If you have kids you know things around the house seem to get ruined on a regular basis. I know of the many ways that happens having raised three boys and one girl to fairly responsible adults. We lost a number of furniture and decor items via normal contact with kids. I’m sharing what worked, what lasted, and what didn’t.
Here are the things that did not last:
1. Wall finishes. I could say our kids were budding archeologists, discovering which walls could be taken apart layer by layer. Or maybe they were artists when they applied berry juice in tiny dots to the walls in interesting patterns. My recommendation: paint walls with washable/scrubable paint. Test it out before using. (Ask for advice at the paint store.) When all else fails, repaint with the paint you saved for that purpose. For damaged walls, learn to spackle and repaint. Set proportionate consequences for wall damaging behavior, preferably something to do with cleaning. If they are old enough, have them do the repair work in addition to the cleaning. We didn’t have a lot of problems with wall defacing, but . . . it happens.
2. Leather or vinyl. It’s supposed to very durable and it is. However it also can be cut with a pocket knife given to a child that you thought was responsible enough to have one. Solution? Don’t listen to their pleadings.
3. Fabric on furniture. They will either spill on it or throw up on it. Solution? Get a fabric that won’t show stains too much (think print) or forbid eating and being sick in those rooms. Slip covers help some, but won’t protect totally. Navy blue hides stains well if you don’t want a pattern.
4. Anything glass. Most of our pictures with glass frames survived, but glass shelves did not. What were we thinking? My mom lost a mirrored top coffee table when her marauding kids (me included) landed on it. She cried for a quite a while about that table. Our glassed-in china cabinet has survived because the kids were not allowed in that room for the most part.
5. Anything tall enough to topple over could be a safety hazard. At one point my husband literally tied an etagere to the wall using eye screws (or is it eye bolts?) and rope. Not exactly a chic look, but it worked until we just threw it out. I could have used it as a trellis in the garden, but someone did pick it up from the curb to upcycle.
6. Book shelves. They seem to be like Mount Everest. Kids will climb it because it’s there. Also they can pull them over onto themselves–a real danger. Screw the bookshelf into the wall (we did) or place it in your bedroom where the kids don’t go.
7. Rugs and carpet. We replaced our family room carpet with polypropylene that basically can handle a herd of elephants. You can clean just about anything from it. A wood floor would be tougher and longer lasting, but not as comfortable for lounging around on which was a priority at the time. My husband has put in a wood floor or two over the years and it’s very durable.
8. Most drinking glasses made of glass. We eventually settled on basic glasses that were quite thick and mostly breakproof. They are the kind used in cafes that can hold either hot or cold beverages. We got them at Williams-Sonoma and they lasted very well. They were also good for serving ice cream and puddings.
9. Large prints of photos. Elbows and toy swords are good at punching holes in these. Stick with a photo album or photos in frames with glass or plastic protecting the photo.
10. Your children’s friends and even your friends’ kids can damage plenty of things. There is no solution to this unless you don’t allow any other kids into your house. If a child is particularly destructive, either drop them as a friend or suggest meeting at a playground, etc. We frequently had other children playing at our house with relatively few problems. If something got broken, we didn’t say anything to their parents. We just monitored them a little better the next time they came and made sure they knew some areas were off limits.
What passed the test?
1. Pottery seems to survive quite well and I love collecting it. I bought inexpensive small to medium sized pieces of pottery over
the years and I enjoy supporting local artisans when we are on trips or vacations. They go well with many different decorating styles and look wonderful displayed as a collection. For some reason the kids were never interested in playing with it. Maybe because it is pretty much unbreakable!
2. Wooden items survive pretty well, though they may acquire a few nicks and dents along the way (“character”) especially if it’s a soft wood like pine. Hardwoods do much better.
3. Baskets of all types are still in very good condition. They work with many decorating styles, including the popular coastal look. We had some wicker chairs that did not survive. The kids played with them a lot and that took its toll. They were inexpensive to begin with, but if they had been better quality I would have protected them with enamel paint at some point-and not let them be included in the kids’ forts!
4. For some strange reason, our kids did not play with the curtains. Did they know they were inexpensive or were they too busy having Star Wars light saber encounters with wrapping paper tubes? Other fabric items that passed the test: table runners and holiday tablecloths.
5. Speaking of holidays, most of our holiday decorations made it through. So much so, that I’ve given much of it to our grown kids. The grandkids love it!
6. Miraculously our lamps survived. We had to replace just a couple lampshades, but that was because they just got too old, not from kid damage.
7. Polypropylene carpet! It truly lives up to the hype. Stains can be removed easily and the pile keeps its original look. The carpet pad underneath did go flat eventually, but that’s a separate issue. Highly recommended.
8. Wood floors can take a lot of traffic. They are ideal for hallways and areas that get a lot of foot traffic. They are beautiful and usually add to the value of your home when it’s time to sell.
Our children were fairly normal and were not mini-Vikings by any means. Many people told us we had such nice, well-behaved kids. Well, they were good kids, but active enough. Have you found certain items last better than others with kids? Please share!