By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer

Perhaps it’s because I am now a grandmother that the subject of how to design a perfect space for your grandchildren in your own home has risen to the top of interior design topics that I have been talking about and writing about.

Many of my friends, family and clients are grandparents, so it’s a topic we frequently discuss when we are together. And as a designer for over 35 years I’ve helped my clients design their nurseries, kids’ rooms, kids play areas and even classrooms.

But as much fun as it has been to design these areas for my clients, my curiosity and creativity have quadrupled now that I have a 1 ½-year-old granddaughter who I get to see weekly. She has filled a space in my heart I never even knew existed.

I know that I’m not alone when I am wondering how to integrate a few perfect spaces in my own home that are:

  • Toddler friendly…
  • Safe yet fun… set up to encourage curiosity, responsibility, and independence.

If you have a small home, you might want to read my recent blog post about 5 Practical Design Tips to Maximize Your Small Home.

Years ago, my two sons attended a Montessori school. I was always impressed by the simple design and layouts of their classrooms. The spaces were well organized, colorful, intuitive for that age group.

It was easy for toddlers to access everything as it was designed for their own height.

But what impressed me the most was it was an environment that encouraged independence. The child size furniture and layout made it easy for them to help themselves to toys, games, puzzles, and activities. Everything had a place that created a sense of calm, simplicity, and an ideal place to learn and play.

Because I can’t yet interview my granddaughter (she’s only 1 ½) I found myself trying to visualize space through a child’s eyes, designing with a toddler‘s needs and abilities in mind.


7 Ways to Make Your Home Toddler-Friendly


1. A Low Set of Cabinets with One Toy or Activity for Each Shelf

Enough space to give them choices, but not too many choices so they can focus and concentrate on one activity at a time. Too many will simply overwhelm.

A way for them to learn to use the toy or activity then return it to where it belongs.


2. Child-Size Table and Chairs

A small child height table that acts as a desk, work area, play area, or reading area.

3. Small Chest of Drawers

For extra clothing so that they can access it themselves and begin to choose their own outfits when they are able to dress themselves.


4. A Small Roll Up Mat

The mat is to help them identify a specific play area for their activities.

A mat is also an opportunity for them to learn how to roll it up and put it away when not in use.

5. A Low Bookcase or Basket of Books and a Small Reading Chair

This allows them to easily access and choose what they are interested in reading, or being read to.

This also provides an opportunity for them to learn how to put it back when they’re done with it.

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6. A Small Easel, Blackboard, or Whiteboard

This is a place where they can experiment with drawing, painting and self-expression.


7. A Small Low Bed or Mattress for Pack and Play

A place for them to lie down, rest, or nap.


Other ideas:

  • Personalize the space with their name. This can be done easily with removable stickers, decals, or stick and peel.
  • A large floor-length mirror to be used for dress up and for learning how to dress and care for themselves.
  • Decorative details such as large colorful knobs that are easy for them to grab, colorful pillows, and colorful fabrics.


No matter what, keep it simple. Less is more.

I think your young grandchild will, in their own way, appreciate a special place in your home that is intended for them to play in.

Most importantly, it is the special times you spend together that years from now, they will remember how much fun it was to visit their grandma’s and grandpa’s house. You’ll have an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.


Are you designing a grandchild’s room? Let me know if I can help in any way.

If you are in need of design assistance please reach out to me at

And go to my website and schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation.