What Does A Family Home Mean To You?
Today, we are diving into what could be deemed a “controversial topic” and it’s all about creating a kid-friendly home. A couple of weeks ago, I shared our new coffee table in our living room. After living without one for over three years (because we wanted lots of floor time with our babies), we decided that it was time to finally get a coffee table.
We love the new coffee table and the kids love the new coffee table. I chose to keep the coffee table bare because as a mom of three-year-old and a two-year-old, I knew it would be too much hassle to constantly move things off of this area for them to play and relax.
Well, this choice to not style the new coffee table was questioned by one follower in particular.
The Comment That Started It All…
First of all, I’m not sharing this to shame this follower or say that I completely disagree with her perspective. Instead, I think it provides an opportunity to have a discussion about what goes into creating a kid-friendly home. Here’s what she said…
I mean this with absolutely no criticism, but why do younger moms not style their homes because of their children? I always did when my children were young. It provided opportunities to teach them how to obey, how to respect other’s belongings, etc. Of course, I wouldn’t style areas within reach with valuables, but I used to lovingly say “My children live in OUR world, we all must learn how to live with each other.” Simply curious…
There are some aspects of her comment that did rub me the wrong way, like lumping “younger moms” into one big category. And any comment that starts off by stating they don’t mean to criticize but then dives into one big critical comment makes me a little uneasy. Ha!
Her comment did make me think about what goes into creating a kid-friendly home and I thought it would be an interesting topic to dive into today.
My Thoughts On Creating A Kid-Friendly Home
When decorating our home, I always have to remember that it is OUR home. All four of us live here.
Of course, I love displaying beautiful things, but I also want to create a comfortable environment for my kids to learn, play, and enjoy themselves. Do I need a perfectly curated house from top to bottom? NO. Do I want kids’ toys and stuff to crowd every surface? NO to that too.
For me, it’s a balance between function and form. The coffee table surface is clear so my kids can do puzzles, eat goldfish, and be themselves in this communal space. If I had stuff on it, I would just be moving it on/off anyway. On our TV console, I have plants, vases, and other beautiful pieces that they have learned not to touch. I think it’s all about balance.
I shared the comment on Instagram and I was bombarded with so many messages sharing your unique points of view. It was so incredibly eye-opening to hear from other moms about how you’re navigating creating a home that everyone in your household can enjoy. I’ll keep everyone’s responses anonymous and italicize them as we go. I was so fascinated reading some of these ideas.
Is It a Generational Thing?
The first thing everyone brought up was how the comment lumped young moms into this category of doing things the incorrect way. Obviously, there is no RIGHT way to decorate your home, but let’s not be condescending to moms who are currently in the trenches with young kids. No mom shaming happening over here!
Growing up, I do remember friends and family with living rooms that were pristine (maybe even had plastic on the couches) with lots of breakables on tables and in cabinets. Those rooms were always off-limits to the kids. Honestly, I don’t even remember the grown-ups enjoying them very often either.
This comment makes me think of the era that had formal living rooms. I had a friend whose mom wouldn’t allow us to even walk into the formal living room because the white carpeting had nice, freshly vacuumed tracks in it.
I feel like our generation also just has “less” of that stuff. Like we didn’t even register for fine china. I remember growing up that every house you went to had a cabinet of fancy fragile stuff.
I do agree that in 2023 things tend to be a tad less formal and (thankfully!) we don’t see many couches covered in plastic anymore.
Is It a Space Thing?
Growing up in the 90s, in a middle-class suburb, many homes I visited had a formal living room and a family room. The living room wasn’t used as often and that space was usually full of breakables.
Now, living in a smaller home in the city, pretty much all of our spaces are for the entire family to enjoy. We don’t have the luxury of having extra rooms that are only for the grown-ups.
Our living room is the playroom. When we switched our coffee table, I specifically chose one aesthetically pleasing, but also one that my daughter could pull a kid’s chair up to for crafts and play. If it gets beat up, that’s okay! It’s exhausting trying to keep them out of “nice stuff.”
I think there is a component of city living to this. Kids need space to play. The living room is that space in a smaller city home where there is just one living space, dining space, and kitchen. If you had a main floor playroom, you might not need to keep this space clear.
Setting Age-Appropriate Expectations
By far, the biggest response from my community was around setting up age-appropriate expectations. You can’t put nice things on your coffee table and expect a 2-year-old not to touch them or want to play with them. They just don’t have the developmental capacity yet. Here are some amazing responses…
Avid follower and owner of a Montessori school for 2-6 year olds. And I’m 48 with grown kids. All this to say, I’m not in this younger mom generation and I love that parents are giving respect to their children in their homes. We set up our homes in a way to make them comfortable for visitors and I love to see more focus shifting to the smaller humans in our lives. In a Montessori classroom, children are taught to handle fragile things, but always within the scope of appropriate expectations. There are plenty of times as a mom where we HAVE to say no. I want those to be as sparing as possible, so they actually mean something. Not to deter a child from touching something special we put it at their direct eye level.
I keep important things that I love on display and will tell my toddler “no” so he learns. But if I kept EVERYTHING out on display?! That’s just an exhausting day of saying “no” for myself and for my son to hear.
My two cents: We can’t ask more of kids than they developmentally can do. I can want them not to grab fragile decor when they are two, but they might not be developmentally able to resist until they are four. It is our job to set up spaces for their success and that leads to parents being less frustrated.
If there’s something I eliminate due to having younger kids, it’s for my benefit. I don’t want to constantly remind them not to leave their slime on the rug. My peace of mind is higher on my priority list. I don’t want to be the “no” parent any more than I have to be.
I loved hearing these insights. The only reason we brought our coffee table back was because our kids are getting older and it’s less of a hazard to them. There are plenty of things around the house that they know not to touch (like all of our plants), but I can’t place delicate items in their play area and expect them to stay perfect.
We’re All Doing What Works For Us
I thought this next reader made such a good point. Your entire home usually isn’t styled to the same degree of kid-friendliness! Our basement and living room is pretty kid-friendly, whereas my office houses lots of breakables. That’s because my kids are rarely in my office and if they are, they’re supervised.
The original comment seems to treat “the home” as a single entity that must all be styled to the same degree of kid-friendliness, and I don’t find that to be true at all. I, and I would think a lot of people with young kids, make different choices based on how much I’d expect my kids to be using a certain room. In a family-oriented room, I don’t want to have to be constantly correcting my kids. But, somewhere like my office, I’m more comfortable having breakables and expensive furnishings.
And I loved this insight too. We are all doing a lot of the same thing…
I think this is a topic where everyone thinks they’re doing it better than everyone else. When in reality, we’re all pretty much doing it the same. Every family is going to adjust pieces of their home for their children’s safety and everyone is going to have boundaries around items that are off limits. Those who think “My kid needs to learn to leave it alone” forget the areas they have catered to their kids. Those who think “we should cater to kids” forget the areas where they haven’t and teach their kids it’s off limits. Because we all do both, just as it should be!
Stuff vs. Relationships
This comment really hit me hard…
I don’t want my kids to think I care more about things than them. At the end of the day, our home is for all of us. It’s much easier to repair or replace things than our relationships. If that means keeping our house more kid-friendly right now, so I can focus my energy on enjoying our time together, rather than worrying about things and a mess, then it’s worth it! We’ll have a grown-up house someday, and then I’ll probably miss the chaos.
Wow, I had to read that back a few times…
Our house isn’t about the stuff that’s inside of it. It’s about the people who live here and the safety and comfort that our shelter can provide for us. This was such a good reminder about what home is really all about.
It’s All Temporary
Finally, I’ll leave you with insight from this reader with older kids…
When my kids were little, having a styled coffee table was the last thing on my mind. I had foam taped all around the edges so they wouldn’t crack their heads. No amount of styling was going to help! My kids are older now and everything is styled pretty again. Nothing lasts forever.
At the end of the day, I always have to remember that this is all temporary. I’m in a season of life with two young kids and things aren’t going to be perfect around here. And that’s exactly the way I want it. I know I will miss those crumbs and legos someday…
I would love to keep the discussion going in the comments. What does a kid-friendly home mean to you?
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.