As your newborn turns into a toddler, your life and your housing needs get a little more complicated! He or she will become a lot more mobile and start taking up more space in your house. Many of the items discussed in our newborn blog will still apply while others become less important. For example, noise becomes less of a concern as your baby starts sleeping longer and deeper (yay!). Having a convenient washer/dryer will remain critical throughout your baby’s life – there’s no going back now! However, the below considerations do change a bit as your child grows.
BEDROOMS: HOW MANY YOU NEED & WHERE THEY SHOULD BE
In the newborn article, we discussed that having a nursery right away isn’t critical since the baby starts out in your room. As your baby gets older, however, it becomes less important to have extra space in your room for a bassinet and more important for you to have a dedicated nursery for your baby.
Nurseries don’t need to be large – a crib, a changing table and a chair are the only necessities. However, as your baby becomes a toddler, having space in your nursery for your child to play – or for you to store some toys – is a definite plus.
When your baby becomes mobile, it also becomes harder to multi-task as all of your attention is on making sure they don’t hurt themselves! If you try to work from home but don’t have a dedicated office space, now is the time to consider one. The ideal scenario is having a bedroom or den that can serve as an office which is away from your children’s play area, but even a dedicated desk area within another room will help. When I try to work from my laptop in our family room, my toddler Brooks now climbs onto the couch and closes the screen or tries to type away on his own. Having my own office has been a lifesaver for me, especially since my work day doesn’t end at 5pm!
The other thing to consider is an in-law or au-pair suite. As their babies grow older, we’ve had many clients decide to get a live-in nanny for extra help. Others have grandparents, aunts and uncles wanting to visit more often as the babies become more fun to play with at this stage as well! We’ve also seen a recent trend of grandparents relocating into the area or buying a second home here so they can see their grandchild more frequently or even act as the child’s nanny. PS – If you have family moving into the area, we’re happy to help them too!
You should also consider your plans for more children in the future when deciding how many bedrooms you will need in your next home or how long you can stay in your current one.
Lastly, consider the locations of each of your bedrooms. Are you okay with having one (or more) child on another level from you or at the end of a long hallway? Would you prefer it? Are the bedrooms too close to the living space if they are on the same floor? Will you wake them up? Think through the pros and cons of each arrangement.
BATHROOMS: THINK TUB & LOCATION (POTTY TRAINING IS ON THE HORIZON!)
Two main things to consider here. The first is a tub. Before the toddler phase, you may have been able to get away with bathing your baby in the sink or in a baby tub. Once they hit a certain size though, you need to make sure your home has a bathroom with a tub. While this may seem obvious, the recent trend of glass encased showers has meant many people getting rid of all the tubs in their homes – so don’t forget to make this a priority.
The second thing to consider is potty training. Most children are ready for potty training around 18-24 months. When your child is ready for this stage, you will definitely want to have a bathroom on each level of your home so they can easily get to the bathroom when it’s time to go! You may also want to make sure your primary bathrooms have enough room for a mini potty training toilet if you decide you want to use one.
MORE (AND SAFER) HANGOUT SPACE FOR EXPLORING TODDLERS & THEIR STUFF!
The actual proximity of your primary hangout space (living or family room) to the kitchen and the bathroom is still important at this stage. Around a year old, your baby may be walking or at least exploring a lot, so you will need a lot more space than you did at the newborn phase. They are also more difficult to entertain, so a space where you can have or store a variety of toys is critical. A basement or an open room off the kitchen is ideal. Bonus if there is built-in storage! As I mentioned above, around eighteen months to two years your baby will be ready to start potty training and a bathroom on the level where you spend the most time is going to be super important.
Sidenote on storage – make sure there is somewhere in your house to store your child’s stroller and keep it safe from the rain, cold temperatures and bugs/animals. While many of these tips are already top of mind for many parents, this is one we see people forget time and time again since private garages are so rare in our area! That being said, if a garage is an option, go for it! Having a garage or a mud room will be so helpful as your child grows up.
Related to the hangout space is baby proofing! Wherever you spend the most time should be completely baby proofed for your own sanity so you don’t need to be constantly running after your child. This means removing or securing anything breakable or items that are likely to fall on your baby, putting plugs in electrical outlets, ideally hiding any electrical wires (they love to pull them and try to eat them!), securing any cabinets, protecting your fireplace (probably removing the fireplace tools) and blocking off any staircases. This was actually a lot more difficult at our Old Town townhouse than I anticipated – turned out Brooks was able to get himself into everything! Of course, if your toddler is able to open doors, this also means childproofing those exterior doors so they don’t get out into the street or into a pool if you have one.
OUTDOOR SPACE: CRITICAL TO BOTH TODDLER & PARENT SANITY!
Speaking of the outdoors and outdoor space – you will want some! Your child will have a lot of energy in this phase and being able to let him or her run around outside and burn off steam before bedtime or naptime is fabulous. While they may or may not be ready to enjoy a swing set (some may be), they all love to run around and play. Ideally, your outside space would not be right on a busy road and would be fully fenced to keep your child as safe as possible. If you are a condo person and outside space isn’t an option, consider moving somewhere within a quick walk to the park.
Outside space is not just for your toddlers benefit – it’s also for yours! You will love having outdoor space as well & here’s why (aside from the obvious). In the newborn phase, it’s much easier to bring your little one with you and let them sleep in their car seat at or under your dinner table. If you’re like my husband and I and love to go out to eat or get out of the house, I have bad news for your future toddler phase. Toddlers typically go to bed fairly early and are too large for the portable car seat, which means you are locked down at home from 7pm on! In the warm weather months, it’s nice to be able to BBQ out back or have friends over once your little one is sound asleep. I’ve never been much for sitting around at home so having some outdoor space to hang out in has been invaluable!
MEAL TIMES: MAKE ROOM FOR THE HIGH CHAIR!
Think carefully about how you and your family spend meal times. Do you go out to eat for every meal? Do you eat in front of the TV in your family room? Do you envision yourselves around a kitchen island? Do you prefer a cozy breakfast nook or a formal dining room table? Our friends and clients all have different expectations for how mealtimes will be spent. Think about your priorities and make sure there is a natural space for the high chair (and the rest of the family) in that environment.
You’ll also want to think about who will be present for your child’s meal times once your baby transitions to 3 meals a day. Will you all eat together as a family for breakfast and dinner when your child is young or will only one parent or a nanny be feeding your toddler before you eat your meal? Remember that toddlers go to sleep early so while you may have envisioned family meals together at this age, one or both parents might not yet be back from work at your child’s dinner time. Think all of this through before determining what the best set-up is in your home or future home.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: THE 3 THINGS TO CONSIDER
To me, those three words are key. They ultimately decide (along with your budget) the type of property you will be living in. Location determines if you will be able to walk to restaurants, grocery stores or daycare/school* or if you will have off-street parking. It dictates how long your commute or the commute of your spouse will be. So, how important are these things when you have a toddler?
WALKABILITY: While everyone’s priorities are different, my takeaway is that walkability is much more important at the newborn phase than at the toddler phase because newborns are much more portable than toddlers. When Brooks was a newborn, we took him out to dinner with us almost every night. He slept quietly in his stroller or carseat near the table. Once he became a toddler – forget it! We still take him out to eat on occasion, but we have to come prepared with lots of distractions for him to keep him in his high chair playing nicely. We also now have to go out much earlier so he is back home to bed at a reasonable time.
PARKING: I will argue that parking is always important with a child. There’s nothing like being able to pull up to your house or condo building and know exactly where you will park. When we lived in Old Town we didn’t have off-street parking and circling the block with a crying child and then trying to carry him and my groceries (or even just my purse and diaper bag) several blocks was never pleasant! However, I was willing to sacrifice this at the time for walkability.
COMMUTE: Commute also becomes more important as your newborn transitions into toddler-hood. They have a set schedule and go to bed early, so we’ve found that most of our clients try to get home by 5 or 6pm so they have 30 minutes to an hour with their child before putting them to sleep. The further away you work, the less time you will get to spend with your baby. Or, perhaps moving further out to gain more space and a yard is more important than your commute right now. Either option is valid. Think about what works for you and your family.
* Note: Think about how long you will be in your next home. Will public schools be a factor? If so – just elementary or will you need to consider middle or high school as well? We will explore this more in the next phase of this series on what to consider as your children and family grow. What you will want to consider now though is your childcare costs – will you be spending more money soon for pre-school? Factor all of these costs into your decisions on how much you can afford.
IN SUMMARY, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO LIFESTYLE
Where you decide to call home ultimately comes down to lifestyle choices.
Do you want a larger home to make your life at home easier? Or do you prefer to be close to the action with a smaller place and spend more time at parks and restaurants and less time at home?
Will you be walking everywhere with your toddler or do you need dedicated parking?
Are you happy with a nearby park or do you want to open the door to let your child roam?
Do you have future plans for an au-pair, live in in-laws or multiple children? Build that into your planning.
When thinking about where to live with a toddler, there is so much to consider and it all depends on your own personal situation. There is no right or wrong answer, but following the tips above can definitely help make life easier!
If you have any questions about what life is like with a toddler, feel free to reach out to me in the comments or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact me on Instagram @allisongoodhart and get a glimpse into my life with a toddler. If you’re thinking about buying or selling, feel free to fill out the form below. We can grab a cup of coffee and chat about your next steps and what makes the most sense for you and your family. We are here to help!