By Debbie Williams
One size does not fit all
When it comes time to plan for your baby's nursery, don't just hit the shops until you have a plan. A smart plan emphasizes safety and convenience, facilitates organization, and can save you both time and money. Put first things — like safety — first.
- As you purchase furnishings for your nursery, remember that little hands like to explore. Cracks, crevices, holes, and slots are there for prodding — virtually nothing is off-limits in the mind of a child. Think safety first when making your wish list for furniture, bedding, and accessories.
- Hand-me-down cribs and changing tables initially save on expenses, as long as you make sure they are safe. If the slats on the crib are not up to code, a child could get his head or arm stuck between them and get hurt.
- Also remember that gliders can pinch curious fingers, rockers can smash fingers and toes, and flimsy shelves can fall onto baby as she is trying to stand or walk. Toy chests provide storage and additional seating when closed. However, they can injure or even trap a child if not equipped with a special safety hinge that remains open until closed by an adult.
Nursery storage is not limited to the traditional changing table or decorative wooden shelves.
- Provide additional storage for your child's growing wardrobe by installing a customized closet organizer in the nursery closet.
- If you relocate frequently or don't want to install a permanent unit, hang a three tiered crate over the dowel rod in the closet.
- If you have limited wall space, move baby's chest of drawers into the closet to increase floor space. Or invest in a heavy-duty bookcase made from plastic to store toys, clothes and out-of-season clothing in your closet.
- Use under-bed storage to store baby clothes that are out of season, too big or outgrown. Keep an extra one on hand for outgrown clothes, then take to your favorite charity, resale shop, or hand down to relatives when full.
- Make a home for all those treasures you will want to keep for years to come. Photographs, baby's footprints, and other memories can be stored in a box under baby's bed, filed on a regular basis.
- Don't forget the little things in life, because they truly do multiply. Rattles, teethers, socks, mittens and anything with small parts will take over the living areas in your home if you don't contain them from the very start. Clear plastic shoeboxes hold all types of small items for baby. Invest in boxes with good-fitting lids so that you don't have frequent spills on the nursery floor. Plastic boxes with hinged lids carry blocks, locking rings, and bath toys for an active child.
- Corral the plethora of stuffed animals you will quickly accrue by hanging a toy hammock in the child's room, or use a doll playpen. If you would like to store toys that are not frequently used, wrap a tension rod or dowel with Velcro, then wedge it between floor and ceiling. The furry toys stick to the Velcro, adding height and dimension to your room.
Ages and stages
Bear in mind that your baby will not stay little for long. Your newborn will quickly outgrow a bassinet, so if you don't have room for one, consider using a Moses basket or heavy-duty stroller. Both are small, easily stored and portable.
- Try to stay a step ahead of your baby's exploration by baby proofing before he arrives home from the hospital. You are never completely prepared for crawling, pulling up, sitting or walking. Each baby develops at a different rate, and although your baby is not sitting up yet, he soon will be. Maybe he'll be a roller and will roll into a fan or humidifier on the nursery floor. Be prepared for anything by organizing in advance for safety. You'll soon be so busy with the daily routine of feeding, bathing and cuddling your baby that these milestones will creep up on you when you least expect it.
- Once baby begins to crawl and pull up, you will probably want to move stacked clothes and toiletries from the changing table to a closet or high ledge where they can't be rearranged by your little decorator. Convert the changing table to a toy shelf. Remove the changing pad after your child grows too big, securing the straps underneath. You now have additional shelving for toys or stuffed animals.
- Nurture your child's need for independence by hanging a second clothes rod in the nursery closet (or use a hanging crate as described above). This allows toddlers to help decide what to wear, reducing the temptation to climb and reach favorite outfits.
- Storing toys in plastic tubs eliminates clutter, but it also teaches your child to pick up on a regular basis. Tape or glue colorful pictures or stickers to describe the contents within. Baby will have fun matching, and it teaches early math and language skills.
- Purchase a set of colorful stacking bins. Use in a single layer when baby is small, then stack two and three high as she grows. Keep them in the kitchen, by the phone, in the living room and bathroom. They're practically indestructible and grow with the needs of your baby.
Planning for the arrival of your first baby can be fun, creative and practical. Be as frivolous or frugal as you like, and still be well-organized. Plan, shop, and plan some more. Remember that you can always change your system at any time when it stops working for you and your child.
Keep an eye out for creative uses of wicker baskets, baby wipe containers and other things to contain the clutter in your nursery. No matter how much you organize it, you'll find that it mysteriously multiplies, taking over your entire house. But don't worry — by that time, you'll be so enchanted by your little one that you won't mind at all.
You will grow with the flow of things, adapting your standards to focus on more important things, like rocking, singing, bathing, and catching stolen moments with your baby.