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Toddler to teen: 9 design tricks to future-proof your child's bedroom for a space that lasts

From the storage to the bedding, some forward planning can save you time and money later.

Image: Shutterstock/spass

WITH A TINY baby in your arms, it’s hard to imagine that a day when that ginormous cot in the corner might become too small, or the farm-animal themed décor might not appeal.

But rest assured, babies grow into toddlers, and in turn into preschoolers, kids and teens. Those new life stages arrive so much faster than you could ever expect. In order to avoid redesigning your baby, toddler or child’s room every time he or she hits a new milestone, you’ll want to future-proof it as you go.

We recently ditched the changing table in my son’s room following a successful bout of pandemic potty training, and I regret not having chosen a low storage unit he could have kept well past his diaper years. Likewise, we should have invested in a convertible cot for the impending transition to a toddler bed. However, my past design mistakes can serve as lessons for your décor choices today.

Whether you’re choosing a changing table for your baby’s nursery or storage for your future Lego-lover, here’s how to make sure your kid’s room grows along with them, from toddler right up to teen.

Baby to toddler

shutterstock_1057220057 Source: Shutterstock/New Africa

1. Choose a low storage unit that can double as a changing table: When you’re thinking about a changing table, think ahead to the days when you won’t need that flat surface to wipe a tiny bum anymore. By the time you have a potty-trained toddler, that changing table won’t be necessary and it won’t have nearly enough storage for their growing clothing sizes. Instead, opt for a low storage unit and choose a changing pad for the top that can be taken away once your baby moves out of nappies.

2. Find a cot that converts to a toddler bed: Be on the lookout for a cot that can later convert into a toddler bed, because you’ll be likely to squeeze an extra year or two out of the bed that way. You might also find that transitioning your toddler out of his cot is made easier if you simply need to remove a single wall. No promises on that one though!

3. Picking a rug? Choose one that’s built to last: It might seem like a cosy inclusion for a baby’s nursery, but a fluffy rug probably won’t be able to withstand your hard-playing toddler. Between the smaller pieces that could get easily lost or trapped in a thick pile rug, and the reality that kids only get messier and dirtier as they get older, you’ll want to choose a rug option that will last. In order to keep the floor soft under your baby’s crawling knees, try a thick rug pad under a washable cotton rug.

Toddler to kid

shutterstock_671044846 Source: Shutterstock/Yuganov Konstantin

1. Look for a bed that can bunk: When you’re looking to replace that crib-turned-toddler bed with something a bit more substantial, try to find an option that can be bunked, either right away or in future years. Our four-year-old is in the KURA loft bed from IKEA, and she can easily manage climbing up and down the ladder on her own. Meanwhile, the floor space underneath is prime real estate for dolls and toys. A bunkable bed will also allow you to put two kids in together, should they be ready to become roommates.

2. Seek out toy storage that will grow with your kid: Finding the right toy storage is an ongoing pursuit for most parents; it always seems like there could be a better solution! Finding a set of shelves that will fit baskets or boxes with lids is essential. When your toddler is little, you’ll want them to be able to see their toys and play with them, and putting them away should be a reasonably simple task. As your child’s toy collection grows – or they gain a younger, grabbier sibling – those lidded boxes will become a lifesaver.

3. Slot artwork into simple frames: I love when artwork on a child’s walls reflect their interests, and those interests definitely change over time. Rather than investing a chunk of change in specialised frames for artwork for your child’s room, opt for generic frame sizes so that you can easily swap out the prints or photos inside as needed. A standard size, like an A4 or even A1 frame, is ideal. Jam Art Factory is a great source of budget-friendly wall prints, and they also sell wooden frames that last longer than MDF versions.

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Kid to teen

shutterstock_1054409849 Source: Shuttersotck/ImageFlow

1. Save room for a desk or a chillout zone: One of the great things about a bed that can be bunked is that a desk can be situated underneath, as studying requirements grow alongside your child into their teenage years. The aforementioned KURA loft bed wouldn’t fit a desk underneath, but would be perfect for a teen in need of a chillout space. 

2. Make designated storage for mementos: As kids enter their teen years, their storage needs change yet again. Lego might give way to more memento-like items, like concert tickets or printed polaroids. To help your child keep what’s precious to them (sometimes it’s hard for parents to know what’s junk and what’s priceless to a teen), get a storage bin specifically for mementos. Even better if you can repurpose one that’s previously been used for toys.

3. Mix in lighting for late-night teens: As your teen starts to stay up later and has to do homework into the dark winter nights, lighting is going to be increasingly important, both for ambience and productivity. A desk lamp that gives off a warm light that’s strong enough to keep your student awake should top the list. A bedside lamp will probably be the most-used light in the room, and can help take the edge off the blue-light shining from their phone.

More: 6 readers share their before-and-after living room transformations>

About the author:

Emily Westbrooks

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