I sat down with one of our maintenance guys this week to talk about rental damage left by kids. He let me in on the dark secrets of our 211-apartment complex. Here are the top kinds of damage they have to deal with from the families in our block, and a few tips of my own as to how to avoid them.
Number 1: Kitchen doors and towel racks torn off.
It seemed crazy to me, but I am assured by my friendly maintenance guy that the number one apartment damage he has to deal with (at the hands of kids) is this: kids swing on things affixed to the wall or to cabinetry and they tear off. Has this ever happened to you?
Possible Solution: I know there are days where every parent has had their fill of saying "No! Get down!", but consider the expense of these repairs and as soon as you see it happening be firm in warning. Boundaries are your friend.
Number 2: Drawing on the walls.
Basically every toddler tries this at some point.
Possible Solution: First up, be sure to only purchase washable markers and crayons, just in case. If you are a Sharpie-a-holic, keep them high up in a container difficult for little hands to open. Offer the kids some other permanent space to draw in the house, like a chalkboard wall or easel, so they can still let their creativity run wild — just in the appropriate place.
Number 3: Toys in the toilet.
Not as destructive as towel racks being pulled off walls, but a pain nonetheless. "Almost always little boats", our handyman tells me, "apparently kids like to watch them swirl around on top of the water."
Possible solution: Keep bath toys out of reach during the day. Try a wall mounted bath toy holder, like this awesome one from Boon. Particularly persistent potty putter-inners may mean you will need to invest in a toilet lock — most just clamp onto the side of the seat and require no adhesive or special installation. And when the weather heats up, offer your kids different options for water play. Some suggestions can be found here and here.
Number 4: Holes/tears in the window screens.
These happen thanks to either little fingers wiggling in little holes to leave bigger ones, or thanks to toys with sharp edges being pushed through the screens.
Possible solution: Be quick to patch small holes that may appear in your screen, if the landlord is okay with you doing that (most patch products are visible). Also, following general window safety guides will help here: minimize the ability for your kids to climb up to windows, and possibly install window guards (like these guardian angel ones: check with your landlord first), which not only increase safety in your home but make it much harder for a large toy to come in contact with a window screen. Further discussion on window safety can be found in ourearlier post.
Number 5: Holes in the walls.
"Usually from ride on toys, in particular: full sized bikes." The worst case my maintenance guy ever saw was when one kid rode their bike into the wall, and their siblings proceeded to pick at the hole, until said hole was over a foot wide.
Possible solution: Prohibit riding bikes indoors. If you have active kids who need to go crazy inside, why not try soft jumping options like a Rody Horse rather than a hard bicycle. Check out this post on active toys for more inspiration.
Of course, after reading all of this we should also keep in mind: things will happen that are truly accidents, but putting a few preventative measures in play will at least minimize the damage your rental takes at the hands of young kids. And when it all gets too tough don't forget: teaching children to take care of their home, their own special place in the world, is a great lesson for them to take into their adulthood, their future home and future family.