Nothing brings parents more joy than seeing their children playing together, immersed in an imaginary world and entertaining themselves. But the reality can often leave your home engulfed in trip-over toys, your hallway an obstacle course of wheeled items, balls and sticks and your children still complaining “there’s nothing to dooooooo”.
Kids’ zones in family space
So how can you make your home a fun place for you and your kids to feel entertained, inspired and relaxed without a tsunami of kid clobber engulfing every space? The answer, says architect Maya Carni, is to create “a space that’s designated for kids but part of the family communal area too.”
Maya and her husband Ran Ankory, co-directors of Scenario Architecture, totally renovated their home in East London. A tucked-away area at the back of their kitchen extension presented an opportunity for a fun and practical ‘making area’ for their sons Romi, eight, and Leo, five.
“In our old flat I was always asking the kids to clear away their homework or artwork at the kitchen table so we could eat,” explains Maya. “We made a storage area under the stairs for all their boxes of lego, toys, footballs and art and craft materials with a pull out table and bench so the boys can spend their time doing homework or playing. I wanted them to be close so we could chat while I’m making dinner, but to have their own space too.”
The boys played a key role in the design of their own bedroom, including a ‘secret space’ in the eaves of the pitched roof, with their own solutions for getting in and out. The space is reached by way of a climbing wall - the hand and foot holds were bought for just £50 from Amazon - and they descend on a metal fireman’s pole.
Involve your kids in creating fun zones
“It’s important to let children have their say when you’re creating special spaces for them,” says a spokesperson from Alexander James Interior Design.“Tap into their creativity and don’t put too much of an adult spin on everything.
“You also can’t be too precious about a child’s space. You will have sticky fingers and spillages so just make everything wipeable, even the fabrics.”
Nicky Mudie, founder and director of interior design company Violet & George, also created a wall for a climbing-obsessed 12-year-old. She magnified a photo of an Alpine cliff from photo library Shutterstock to the wall dimensions and added similar screw-in climbing holds.
The lure of a den
Nicky says parents should always remember how children love to create dens. “A secret space within a space is very appealing to children,” she says. “It can be somewhere to hide in and get away from siblings, to feel cocooned while you’re just reading or to hang out and have fun with friends.”
For one client, a single father who wanted a fun bedroom for his nine-year-old daughter, she created a dream bunk bed with a slide from the top bunk and a den beneath with curtains to make a stage or den.
Envy-inducing though such bedroom furniture is, unless you’re a DIY genius they’ll be out of the financial reach of most parents. But dens can be created by simply adding a curtain to hide a bottom bunk, sheets hanging over a table or chairs or simply pushing the sofa forward to create an enticing hidey-hole.
Wafflemama blogger Laura Wilson loves the Myweeteepee play tent she got for her children, Alf, five, and Soph, two. “It’s been by far our best play item for the kids,” she says. “We’ve used the teepee for all kinds of activities and creative play. It’s guaranteed to come out on play dates but can be easily taken down in seconds and packed away.”
Go bright - but accessorise
Interior designer Nicky Mudie advises that parents should allow children to have an ‘explosion of colour’ as part of creating a space that’s identifiably theirs and visually stimulating. But, she admits girls are quite predictable - frequently moving from a passion for bright pink, to purple and then turquoise. Accessories - lamps, cushions, rugs - are the way to keep costs down.
Future proof kids’ fun zones
However cute mini-size furniture may be, Viki Lander, creative director at Ensoul Interior Architecture, advises parents to steer clear if you don’t want to have to redecorate in a few years.
“Buy adult-sized beds and wardrobes that will stand the test of time,” she says. “You can kiddify them with decal wall stickers, which come off easily using a hairdryer and can be updated as your child’s interests change. Go for neutral wall colours but let your creativity and imagination wild with coloured zones and accessories from blinds to cushions.”
Make kids’ space interactive
A place indoors that allows children to let off steam without causing mayhem is a definite plus. A slide from a top bunk, an inexpensive climbing wall, a swing suspended from a strong beam can all add fun to your home. You can buy blackboard paint for doors and a single wall or use rolls of white paper tacked to the walls for children to create their own murals. Vicki Lander recently decorated a wall in a Sussex home with colouring in wallpaper so the owners’ grandchildren could all do something creative together.
Make it cosy too
There’s no point redecorating if your child simply doesn’t enjoy hanging out in their space. Good light, warmth and cosy textures all play a part here. Mood enhancing fairy lights, a good reading light, a comfy bean bag or soft fleecy throw all add enticement. Younger children will want to be close to you, for on-call reassurance and a potential play mate, while cosy bedroom spaces come into their own as your children reach 10 and above.