Whether your kids qualify as Dennis the Menace clones or not, your house just might be in shambles for years to come. Nevertheless, there are ways to minimize the damage.
Here are some of the common household items parents can expect to have just about demolished by their little – or not so little – terrors and recommendations to create a home that can withstand the childhood years.
Battery operated devices – Battery compartments are irresistible to some kids, resulting not only in missing batteries but in lost covers as well. For battery operated items, look for ones that are fastened by a screw or at least require prying to open.
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. Purchase blind and shade cord windups by Safety 1st to keep cords out of children’s reach. When children are old enough to maneuver blinds on their own, tie the pull strings together in a knot a few inches above the ends to prevent blinds from malfunctioning.
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.
Carpet – Mud, drinks, food, candy, paint, glue, nail polish, you name it, it’s going to end up on your floor. Tile, linoleum or wood flooring is the best choice with children. 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 matt. Install a high quality, thin, dense pad to reduce wear and extend your carpet’s life.
Car upholstery – Family travel is tough on car interiors. Protect your vehicle with seat covers and floor mats throughout, which will make for easy cleaning and help to retain the resale value of your vehicle.
Compact disks – Claims for the longevity of CDs didn’t take kids into account. Your CDs are likely to be shuffled to the point that scratches render them useless. Keep CDs in one case that holds multiple CDs. Kids are more likely to put them away if they don’t have to match up the cases.
Dishes – Save the elegant tableware for guests and special occasions. Give young children their own set of plastic dishes to eliminate breakage. As your children grow, invest in a set of Corelle dinnerware, which comes in a wide variety of designs and is less breakable than ceramic.
Disk Drives – Kids think floppy, CD-Rom and DVD drives have 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, commands and barrages of advertisements that result from surfing the net. Demonstrate to your child what is and what is not proper computer use. If your child needs a computer, purchase a used one, which can often be found complete with monitor and keyboard for as little $200 on eBay.
Doors and trim – These filth collectors can actually cause dirty walls to appear clean. Use high gloss paint, which can be washed repeatedly on doors and trim. High gloss also will lessen door damage caused by tape and stickers and makes for easy removal of sticky residues.
Lazy Susan cabinet – Your lazy Susan shelves make perfect stepping stools. However, the weight of your child can result in imbalance and affect its rotation. Protect your child and your lazy Susan by installing a Lazy Susan Cabinet Lock available from Perfectly Safe at store.yahoo.com/perfectlysafe/ind.html.
Mattress – Nighttime accidents can happen throughout childhood. Protect mattresses with a fitted plastic mattress cover placed underneath the mattress pad.
Photo albums – Family photo albums are often in shambles by the time children have enjoyed them a few times. Avoid albums with magnetic pages. Over time, they’ll become crinkled, torn and no longer useable. Choose photo albums with heavy duty sleeves and seal them with a good, clear tape.
Screens – Door and window screens get pushed on, poked at, popped out, stretched and torn by kids. Install window guards, which come in many styles and serve a dual purpose – protecting screens and preventing children from falling out.
Silverware – Spoons make terrific shovels and are certain to 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. Purchase a sink strainer to protect your silverware from being gnawed up.
Sliding and bi-fold closet doors – Some bi-fold and sliding doors just won’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 at the top. To prevent doors that are used regularly by children from coming off track, make sure they’re installed properly. If doors still come off, replace with heavier doors and better-designed tracks.
Sprinklers – Running through the sprinkler also means standing on it, adjusting it and squirting with it. Playing in the sprinkler just one time can be enough to do it in. Stick with nonmechanical sprinklers. If a mechanical one is necessary, have a nonmechanical sprinkler available for your children’s use.
Television – TV buttons are like magnets that draw young children. The designs even in newer models can result in broken and lodged buttons. In some sets, buttons are popped inside and can’t be retrieved. Mount your TV on the wall with an appropriate mount that keeps buttons out of young children’s reach.
Toilets – Before you have to call the plumber due to excessive toilet paper use, 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.
Upholstered furniture – Sofas and chairs make great sucker rests, doormats, coloring books and even towels for soaking up spilled drinks. Choose stain resistant synthetic fabrics. Polyester is the most resistant. Polypropylene is also a good choice and is the only stain proof fabric.
Vacuum – Your vacuum is likely to find many foreign objects such as pennies, marbles and game pieces before you can react. Look for a vacuum specially designed to deflect foreign objects or ask your salesperson which vacuums best handle foreign objects without belt breakage or motor damage.
VCR – Your toddler thinks your video player is great for stashing collectibles such as crayons, band-aids and other small objects, which can wreak havoc on your machine. Invest in a VCR lock by Safety First to protect the machine.
Walls – These dirt magnets can 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.
Wood furniture – Protect tables, chairs, desks and other 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 tear even with minimal use, and look for something in between.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer.