By Kimberly Blaker
Whether your kids qualify as Dennis the Menace clones or not, your house may be in shambles for years to come. But there are ways to minimize the damage. Following are some common household items you might expect to be demolished by your little, or not so little, terror—recommendations for a home that can withstand the childhood years.
Screens – Door and window screens get pushed on, poked at, popped out, stretched, and torn by kids. Install window guards which come in a variety of styles and serve a dual purpose. They’ll protect your screens and prevent your child from falling out windows.
Sliding and bi-fold closet doors – Some bi-fold and sliding doors just don’t hold up to excessive use by children, especially when kids attempt to close the doors over heaps of stuff. Prevent unnecessary opening and closing by installing a bi-fold door lock that hooks to the top. For doors used regularly by children, make sure they’re installed properly to keep the doors from coming off track. If they are still a problem, replace them with heavier doors and better-designed tracks.
Walls – These dirt magnets quickly take on a life of their own. For easy to maintain walls, avoid heavy texture, which is difficult to clean. Cover walls with either vinyl coated wallpaper or semi-gloss paint. Eggshell or satin paints have enough sheen to wash up reasonably well, but avoid flat paint altogether.
Doors and trim – These often ignored surfaces are filth collectors. Use high gloss paint, which can be washed repeatedly on doors and trim. High gloss paint will also lessen damage to doors caused by tape and stickers by allowing for easy removal of sticky residue.
Carpet – Mud, drinks, food, candy, paint, glue, nail polish, you name it, it’s going to end up on your floor. When selecting carpet, look for Olefin, the most stain resistant carpet fiber, in a dense, low tuft pile or loop. Olefin can even be cleaned with bleach. Nylon is also resistant to stain and less likely to matte. Be sure to install a high quality, thin, dense pad underneath to reduce wear and extend your carpet’s life.
Toilets – To avoid frequent plumbing from excessive toilet paper, purchase single ply tissue to reduce the amount your child uses. If you’re replacing your toilet, install one made for residential use but with a larger, commercial size drain.
Lazy Susan cabinet – Your lazy Susan shelves make the perfect step stool. But your child’s weight can cause imbalance and affect the lazy Susan’s rotation. Protect your child and your lazy Susan by installing a lazy Susan cabinet lock.
Mattress – Nighttime accidents can occur into the early elementary years. Even if your child doesn’t have an accident, his overnight guests might. Protect mattresses with a fitted waterproof mattress cover or pad placed underneath the comfier mattress pad.
Upholstered furniture – Sofas and chairs will likely be eaten on, soak up spilled drinks, be used as footrests for dirty shoes. They even sometimes make a creative canvas for art work. Choose stain resistant synthetic fabrics. Nylon, then polyester, are the most resistant. Polypropylene is also a good choice and the only stain proof fabric. Consider stain proofing your upholstery or protecting it with slipcovers as well.
Wood furniture – Protect tables, chairs, desks, and other wood furniture from scratches, gauges, chips, crayons, and drinks by purchasing solid wood coated with a scuff and stain resistant polyurethane finish. If solid wood isn’t in your budget, avoid inexpensive veneered furniture which will bubble and chip with minimal use. Just look for something in between.
Blinds – All it takes to ruin a set of blinds is to pull the strings the wrong way causing them to tangle inside the frame. So purchase blind and shade cord windups by Safety 1st to keep cords out of children’s reach. When kids are old enough to adjust blinds on their own, tie the pull strings together in a knot a few inches above the pulls to prevent blinds from malfunctioning.
DVD and CD Players – These electronics are great for poking and stashing items such as crayons, band-aids, and other small objects that wreak havoc on the players. When buying a new player, look for one with a built-in child lock function. Otherwise, keep equipment in a locked cabinet in an entertainment center.
Computer –CD-Rom drives, like DVD players, are neat little compartments for stashing paper clips, pennies, and other tiny objects that can get lost and lodged in gears. In addition, young computer users can cause problems from accidental system changes and commands, as well as from adware and viruses that result from surfing the net. Keep your computer in a locked cabinet. If the keyboard and mouse are within reach, turn it off when not in use. If your child uses a computer, give her one of her own. A used one can often be purchased complete with monitor and keyboard for as little $100.
Vacuum – Your vacuum is likely to eat many foreign objects such as pennies, marbles, and game pieces. Look for a vacuum specially designed to deflect foreign objects. You can also ask a salesperson which vacuums best handle foreign objects without belt breakage or motor damage.
Television – TV buttons draw young children like magnets. Broken and lodged buttons can occur even with newer models. Mount your television on the wall out of young children’s reach with a tv mount.
Battery operated devices –Battery compartments are simply irresistible to curious kids, resulting in missing batteries and lost or broken covers. For battery operated items, look for those fastened by a screw or that require prying to open.
Silverware – Spoons make excellent shovels and will surely come up missing. So keep good silverware in a safe place. To protect your everyday silverware, have plenty of small shovels available for your kids and their friends, whether you have a sandbox or not. The garbage disposal also poses problems with kids. Buy a sink strainer to keep silverware from falling in the disposal and being gnawed up.
Dishes – Save the elegant table for guests and special occasions. Give young children their own set of plastic dishes to eliminate breakage. As your kids grow, invest in a set of Corelle dinnerware, which comes in a wide variety of designs and is nearly unbreakable.
Photo albums – Kids love looking at family photo albums, but it won’t take long for them to be in shambles. Choose photo albums with heavy duty sleeves, then seal sleeve openings with an acid-free clear tape.
Books – Scribbles, tatters, and tears will likely fill your books if they aren’t kept out of reach. Protect jacket covers by removing and storing them, and cover your books with store bought or homemade covers.
CDs, DVDs & Video Games – Claims for the longevity of CDs and DVDs didn’t take kids into account. Disks are likely to be trampled and broken, shuffled and scratched until they’re rendered useless. Keep disks in a binder case that holds multiple CDs rather than jewel cases. Kids are more likely to put them away if they don’t have to match up disks to the right case.
Car upholstery – Family travel is tough on auto interiors. Protect your vehicle with seat covers and floor mats throughout. This will make for easier cleaning and retain your vehicle’s resale value.
Sprinklers – Kids love running through the sprinkler. They also like standing on it, adjusting it, and squirting with it. So a single day of water play can do the sprinkler in. Stick with non-mechanical sprinklers, or have a non-mechanical sprinkler available for your kid’s use.