If you live with children, finding a place for every toy in your home is a never-ending struggle. To ensure that your home doesn't turn into a giant toy box, particularly around birthdays and festive-giving times, you need to have regular clear outs. Those toys that seem to hold no interest any more sell, take down to the charity shop or hand down to younger friends and relatives.
As so many of the toys in your home are likely to be on display for want of somewhere to hide them, try to be a bit discerning in what you buy. It may cost a little more, but that pretty wooden kitchen will look so much better in the corner of your lounge than one of those fluorescent plastic numbers.
Same goes with storage, try to avoid storing toys in those ugly plastic boxes. Instead opt for a few attractive looking baskets or crates. Or invest in a purpose built storage unit, that doesn't necessarily look like a toy box.
And for all those little toys that often turn up in going home presents, or games with lots of bits such as lego, invest in a few mini suitcases.
Read on for some suggestions of toys fit for tiny homes here
The most economic and practical child’s room is one that will grow with your child or children, taking them from birth to primary school and beyond. By following a few simple rules you can create a room that your children will love at every stage of their development.
Firstly, keep the fundamentals of the room neutral. Paint the walls or cover in a simple, patterned, timeless wallpaper and opt for a plain carpet or wooden flooring. And, whilst nursery furniture looks cute, children will soon outgrow it, needing more space to hang their clothes and despising the ‘babyish’ look and feel of it all. Instead choose contemporary-style full-size furniture that won’t date.
For the window dressings go for a brightly-coloured patterned fabric, such as gingham or stripes, that has a young feel, but isn’t specifically designed for children.
You can then fill this neutral backdrop with accessories to personalise the room to your child’s age.
When baby starts to get a mind of his or her own around about three you might find she wants a Peppa Pig themed bedroom. But if you give into her desire for Peppa Pig duvet, wallpaper and blinds you may find yourself being nagged to redecorate in a year’s time when they’ve out grown this character. Let them put their mark on their room, but in a more subtle way. If they want a Sponge Bob character theme, for example, get them a rug, beanbag, light and clock with him on.
Once your child has outgrown their cot, you can start moving the room onto its next stage. The playmat can be replaced with a little table and chairs and the rocking chair can make way for larger toys such as a train-set and dolls house.
As the teenage years loom, the room’s inhabitant will benefit from a dedicated desk area where they can study and a place in their room where they can ‘chill out’. If space is limited look at mid-sleeper or cabin beds, which have furniture such as a desk, wardrobe and shelving underneath.
Do your children share a room? Read our guide to making it work here
Providing that the age difference is not too great, most siblings benefit from sharing a room. Of course, if you have no option you just have to make it work. When I was pregnant with our second child, I panicked about how we'd fit another person into a house that was already cramped. And, for the first year of her life the baby slept in our room.
But as she neared her first birthday I realised that her sister never woke when she cried and that it would be healthier for all of us for the kids to share. So we swapped the wardrobe in the second bedroom for the cot. Most people dream of a walk-in wardrobe, we got to dream in one!
It worked from the start. They sleep through each others' cries and they settled for the night better. I wish I'd tried it earlier.
For successful co-sharing you need to do two things: thoughtfully plan the bedroom’s design and prepare the children for the move.
Planning the room
Give each child his own territory in the room, e.g. a shelf or table, so that they've their own space upon which to stamp their personality.
Get each child involved in the room’s décor. Give them each a wall to decorate with their own stickers, pin-boards and posters. Allow them to choose different bed-linen, rugs and cushions, but for aesthetic reasons ensure that they complement each other.
To maximise floor playing space, opt for bunkbeds if one child is old enough. There’s no rule on when children can sleep on a top bunk, but they’re not recommended for under sixes. A truckle bed, which pulls out from underneath a single bed, is a good option for smaller children.
Look to the future. Buy bunks that divide into singles, so if your kids are too young for bunks now you've the option later or if you move the children into separate rooms later, you can switch the bunk to singles.
Maximise storage space. If you have room, look at mid-sleeper or cabin beds, which have furniture such as a desk, wardrobe and shelving underneath. Buy under-bed storage drawers and if you've a baby sharing with an older child, use wall-hung storage that only the older child can reach for keeping their treasured toys away from tiny fingers.
Preparing the children
For a successful move emphasis the positives of sharing a room. Talk about how fun it will be and how they can play together more. Brief the child who is already resident in the room on how to give a special welcome to his or her sibling.
Set rules to teach the children to respect each others' things and their right to privacy. ‘Ask before taking’ and ‘knock before entering’, for example.
Read our bunk bed buying guide here