PROPERTY NEWS - Globally, cocooning is becoming an increasingly established trend, even amongst the youth who have traditionally been eager to bolt the family home, but the risk of kids becoming even more immersed in their digital devices and mindless TV programmes is a challenge for parents.
Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty, says that more and more people are opting to stay home rather than go out for their entertainment. "[This is] largely due to progressively convenient digital technologies which enable us to now do most things in the comfort of our own homes, and the increase in crime and unrest, especially in cities," she says.
"And the growth of this trend has become very evident in the features now being included in house designs and the choice of upgrades made in existing homes. More and more people are having entertainment systems installed and are converting rooms into communal spaces like home cinemas and games rooms.
"We are also seeing many new homes, even compact units in complexes, being built with features like pizza ovens, braai rooms and snugs."
But Geffen says that whilst the significant advantage of cocooning is far more quality family time than in recent decades, the fact that young minds need constant stimulation can be a challenge.
Parents who have embraced this trend relish their quality family time together, and therefore welcome the convenience of the digital age which affords the luxury of not having to leave home for every source of entertainment.
"But we all know that kids tend to get bored quickly, and the simplest solution - and often last resort - for parents who are worn down by their children's cries of boredom is to dish out a smart device or to plonk them down in front of the TV."
Geffen believes that if parents include child-friendly adaptations when implementing their upgrades, it will be that much easier to achieve a balance of educational, digital and old-fashioned fun entertainment for youngsters.
She offers a number of innovative and creative ideas:
This is especially fun if you can incorporate at least two of these in a room.
A magnetic wall with lots of different shapes, numbers and letters can keep kids of all ages entertained for ages. There are many games they can play alone or in groups, from tic-tac-toe to word games and creating stories out of images. You can even hold competitions with treats as prizes.
Much to parents' chagrin, kids have always loved to draw on walls despite stern admonishment, but with a chalkboard wall you can happily encourage their vertical creativity.
It can be used over and over again for new and wonderful arty creations - and the installation and upkeep are also fairly simple and inexpensive.
These colours are more vibrant than chalk and there is a little less mess as the markers don't give off dust like chalk does. But bear in mind that they are better suited for older kids, as toddlers love to stick things in their mouths and chalk is a safer option than marker pen ink.
Creating a wall gallery is both a wonderful decor idea and a great way to show off your children's creations. To make it extra special, invest in several cheap picture frames and wall hooks. You can also cover a wall, or a portion thereof, in cork tiles and use thumbtacks to put up pictures.
This is great if they love to be creative and you want to change their masterpieces frequently. You can even hold regular themed exhibitions.
If your kids are energetic and tend to bounce off the walls when they get bored, then a climbing wall is the answer. With just a piece of plywood, climbing holds and floor mats you will be able to keep them entertained for hours.
Tables for crafts and old-fashioned fun
Yes, your children may be digital whizzes who roll their eyes when you tell stories about what you did as a kid, but when the tools are provided to indulge in similar pursuits, you will be surprised at how kids will embrace the opportunity to tackle a puzzle together, build Lego or work on a craft project.
Not to mention that a playroom table is the perfect place for them to gather for an afternoon snack! It can also double as a board game table for the whole family.
The lure of a cosy fort
Having their very own secret space has always been alluring to children. They love to spend time in a cosy den or fort; it's the perfect place to hide out, escape annoying siblings, read in peace or hang out with best friends.
Get creative with themed forts like an indoor tree house, castle or tepee-style fort. It can be as simple or as complex as your budget and imagination allow.
It used to be impossible to get kids indoors and now it seems more of a challenge getting them to spend time outside, but they can be enticed with the right incentives.
The outdoor den
A tree house is the outside version of a fort or den and kids of all ages love them. And the construction process can be a participatory educational experience for children as well. It can be as rustic or as sophisticated as you like and can be made very comfy with just a few big cushions. If you don't have any suitable trees, then construct or buy a Wendy house.
It will give them just as much enjoyment and privacy and can double as dedicated craft areas for creative kids.
Encourage physical activity
Old-fashioned apparatus like jungle gyms and swings are great for younger kids and are guaranteed to keep them off their digital devices for more than a few minutes.
For the cost of a few worn old tyres, you can raise the excitement levels a few notches by building a race track on a paved area. Tricycles, go-karts and small bikes can compete for the main trophy. Geffen says that in order to create a space that children will love and use, it's important to involve them in creating these fun zones.
"Let them put forward ideas and help choose colours and other finishes, as well as the accessories such as the magnets for the magnetic wall. Encourage them to also choose things like books and crafts. And always try to make their areas as cosy as possible by adding things like fairy lights, a good reading light and colourful bean bags or a soft fleecy throw."
She also recommends using easy-to-clean flooring like linoleum or wood or even foam flooring, which is also colourful and comfortable. "Whilst the fact that we increasingly feel the need to insulate ourselves from the negative aspects of the world in which we live is concerning, the very positive consequence is that we are spending far more quality time with loved ones than we have done in many years," Geffen says.
"And if we make our homes as inviting as possible for the whole family, including the kids, we will be adding so much value to their lives now and in the future when they value their own families one day."
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