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July 01, 2012

The multi-function factor

Multiple use furniture is key in the kid’s room

Kathy McCormick

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It’s the greatest thing to happen to kids — and the peace of mind of parents — since the invention of unleaded paint: furniture that grows with the child.

It’s one of those light-bulb things. Why didn’t I think of that? So simple, yet so effective.

Today’s parents have the option of buying cribs that are not only safe (made with unleaded paint, the proper width of spindles and other safety precautions built in), they now convert to other types of beds as the child’s sleeping needs change.

Certain cribs have sides that convert to headboards and footboards of single beds or even double beds with extension kits included in the purchase price. Regular crib mattresses fit into toddler beds in other cases, or other toddler beds utilize a regular twin mattress, so they can be used once the toddler has grown to the point where he or she needs an adult-sized bed.

Today’s parents are very knowledgeable, says Karen Lowther, manager of Calgary’s e-Children store. “They want to buy products that are of quality and are safe, and they want products that have an extended use — mix-and-match items that will grow and adapt with time.”

Maxtrix Kids Furniture from Make Your Bed takes the same approach, adding in an imaginative flair. “Maxtrix believes you should only have to buy kids’ furniture once, so the system is flexible and solid enough to last for years,” says Karen Sabatier, owner of Make Your Bed, a local Maxtrix distributor.

The system starts with a single bed and grows from there, depending on your child’s wants and needs, the room size and, of course, your pocketbook. A loft bed, for example, can have curtains underneath to create a special playhouse, a slide or a ladder can be added and the beds come in a variety of styles and themes — all to foster the child’s imagination.

And that’s another key to successfully create a magical spot for your child to call his own, says Darren MacArthur, spokesperson for, IKEA Calgary. “Play is serious business. It is the child’s way of learning about the world around them.”

The room should be a space that is not only functional and aesthetic, but it should be a place “where children are allowed to be children.”

That’s done “by combining form, material, colour, light, and function in the child’s bedroom in a way that encourages play and movement, where children are safe and where they are given free space to play, develop and practice their motor skills,” MacArthur says.

As everyone knows, whether they have children or not, furniture must be durable to withstand the rigours of the life of a child of any age.

Quality is imperative if you want the furniture to last, says e-Children’s Lowther. “Buy the best possible quality within your price range — something you all will enjoy and something that your child will use for a long time.”

Sabatier agrees, noting that if you have a loft or bunk bed, it’s even more important to watch for quality to ensure the child’s safety. “Make sure the bed is built from well-crafted, solid hardwood that stands the test of time. Look for pieces that are solid. Is it made to last? Is it built with hardwood rather than particle board? Bed safety rails should be at least five inches above the mattress surface. If it’s a dresser, look for dove-tail joints. These provide a long-lasting, superior connection between drawer fronts and sides.”

Surfaces should be durable and practical as well. “Make it easy for the whole family by choosing textures and materials that ensure wear,” says MacArthur.

The next imperative is storage space — and that can again be tailored to the child’s wants, needs and imagination. And having a spot to put everything is as important to the child as it is to the parent’s peace of mind, MacArthur says. “Children are energetic and, like adults, they can be pretty messy. Considering all the things they play with and collect, it is no wonder.”

Practical storage can be anything from shelves, to bookcases, boxes, dressers, drawers, shelves, bins, and lockers.

“It is important that children learn to put their things back on their own. Children gain a sense of responsibility and self-esteem,” he says. “And the chore of tidying up becomes more bearable for parents.”

So once the room has the right bed (or bed combination), the right storage, the right things that are practical, what’s next? It’s time to personalize the room and make it fit the child’s needs and wants, and to foster his or her imagination. Perhaps that is setting up an easel, a desk or a train table; perhaps it’s a dress-up trunk with a fashion-model make-up desk and mirror.

Any number of special accessories are available today — peg boards and coat trees for clothes, giant clothespins on boards for displaying artwork, lamps with themes, kid-size chairs and chaise lounges, and even blackboard paint for a special ‘art’ wall.

“We see a big interest in wall vinyl decorations now,” says Sabatier. “They come in all designs and styles for all ages — and best of all, they are all easy to remove without harming your walls.”

And, of course, you can’t go wrong with anything that’s popular — no matter the age. Whether it’s posters of Justin Bieber for the tween girls or Thomas the Train bed from Toys 'R' Us for the toddler boys, or almost anything that’s been on TV. It’s sure to be a hit.

“If anything has been shown on TV shows like Ellen or Shark Tank, we’re sold out in days,” says Lowther.

Overall, it’s all about creating a safe and fun haven for your child. “There are a variety of colourful and trendy options that will transform any room from ordinary to fabulous,” says Sabatier.

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