Whether your kids qualify as Dennis the Menace clones or not, your house may be in shambles for years to come. But it is possible to minimize the damage. Following are some everyday household items you can anticipate might be demolished by your little, or not so small, terror–along with tips for a home that can withstand the childhood years.
Screens–Both door and window screens get pushed on, poked at, stretched, torn, and popped out by kids. So, install window guards, which come in a variety of styles and serve a dual purpose. Guards will protect your screens and prevent your child from falling out windows.
Sliding and bi-fold closet doors–These often don’t hold up to excessive use by children, especially when kids attempt to close the doors over heaps of stuff in the way. 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 securely installed, so the doors don’t easily come off the track. If the doors are still a problem, replace them with sturdier doors and higher-quality 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. Avoid flat paint altogether.
Doors and trim–These often ignored surfaces are filth collectors. Use high gloss paint, which can be repeatedly washed, on doors and trim. High gloss paint will also reduce the likelihood of damage to doors caused by tape and stickers and allow 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 choosing 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 high quality, thin, dense padding underneath to reduce wear and extend your carpet’s life.
Toilets–To avoid frequent plumbing from excess toilet paper, buy single-ply tissue to reduce the amount your child uses. If you replace your toilet, install one made for residential use but with a more substantial, 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, absorb spilled drinks, and be used as footrests for dirty feet and shoes. Your upholstered furniture may even be used as a creative canvas for artwork. So choose stain-resistant synthetic fabrics. Nylon, followed by polyester, are the most resistant. Polypropylene is also an excellent choice and the only stain-proof fabric. Also, consider stain guarding your upholstery or protect it with slipcovers.
Wood furniture–Protect tables, chairs, desks, and other wood furniture from scratches, gouges, chips, crayons, and drinks by buying 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. Instead, look for something in between.
Blinds–All it takes to ruin a set is to pull the strings the wrong way, which can cause them to tangle inside the frame. So purchase blind and shade cord wind ups 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 entertainment center cabinet.
Computer–Although CD-Rom drives have become less common, you might have one. Like DVD players, they’re neat little compartments for kids to stash paper clips, pennies, and other tiny objects that can get lost and lodged in gears. Additionally, young computer users can cause problems from accidental system changes, not to mention adware, malware, and viruses from surfing the net. So keep your computer in a locked cabinet. If the keyboard and mouse are within reach, turn off the computer when not in use. If your child uses a computer, give her one of her own. Used laptops or desktop computers can often be purchased complete with a monitor and keyboard for as little $100.
Vacuum–Your vacuum cleaner is likely to gobble countless foreign objects such as pennies, marbles, and game pieces. So look for a vacuum specially designed to deflect foreign objects. Alternatively, ask a salesperson which vacuums best handle foreign objects without belt breakage or motor damage.
Television–TV buttons draw young children like magnets. Fortunately, most TVs today don’t have buttons, or they’re inconspicuous at the very least. But if they do exist, rest assured, your kids will discover them. To prevent broken and lodged buttons, mount your television on the wall out of reach of little hands.
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 great 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. To keep silverware from falling into the disposal and being gnawed up, buy a sink strainer.
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. It 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 the albums to be in shambles. Choose photo albums with heavy-duty sleeves. Then seal sleeve openings with clear acid-free 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 help 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.