There are four big things to think about when buying kids furniture: safety, comfort, flexibility and style. Your child is almost certainly just thinking about style, so it's probably a good idea to start there. Ask her opinion about décor, and pay attention to the types of activities she enjoys. Have her take a look at a few magazines to pick out looks she likes, and start compiling a notebook of ideas together. You may be a theme-oriented parent who lives to decorate, or just want to get the whole job over with. Whatever your approach happens to be, the task of decorating your kid's room will go more smoothly if you do some advanced preparation. These tips will help too:
- Have a budget -- There's something about decorating a child's room that brings out the fanciful side of a parent's nature, and all of a sudden that lavish crib, canopy bed or fiendishly expensive carrousel horse doesn't look so extravagant -- until the bill arrives. If you have a budget, you can apportion specific amounts for essential furniture pieces to ground your spending, and maybe teach your child a thing or two about responsible budgeting.
- Scope out the options -- Sometimes it's a good idea to do a little advanced recon before shopping day, too. You can hit the stores and pick out two or three likely candidates for furnishings, and then make another trip with your child in tow. Once you've narrowed down the field, you can show her the limited options and save yourself some time and grumbling.
- Read the inserts -- Read the specification and presentation materials thoroughly before you buy an item. They will give you important installation, maintenance, cleaning and safety instructions. Some furniture pieces are also age appropriate, and the marketing materials will give age, weight or height recommendations.
- Inspect items before you buy -- Things like protruding screws, sharp points, peeling paint, warping wood slats and fraying seams are bad signs. You won't necessarily notice them unless you look, though.
- Avoid buying used -- Swap meets and second hand stores that specialize in kids' furnishings and gear can look appealing, but you don't know how much action a piece has seen until your child is using it -- which may be too late. If you do buy used, make sure to check with the CPSC site for past recalls. When a recall occurs, it can take years for all the applicable products to be taken off the market, so if you can't buy new, make sure you buy smart. We shouldn't have to mention this, but just in case you're in a hurry, don't give used items to your child before you thoroughly clean and inspect them first.
- Know the difference between assembled and knocked-down -- To save money when shopping, it pays to transport and assemble furniture pieces yourself. Many budget furniture dealers charge extra for delivery, and typically sell items knocked-down. This goes for most online sellers too. Assembly is often pretty straightforward, but if you don't know what a Phillips-head screwdriver is -- and don't want to -- then make sure your purchases come pre-assembled or will be assembled on-site for you.
- Reinforce weight bearing pieces -- If you're buying a bed or other weight-bearing piece, consider adding additional screws to increase strength and stability. This is often a good idea when installing loft beds or bunk beds. Measure the thickness of the wood supports or check the existing screws to make sure the ones you add aren't too long.
- Always return the product registration card -- Kids' furnishings and other kids' products typically come with a product registration card. This isn't a marketing ploy. When you register as the owner of the product, you're added to a database and kept informed if any safety problems arise -- kind of like vehicle recalls. Manufacturers of products for children are legally obligated to provide this service for your protection, so take advantage of it by returning the card or registering online.