Canada's Condominium Magazine
By Sassa Brown
One of the most challenging aspects of urban living is child-rearing in small spaces, such as some modern condos. It can leave you feeling more than a little claustrophobic. Minor things such as sibling rivalry, music practice, laughing and playing with friends, and tantrums are amplified; and with paper-thin walls, you are almost guaranteed to have a neighbour or two banging on your door on more than one occasion. It does not have to be such a strain on your sanity, however. A little organization and time management can go a long way in ensuring a much more functional household regardless of square footage.
I spent much of my childhood living in small spaces before spending several years raising my own children in small, two-bedroom apartments. I have become accustomed to finding ways to make use of the space that I do have. Days off work and out of school are typically spent at parks, museums, water parks, and other activities to get everyone outside and avoid cabin fever. The kids also have their activities, which get them active and out of the house during the week. It also helps them to find their passion.
What about entertaining? Certainly trying to entertain a group of kids in a small space would be a nightmare. Actually, it is not as difficult as one might think. Birthday parties are typically at other venues, but celebrating at home is not entirely out of the question. A small, sleepover party with a few best friends can be as much fun as a full-blown party somewhere else if enough creativity goes into it. Board games, themed party games, and other activities are a great deal of fun. A sofa bed in the living room with unlimited movies, video games, popcorn, and snacks will make any kid happy.
Of course, parties and music sessions are going to get loud. Neighbours are likely to complain. It can be helpful to have a standing agreement with your neighbours. Explain to them that you have children, and children are noisy. Tell them that you are doing everything within your ability to keep the noise level down. However, children are never going to be completely silent. Offer an agreement to make them happy. Some suggestions include offering free babysitting every once in a while, staying out of the way when they have their own parties, helping them around the house, etc. Sometimes that will not be necessary. Generally, people expect at least a little noise, especially in big cities. It does not hurt to communicate, however, and being proactive about it will go a long way. I once had a neighbour complaining about noises early in the morning, but when I explained that my son had night terrors and was unable to control the screaming they were more than understanding.
Sharing bedrooms can be quite difficult for kids. The more kids you have sharing a space, the harder it is to make things work. However, it is not impossible. Loft beds have become essential (as long as you have the height necessary). This allows for extra space beneath the beds, which can be used for other furniture. Toys are kept in storage containers, labeled and stacked in the closet. Organizational skills are a must when trying to turn a small space into a home.
Children are going to spend the majority of their time outside the home anyway, with all their activities, school, visiting friends, going to the park, and more. This means that filling a home to the brim with toys is not necessary. Instead, utilize their limited space in a way that allows them to follow their passions. My daughter is setting up a small table with a sewing machine because she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. My son is setting up a bean bag in the corner of his room with a fun background so that he can record YouTube videos. If your child is technically savvy, they can learn computer programming and coding. They can do these things at their desk, on their bed, or anywhere they go.
Believe me when I say that it can be done. At one point in my childhood, I lived in a tiny camper trailer. My sister and I shared a bedroom that was nothing more than the size of a closet. I had a small bed, and the cabinet above it opened up to make another small bed. That is where my sister slept. Then there was a jack-and-jill bathroom that was smaller than a gas station bathroom stall. The kitchen was made up of a mini fridge, a stove, and a small booth. It doubled as a living room, and my father’s room was after that. That was all the space we had. Of course, all the organizational skills in the world would not do any good in that situation if you intended to have a lot of material possessions.
However, as tiny as that space was and as little as we had, we were not as miserable as one might think. We got creative. I had one of those vTech computers and taught myself Algebra, programming, and other skills. My sister and I spent the majority of our time outside, exploring the world. We met new people and learned new things out there. Home was where we ate and slept. It was not for entertaining, and that was okay with us. During thunderstorms, we sat inside and played board games. It was fun. Despite being a bit cramped, we remember it fondly. It may be a difficult adjustment if you have become accustomed to larger spaces and backyards, but just remember that the square footage of your home is not as important as how you use it and the time you spend with those you love.