Happy home, happy kids

Renovating for children

By Francie Healy

Kids change. They change fast, in the blink of an eye, it seems. So it might be easy to overlook their important place in renovation design and planning. Childhood experts say a child’s environment has a significant impact on their development.

If you’re a parent or grandparent or have a special child in your life, before you start thinking about renovation, here are some things to consider.

Air quality. It’s critical for everyone, of course, but even more so for vulnerable developing brains and bodies. Children breathe faster than adults and because they’re usually active, they inhale more “bad stuff” more quickly at a time when their lungs are still not fully developed. There seems to be growing evidence that poor air quality can contribute to children’s cognitive impairment. It means paying strict attention to harmful household substances (see Roy Nandram’s “Green” column, page 30). Also important to everyone’s health, particularly children, is the potential for radon gas (see Paul Scissons’ article about how he solved his radon problem, page 14).

Zero energy. Some day all new homes will be built to produce more energy than they consume. (See Herb Lagois’ column “The Last Word” about the impact of a net-zero renovation, page 38.) A Net Zero home keeps out, dilutes and filters pollutants through a sophisticated ventilation system. It’s a huge factor in everyone’s health, but especially children or people who are physically frail.

Noise. Young children’s learning can be impacted by the noise around them – not just the outside noise of traffic. The indoor sounds of appliances, conversations, devices, and pets can be a distraction during homework time. Educators and psychologists often advise a quiet space where children can just listen to the silence sometimes in comfortable surroundings. Renovation can create a beautiful calm and quiet environment with the choice of technologically advanced windows, insulation, and flooring.

Openness and light. Children tend to thrive when they have space, not just physically but visually. A renovation design that features good integration between indoors and outdoors, with lots of natural light from big windows and skylights, can have a significant impact on mood and behaviour.

Colour. Children respond to colour possibly even more than adults do. Colour is a mental stimulant or depressant, depending on what you choose. Parents sometimes say colour can cause their kids to become either hyperactive or bored, so the palette of your kid-friendly home is important. A good designer will help you pick out shades that create good emotions, brighter brains, and a happy place for learning and growing.

Storage. A place for everything, and everything in its place is not only great stress relief for anyone who lives with children. It’s a gift for kids, too, when they can organize their own toys, creative materials, books, clothes, and collections. Good storage allows you to teach them about taking care of their things, about tidiness, and about respect for the household. But it can also be a comfort to them when they know where to find all their important “stuff”. It aids in learning, too, when their “tools” are readily available. Good renovation design and planning can incorporate beautiful storage solutions of your dreams at any age or stage.

Durability. Kids can be hard on a house. There are so many finishes and materials to choose for floors, walls, bathrooms, kitchens, basements, laundry rooms, mud rooms and playrooms that it’s overwhelming for most people. Don’t even try to do this alone. Let your professional designer guide you.

Renovating with children in mind can mean a playroom, bedroom or quiet room of one’s own. But it can also mean a house where a child can have tea parties, build a tower, create a masterpiece, get lost in a novel, or listen to music…all in a healthy environment that promotes comfort, learning, good behaviour and positive development.

And that makes everyone happy.

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