Raising kids in an apartment can be a challenge. No matter how big it is, kids always seem to exist in packs — which means it always seems crowded. Sure, it can build strong family bonds and instill the idea of sharing better than any game or new-age chant could, but just a little more space to learn life lessons sounds heavenly to most apartment-bound parents.
If you use these childrearing tricks and tactics, your square footage won’t increase. But you’ll definitely feel like your small space is much bigger.
Explore Your Available Space
At first glance, you’d swear there’s not a square foot in your apartment that’s not occupied, but we promise it’s there. Maybe it’s a rectangular spot in the corner of the kitchen or a barely visible square by the front door. Instead of filling it with a box of toys or the upright vacuum cleaner, leave it completely open. When you feel the walls closing in, focus on that spot and breathe. Sooner or later, one of the kids will find it and use it to color or host a plush animal fashion show, but when they’re done it’ll be your little space of solace all over again.
Avoid Memorializing Every Little Thing
Kids bring home a lot of clutter with their creations. While all those drawings and popsicle-stick projects are certainly precious, you’ll find it helpful to look at them as nice moments to be enjoyed and showcased for about week or so. After that, toss them out. One child’s artwork for a month can fill an entire car trunk, so creations by several of them can be especially overwhelming. Make yourself a memory box and save a maximum of two pieces each month. The same applies to binkies, toys, dolls, books, strollers, car seats, etc. Either give them away or loan them to a parent in need so you can get them back if your family grows later on. Better yet, get the kids involved in the process to impress on them the joy of sharing things with those less fortunate than them.
Embrace the Dark Side
All those cream-colored sofas with baby blue pillows may beckon you from magazine pages, but you should never succumb to that temptation if you’re trying to raise kids in a small space. When you’re a bundle of budding coordination skills with excessive energy and a short attention span, things get spilled and furniture takes the brunt of the action. As the parent of that bundle, you should try your best to stick with dark-colored couches, chairs, and rugs that don’t easily show stains. Regularly treat all the furniture surfaces with protective solutions that make clean-up easier. If you just can’t resist lighter colors, choose pieces with easily maintained indoor-outdoor upholstery.
Explore the Great Outdoors
When you’re feeling claustrophobic, you may not have a yard or big basement playroom to send the kids to for relief, but don’t forget that the great outdoors exists abundantly in the public sector. Rural apartment dwellers may have to travel a few blocks to find the nearest park, community center, or playground, but it’s usually well worth the trip. Parents and kids both benefit from exercise, fresh air, and mingling with others. Even a trip to the mall or grocery store can come as a welcome respite (providing you’re the good parent who teaches their kids how to behave in public and enforces the rules). Socialization also helps kids interact with others — a skill imperative to growing up happy and well-adjusted.
Keep Birthdays Simple
Like most new parents, you probably overdid your baby’s first birthday celebration. However, as years go on, there’s no reason to treat every birthday like a coronation. A clever idea employed by many families is that “hallmark” birthdays get the big parties while the others are decidedly more low-key. These include 10, 13, 16, and 18, all commemorating (respectively) the first double-digit birthday, teenage status, young adulthood (and driving privileges), and legal adulthood (voting age). For the other years, keep the gifts small (easily storable), the venue intimate (your living room and kitchen), and the guest list limited. Don’t forget what you’ve been preaching for years: it’s the thought that counts, and love is priceless.
Bigger is Not Always Better
The natural inclination in an apartment with a master bedroom and one or more smaller bedrooms is for the parents to occupy the former. While they “deserve” the larger space for a myriad of reasons, it’s not always the best deal on the table. It actually makes more sense to put two or three kids in the larger bedroom, where there’s more storage space for toys and clothes and bit of room left over for them to read, play, nap, and play games. The smaller room gives the parents more intimacy and less room for visits from the children.
All in all, raising kids in a small space doesn’t have to be cramped or uncomfortable. With a modicum of creativity and control, your apartment will be fondly remembered as a great place to learn about sharing, conflict resolution, and the importance of family ties.