When we moved into our new home in the fall of 2014, we not only stepped in ready to settle into a new community and school district, but also motivated to transform our house. We had lots of updates we wanted to make, and keeping Brenna’s physical needs in mind during the remodeling process was top priority.
Brenna is very small for her age and struggles with fine and gross motor skills, and her constant use of Aquaphor is something we keep in the back of our mind when choosing fabrics, so over the last 1.5 years, we have modified aspects of our home to make it more easily maintained and cleaned and to help tasks be easier for Brenna to do independently.
One of the first things we did when we moved in was switch out the door knobs for door handles. Knobs are still very difficult for Brenna’s small fingers, and turning a knob with Aquaphor on your hands is nearly impossible. Handles mean that she can open and close all of the doors in our house without help.
I love how cozy carpet makes a space feel, but we also know that carpet collects skin flakes as her extra skin dries and peels off and is more difficult to clean. So we installed laminate wood in Brenna’s bedroom and our upstairs hallway.
What was a major selling point for us as we purchased our home was that it had an extra bedroom which we could remodel into an upstairs laundry room and built in a new bathroom for Brenna. Two essential features of Brenna’s bathroom remodel were a tiny toilet and a specialized MicroSilk tub.
The toilet being so low to the ground means that Brenna has been able to learn how to use it all by herself, whereas she is not even close to being physically strong or tall enough to climb up on a standard sized toilet…
Speaking of low, we’ve tried to be intentional about keeping a lot of aspects of our home low to accommodate Brenna’s small size and also foster independence. We keep her small articles of clothing like socks and hats and washcloths in lower drawers and baskets, and she helps me put away her laundry easily.
The kids’ plates, bowls and cups are stored in low cupboards with pull-out drawers that both kids can easily access to help prepare their meals and to help put away clean dishes. One of Brenna’s household “jobs” is to set the kitchen table with napkins before dinnertime, so keeping the napkins in a lower cupboard means that she can complete this without assistance.
And when Evan went to work creating a mudroom space for our home, we put a section of low hooks so that the kids can hang up their coats and backpacks, and a basket where they can toss their shoes. So many mudroom ideas online feature hooks above a bench, but I knew that would be out of reach for Brenna for a long time – not to mention that the harder something is to do, the less likely the kids will be to actually do it. A hook and a basket is so easy for them and keeps things tidier.
As for furniture, we outfitted our playroom and our living room with leather. Brenna can climb and roll around on this furniture, and it’s no worse for wear. Easy to clean and easy to maintain, despite constant Aquaphor! And during the summer, after a few throw pillows that have succumbed to the stains of Aquaphor, I snagged some outdoor throw pillows for our living room… the fabric is more low-maintenance!
Our home is two stories, plus a basement, and we did worry about how difficult stairs might be, but Brenna does really well on them. We do carry her a lot, but she is able to scoot up and down by herself with no problem.
Since laundry is such a big part of our day-to-day now, we outfitted our laundry room with two washers, so we can have one specifically designated for Brenna’s clothes. Laundry is a little more consuming when you factor in clothing saturated with Aquaphor – cleaning both the clothes and the machines/sink – so having a big sink to pre-soak and a separate machine really helps.
As for the outdoors, the big issue we had when we moved in was a large, old wooden swing set. The wood worried me for cuts and splinters for both kids, but especially Brenna since her skin is much more sensitive. And with its steep step ladder, the slide and “tree house” wasn’t even accessible to Brenna without me carrying her up.
So we switched out the swing set for the Step2 Naturally Playful Adventure Lodge Play Center with Glider. Here’s another reason we love Step2 – their swing sets are plastic! And the “ladder” on the back of it is more like stairs, with handles to grab onto at the top, so Brenna can climb up all by herself.
With these kinds of changes, both big and small, it has empowered Brenna to take responsibility within our household just like every other member of the family. She is expected to do chores just as Connor is, and because of things like low mudroom hooks and door handles instead of knobs, she can do many things around our home without assistance, which only serves to foster more independence and pride at what she is accomplishing!
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