We have officially moved into our new home!
Before moving in, I foolishly imagined that I’d post some magazine-worthy pictures of our new apartment on the blog during our moving-in week. Alas… the reality is that we haven’t finished unpacking, I’m recovering from the flu, and for the most part this week, our interiors have been artfully arranged in a unique style which could only be described as “Christmas Stocking Explosion Meets Partially-Assembled-Ikea”. Yeah – that would be the kids being joyously reunited with their long-lost shipment of toys whilst we try to put together new shelving/drawers/desk. You can picture the scene.
Although I’ve been pretty excited about having a blank canvas to furnish, I’ve also accepted that my personal leanings towards retro minimalist interiors may be compromised until the kids leave the nest. Planning the ins and outs of a new home with growing children is quite challenging. At this young age, their needs and requirements are constantly changing.
Thankfully, we no longer have to put those ugly plastic caps on sharp corners, gate the kitchen or use foam door stoppers. We don’t need to worry about kids climbing up drawers or yanking breakables off the shelves. The girls are now old enough to make a bunk bed workable and many tasks can be managed independently with step-stools scattered liberally around the home.
But something which I have not had to consider too much until now is how our kids use the computer.
Miss Chu and Little Miss are pretty adept on iPad apps but know they’re not supposed to use the browser unsupervised. They have not had much need for the ”big computer” so far. But as Miss Chu approaches seven – I imagine it’ll only be a matter of time before she’s doing her homework on it, amongst other things. And rightly so – I’m all for the integration of digital tools in the learning and creative process.
But realistically, a certain level of maturity and guidance is required when it comes to getting on the computer these days and I’ve set about trying to figure out how to orchestrate this. I recently borrowed a cartoony kids’ book from the local library on Internet Safety for Miss Chu, which was a helpful introduction for her, but more a good reminder for me about the issues at hand.
I’ve used this opportunity whilst moving into our new flat to rethink the “study” as being inclusive for the kids. I am keen to locate it in the open-plan living area so that the girls are not using the computer in a separate room behind closed doors. And I’ve been simultaneously scouring Pinterest for ideas as to how to keep Messy Working Area from seeping into Pretty Living Room.
Along the way I added a couple more radical ideas and decided to ditch the TV from the living room (with the concession that Daddy Chu gets to have one in his man-cave) and incorporate a standing desk for me (because “sitting is the new smoking”, right?)
So here’s the arrangement!
I’ve had to squash the living area into a relatively small zone to fit in the Messy Working Area behind. I’ve squeezed in a largish-L-shaped desk that can seat both girls and myself if necessary. We found the perfect modular shelving unit which happily stores a tonne of stuff and partitions the space to slightly hide The Mess. And it also has one larger aperture which allows me to flip my iMac round to face the living room if we want to watch Internet TV.
So yes, we actually can watch TV in the living room, but you do have to be slightly more deliberate about it, and the (relatively) small screen makes it a slightly less dominant feature. My favourite bit is that bringing the adjustable-height desk up to the level of the large aperture creates a perfect platform for swivelling round the “TV”, a standing desk for me, and a wide, naturally lit working surface for the girls to sit comfortably at from the bay window seat.
The main impetus behind creating this little study area was Internet Safety for the kids, but it has been making me consider how domestic space can influence the impact of technology on family life. (I say this on the back of reading a few articles about Sherry Turkle’s new book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in A Digital Age.)
I hope sharing a workspace with the kids will offer opportunities for interaction and conversation, and encourage involvement in their ideas and projects. Or, quite possibly, the kids will have broken my wireless trackpad and knocked my computer right off that shelf within a week and I’ll be gritting my teeth, rearranging the furniture again, like I always do. Just ask Daddy Chu.
PS: If anyone has great tips re: internet safety for kids, let me know!