Children at any age need careful planning to create places for study and play. Even if your child is years away from studying geometry, you can apply the principles of divided, open spaces to organize his or her playroom so that it also serves as a functional homework area and grows with him or her.
The secret to keeping toys and school gear neat and organized isn't just having enough space. It's having accessible storage your child will actually use.
- Location: Set up the study zone or play area where your child will be close to you, such as near the kitchen or family room. Neither you nor your young child will be comfortable with a playroom in the basement if you spend most of your time in the kitchen.
- Measure: Take down the dimensions of what you will be storing before you start designing and installing shelves. Think adjustable sizes rather than standard symmetrical arrangements. (Measure some bigger toys to make sure the shelves are adequately sized.) Avoid sharp angles and corners that can hurt a child.
- Weight loads: Most toys are fairly light, but a row of books can get heavy. Architects often specify 3/4-inch-thick birch plywood for bookshelves; spans shouldn't be longer than 30 to 36 inches between supports. If you are using a thinner plywood, such as 1/2-inch, reinforce with supports every 24 inches.
- Long-term storage needs: Children's playrooms and bedrooms tend to be small, so take advantage of every bit of space by building shelving to the ceiling. Store what your child plays with every day on the lower shelves; rotate other toys and games to the top shelves. Also, don't forget to include enough desk-type area to accommodate computer equipment and handwritten work.
- Material alternatives: Compare your options before you buy. Economical painted particleboard, rather than laminate or birch plywood, works fine for built-ins.
- Labels: Use labeled plastic bins, boxes, or baskets for small toys, such as blocks, cars, and plastic figures. For young children, label with a picture of what goes in the bin. Don't forget storage for computer games and disks, music CDs, and other modern paraphernalia you'll accumulate as your child grows.
- Lighting: Include an adjustable, lighted work surface. With vertical shelf supports and L-brackets, a work surface can be raised as a child grows -- the same way bookshelves are moved.
Nourish creativity in a young child with a bedroom that inspires fun as well as comfort. Most young boys love construction equipment, so build on that interest to create a whimsical hard-hat zone.
This platform bed rests above particleboard storage cubes. Two 1 x 8 boards nailed on each end of a 1 x 12 form the headboard, which imitates a structural I-beam and is attached to the wall. Mounted to the wall with metal conduit, a yellow trouble light becomes a bedside lamp.
As children grow older, it can be hard to arrange and decorate a space that enables them to study and to relax. Here, the 14-foot-long window wall is obviously an asset, but wrapping sleek black built-ins around the view gives it new function. With contemporary style and an easy-care black finish, this custom-designed wall unit appeals to grade-schoolers and teenagers alike. Here's a look at the details that make this space work:
- Black-and-white built-ins create a strong neutral background so the bedroom's lively accent colors of bold turquoise blue, pink, and yellow really pop. Zebra stripes painted on the closet door give this study spot a graphic and unexpected twist.
- The sprawling 6-foot-wide desk provides lots of room for the all-important computer and printer and for spreading out papers and projects. File-and-supply drawers beneath are within easy reach.
- Twin towers flank the desk with open shelves for reference books and lower-level storage with doors. Lights at the top of each tower illuminate the shelves.
- An adjustable desk chair and computer keyboard shelf that stows beneath the desktop ensure the child won't soon outgrow this homework spot.
- Lighting caters to the tasks at hand. Recessed fixtures in the ceiling shine directly downward so they don't create glare on the computer screen. A small task lamp on the desktop balances light for reading.
Inspiring your student could be as easy as creating an inviting place for learning. Since your child knows his or her study needs best, design the homework spot together. First determine what the priorities are: a computer, library shelves, space for sprawling art projects? Is your child left- or right-handed? That could determine the desk's layout. Let your child help pick the desk and color scheme.
Let's look at what makes the room shown here work well:
- A wide desk with built-in storage drawers on either side updates the traditional window seat idea. The laminate desk teams bubble-gum-pink drawer fronts and sides with a lemony yellow top to add to the room's colorful theme.
- The handy computer keyboard shelf slides out of the way under the desk top, then pulls up when needed.
- Swing-arm side lamps mounted on the walls are a versatile lighting solution. They can be positioned where the light is needed and don't take up valuable desktop space. Located on both sides of the work surface, they don't create reflections on the computer screen that can cause eye strain.
- Stimulating colors on the window dressing keep the study area functional and oh-so-personal, because the colors are the favorite shades of this room's occupant.
These tips will help you save time, money, and aggravation as you plan your child's study space.
- Measure available space before selecting furnishings for a homework area. If your student uses a computer, make sure there's adequate ventilation and light, enough grounded electrical outlets, a surge protector, and even a second phone line.
- Buy pieces that grow. Desktops, chairs, and pull-out shelves for computer keyboards should adjust easily. Check construction and warranties before you buy and have your child test chairs for comfort. Standard desks are 30 inches high; computer stands are usually about 26 inches high.
- Consider modular furniture for a built-in look that's movable. Pair up storage pieces with a desk along a wall or even in a closet; slip a triangular desktop into a corner between bookshelves. Modulars don't have to be expensive, but they must be sturdy enough to support a computer.
- Paint unfinished furniture pieces, such as an armoire for a computer workstation with storage, in folk-art colors to please grade-schoolers. Your teenager can repaint inexpensively for a new look. Use glossy or semigloss paints for an easy-clean finish; for durability, seal with polyurethane.
- Make a desk with brightly painted filing cabinets or stacked plastic crates as the end bases. Paint or stain a 4-foot-long, 1-inch-thick wood plank or a door that fits the depth of the cabinets or crates. Secure the crates together. Attach the plank to the tops of cabinets or crates with screws.
- Avoid halogen desk lamps for young children because they generate heat, which can be dangerous.