house.

The Child Friendly Home

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Before our first baby was due we decorated a room, purchased and washed clothes, toys, and bedding.  We thought about what might make him smile.  Provided bottles, cups, child-sized dishes and towels.  We even selected the perfect chair for when he would join us at the table.  I was passionate about extending hospitality to this expected child.  We spent months preparing for the day we would bring him home, but when it arrived I still felt completely unprepared.

Somewhere between expecting the first baby and having a houseful of kids, I lost my passion for extending hospitality to the residents in my home.  Oh – we worked hard to make sure our home was child safe (outlet caps, chemicals and medicines locked away, etc.), but my desire to make sure the house was inviting, delightful, and tailored to their needs evaporated.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I just googled “tips for home hospitality” and at the top of the results page, it reads:  About 72,300,000 results (0.35 seconds).

I made a quick scan of the “7-steps” and “15 Tips” and “Top Ten Tips” and “Tips for the Reluctant Host” and “Tips for Entertaining in a Small Home”, etc.  It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that I didn’t find any posts , articles, or YouTube videos about being hospitable to the people that live in the house.

God used an innocent comment from one of my children several years ago to help me see that I had changed.  I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like, “I love when we have visitors, our house gets clean and pretty and fun.”  Ouch.

Granted, part of the not-so-clean of our everyday experience is related to the unwillingness of my children to put away their toys, laundry, books, etc.  But that’s not really what was in question here.  But it served as an unintended accusation that I made a special effort to make our house welcoming to people who don’t live here and don’t do that for the people who do.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Scripture calls us to entertain visitors (Hebrews 13:2) and there are examples of hospitality throughout the Bible.  We should not abandon the instruction to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).  I just think we need to expand our vision to include extending hospitality to those who live in the home as much as those who will visit us in our homes.

My kids need to feel welcome.  They need to see that I plan to delight them.  They need to see me intentionally considering their needs and providing for them.  Maybe I don’t put a Hershey’s Hug and Kiss on their pillow every night (after all, they did just brush their teeth, right?), but are there ways I can modify my home to make it more child-welcoming?  What can I do to make sure my kids want to be at home?  How can I make sure they know they are wanted?  Do they sense that I am excited and pleased they are with me?

There are several practical things we’ve done to make our home welcoming to our kids.  We have deliberately designed our house and schedule to accommodate, appeal to, accept, assure, and advise our children (and the adults!).

  • Accommodate  This is sort of the flip side of the child-proofing coin. We have modified or arranged our house to make sure the smallest of us have access to what we need (child-proofing ensures that they do not have access to what is hazardous).
  • Appeal  This is the fun part!  When guests come we make a great effort to create an environment they can enjoy.  Usually this means removing an obstacle course of toys, books, and clothing.  It is so fun to expend the same effort to create an environment that our kids can enjoy – every day!  This looks a little different based upon the ages of the kids in question, but we want to create a world where they want to be – and ultimately to extend hospitality by inviting their friends to enjoy it, too.
  • Accept  Making the house a “Yes” zone.  I don’t want them to feel like they live in a museum – unless it’s the “Please Touch” variety.  We provide an environment where they can be free to be kids – and feel safe doing so.
  • Assure  It is important to know how to repair damage, and then to remain calm when accidents happen.  I know, easier said than done.  But having the right tools for repair, really helps.  And don’t they need to see that there is a cure for brokenness?  Doesn’t the opportunity to redeem their mistakes open a door to talking about the Redeemer?
  • Advise  A child-friendly home is great, but we also need home-friendly children.  Not everywhere you go will be a “please touch” experience.  If you give your kids the opportunity to learn self-restraint at home, they’ll be comfortable in other places as well.

Over the next few weeks, I will provide concrete lists, options, and ideas for putting these concepts into practice.  Since we are still talking about work on Wednesdays, I’m going to start with accommodating our kids (it dovetails nicely with providing tools) and then move into the fun part, which the kids will really appreciate!

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By Jebulon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons