Kids and apartments do mix…
As people are rediscovering the benefits of urban living – mass transit, walking and biking everywhere, nearby grocers, sidewalk cafes, proximity to work, nightlife – they are moving back toward apartment living. Apartments are easier to find than houses in cities, not to mention less expensive. But if you have kids, living in an apartment becomes a little trickier. Space, safety, noise … what’s a parent to do?
First, check out the neighborhood. It should contain parks, sidewalks, and plenty of less-traveled side-streets. Find the area schools and learn the school bus stops and routes. If your child is able to walk to school, find out how many other kids will be walking that sidewalk – there’s safety in numbers. Also, where are the crossing guards?
Next, check out the apartment complex. Make sure it is set back, away from the parking area. An open green space is excellent, and a playground is not only a major plus for those “I’m so bored!” moments, but it is a sure sign of the kid-friendliness of your chosen apartment complex. A club house or game room is great for older kids, as is a gym and pool.
Now the apartment … no matter how you slice it, apartments just don’t have the same space and storage as a house – especially if it is in the heart of a major city. For one person living alone, this isn’t a big problem. But kids come with stuff – lots of stuff.
Find multiple functions for rooms – perhaps the dining room can double as an office with a small, roll-top desk. The living room can double as a play room with an ottoman or coffee table that doubles as a storage unit for toys. A futon or Murphy bed can make any room into a guest room. Look for closets – especially if your child is still in a stroller. Make sure there’s a place to put it.
Noise can often be an issue in an apartment, so try to find one on the ground floor. Running, scooting toys around, and dropping toys on the floor can be very loud and annoying to the tenants beneath you. If you find yourself on an upper floor, use foam puzzle mats where your child likes to play. They muffle noise and can quickly be picked up and stacked away when not in use.
In your child’s room, storage may be an issue, especially if her room is small. Use baskets on shelves to store toys, under-the-bed boxes to store out-of-season shoes and clothes, and avoid buying large, bulky items. It may look great in the store but if you don’t have anywhere to put it, you’ll just end up tripping over it. Same goes for furniture – smaller scale items will fit better. And if it isn’t absolutely necessary, do without it.
Even if you scale it down, there are certain things a parent will find themselves surrounded with — toys, books, plastic dishware, stuffed animals, strollers, high chairs, bottles – yikes! Don’t get overwhelmed in a small space. Clear out what you don’t need often. Once your child is a toddler, for example, the baby toys can go – along with the bouncy seat and baby swing. Don’t be sentimental about them or think you might need them again someday – if you don’t have an empty closet to store them in, get rid of them. Same goes for your school-age child and all of the cute drawings he’ll hand you – keep it on the fridge for a week or so then put it in a photo album, scan it and save it to a folder on your computer, or throw it out. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself buried under a mountain of papers.
Don’t think your child is getting “less” somehow by living in an apartment –kids in apartments have plenty of opportunities to socialize since they will be visiting public parks to play, and apartment living will provide plenty of playmates. And if you choose an apartment community with a pool, clubhouse, and social events, your child will be very happy with apartment life.