I had purchased my current home 8 years ago, before I had any kids. My husband and I knew we wanted to eventually start a family, so all we had in mind was having more bedrooms, more square footage, and some yard space for our future little ones.
Boy, this could have been disastrous for our family today! Luckily, we ended up with a home that turned out to really work for us, but not without a few home renovations to fit our needs.
Now that we have our 3 young kiddos (ages 5 and under), and after selling homes to several families with young kids over the years, there are some home features that I think are quite important when trying to make life easier and more harmonious for all in the family.
Here’s my list of 8 important home features that, if you can find them all in one house, will work well for a family with young kids:
1) Open concept between kitchen and family room. Let’s face it: at least one of the kids is always needing milk, or a snack, or a meal. We as parents spend a lot of time in the kitchen, especially for our kids. Having a family room that shares an open concept with a kitchen is such a great feature when needing to keep an eye on little ones. Sure, you can have a playroom elsewhere, and for older kids it’s probably just fine. But I’m positive that once my 3 year-old is out of sight and waaaaay too quiet when I’m boiling up some pasta in the kitchen, there’s probably some crayon art on the wall somewhere.
2) Laundry room inside with a sink. I remember my college days of having to walk 2-3 blocks with heavy bags of laundry on my back so that I can spend 3-4 hours at the laundromat, using their subpar machines. With that experience burned into my memory, an inside laundry room or closet is so wonderfully great. What I didn’t anticipate was that a sink in the laundry room would be so incredibly useful once we had kids in the house. We would bathe the kids in the sink when they were babies. We are often scrubbing out paint and food stains on clothing in that sink nowadays. Potty training a child? That sink will be used time and time again. I. Love. That. Sink.
3) Downstairs bedroom and full or 3/4 bathroom for grandparents, parents/in-laws, babysitters, guests. We don’t have this. I wish we did. Fortunately we have parents and in-laws that live close enough by that they can visit and then drive home to be in the comforts of their own homes. For those families whose parents/grandparents live further away, having a room (and adjacent bathroom) like this would be super helpful.
4) Bedroom proximity to master bedroom. Sometimes my kids talk in their sleep. Sometimes they have nightmares and cry while still half asleep. Having a home with a bedroom configuration that allows you to be the “right” distance from the kids’ rooms is something to highly consider when shopping for a house. Some parents want the baby’s room close by so that they can hear the baby cry during the night. Other parents prefer to keep the kids further down the hallway to contain the noise. Whatever floats your boat, make sure you have that in mind before buying the house.
5) Dual sinks in hallway bathroom for multiple people to use. The hallway bathroom is typically the one that the kids would use for getting ready in the morning and for bedtime at night, often all at the same time. If you have more than one person using this bathroom, having dual sinks helps speed the morning and nighttime routines along. While you can totally co-exist without one, it’s a nice luxury that goes a long way.
6) Bathtub. Although we usually shower our kids, having a bathtub for them to splash around in every now and then is a fun treat for them, bubble bath and all.
7) Easy backyard access. For whatever reason, our homebuilder put the one and only entrance to the backyard from the house to go through the family room, right in front of where we would put our TV in the media niche. In a family without children, that might be okay. But for our family, we have a rug on the floor in front of the TV and use that space as a play area for our kids. Wet and muddy shoes after being outside in the yard would be a problem. So what did we do? We knocked out some windows in our living room (which at the time was another playroom for the kids that they didn’t really use as often as we had wished) and installed a sliding door that not only brought more light into the house, but allowed for the kids to go in and out of the backyard without us worrying about tracking in dirt into their play area while knocking over the TV. Problem (expensively) solved. Would have been better though if the house already had that feature to begin with!
8) Downstairs bathroom that can fit more than one person (for potty training). Our half bathroom is located downstairs, in a small space right under the stairs in fact, and is the main bathroom used by our family and guests during the daytime while we’re all downstairs. It had a nice door that swung inward, right up against the toilet. Not a big deal for just one person; you’d just have to maneuver around the door once inside. But a very big deal when it’s time to potty train and you can’t easily fit your child, yourself, and a couple of stools in that tiny little space. Fortunately, we were able to install a pocket door instead; no more door swinging inward and taking up so much space. Definitely something to keep in mind when house shopping: is this bathroom conducive for potty training?