What is the best flooring for babies, toddlers and children?

From milk spills to muddy boots, home flooring needs to cope with the wear and tear of family life in all its glorious (often messy) stages. But what to go for – wipe-clean tiles, wood, cosy carpet? Decisions, decisions….

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Getting your home ready for a new arrival is an exciting time. When the nesting kicks in it can be all about decorating the nursery, or maybe planning a toddler’s bedroom with the next house move.

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Though you want to make sure that whatever you choose lasts through the years, too. Yep, we want to be stylish AND practical with our house choices, but is that even possible with children in the mix?

Flooring, especially, needs to cope with the hustle, bustle and messes of family life and often eats up much of the home improvement budget, so as parents we don’t want to make the wrong decision and live to regret an expensive mistake.

Which flooring works best?

London-based expert interior designer Sarah Wodehouse has more than 30 years’ experience in the business – and is mum to 7-year-old twin boys, so she has plenty of first-hand knowledge of what does and doesn’t work.

She says it’s possible to stick with one type of flooring without the need to change it as your kids get older – adapting it to your family’s needs as they grow.

Just because kids have passed those early baby and toddler stages does not mean a radical home furnishing overhaul (phew!). “I didn’t want to have to redecorate when the children grow up,” she says.

Instead, she has kept hold of a set of inexpensive foam floor tiles – brightly coloured alphabet tiles originally bought when her twins were very young.

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“I think that is marvellous stuff,” she says. “We now use it to lay a whole floor on, we put cushions down and duvets and have a movie night.

“They use it for building towers and all sorts of things. That is a tool to be used on anything hard now. If a floor surface is a bit harder or colder than you would want then put this alphabet stuff down – it’s useful stuff!”

Different floors for different rooms…

The best way to ensure your flooring sees your family through the baby, toddler and child phases is to try and get something that’s going to work best in each part of the house right from the start. And depending on whether it’s the kitchen, the nursery or the lounge – that will probably vary.

First off – what to avoid? Sarah tells us she would always try to steer clear of wooden floors if you’ve got kids, partly because of cost and also because it can be relatively high maintenance – especially somewhere like a kitchen or bathroom.

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“Unless you are incredibly well off and you can get the best quality of wooden floor, just don’t go there,” she says, adding: “Water and wooden floors do not mix, unless people are prepared to refinish a wooden floor on an annual basis.”

Best flooring for the kitchen

Sarah recommends easy-to-clean linoleum flooring for the kitchen, which she uses in her own home.

A good alternative and generally more available, is vinyl: both are easy to clean and softer than wood.

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And mums on our forum, like Anonymousmumdrum, agree that an easy-to-clean floor in this part of the house is an essential:

“The kitchen-diner definitely needs to have wipeable floors as it’s like feeding time at the zoo in our house!” she reveals.

Flooring experts Carpetright have an extensive range of family-friendly flooring, including a big selection of luxury vinyl tiles – which may come in handy for the kitchen in particular.

If you’re a DIY pro they offer lots of step-by-step tips to achieve your dream look. If you’re doing it yourself one of the key things is to make sure the floor is prepped correctly. Their advice includes: 

  • removing all furniture and any fixtures or fittings that might get in your way
  • not laying over recently treated wood or concrete that is too moist – make sure both are fully dried out
  • making any existing floor tiles or coverings are removed if possible.

Read more: Take a look at Carpetright’s full guidance on fitting luxury vinyl

Scott Carter-Dowding, president of the National Institute of Carpet and Floor layers (NICF), agrees: “When it comes to a vinyl floor covering, the floor should really be prepared,” he said. “The better the preparation, the better the flooring is going to look.”

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Best flooring for the lounge and other downstairs rooms

Many families are shifting towards vinyl floors across the downstairs area because they are so easy to clean, Scott tells us.

“Luxury vinyl tiles are dominating the market at the moment,” he explains. “There are so many different designs and it’s really just a quick damp mop clean.

“It’s very hard wearing and customers are looking for longevity with floors, they want something that will last.” Sounds like a tick towards making sure your flooring lasts through the baby, toddler and child phases to us.

If you’re not mad on vinyl everywhere downstairs, though, and want to keep it in the kitchen only, carpet’s another option – and Scott agrees with Sarah that it’s better than wood if you’ve got kids, whatever their age, partly as it’s cosier and soft under foot.

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“Generally [people like] the polypropylene carpets as opposed to the wool carpets – they are a little bit cheaper and it’s the bleach-cleanable thing that is swaying people towards that,” he says.

But if you do go for carpet and you want it to last – again, don’t skip the underlay.

“I tend to advise my customers if they are on a budget to shift towards a better underlay,” Scott advises. “The house is only as good as its foundations.”

Best flooring for the nursery and children’s bedrooms

As we’ve mentioned, a key step to making sure your flooring lasts through every family stage is picking the right material for each room in the first place.

A mum on our forum, Saffronmumdrum, has been debating what to go for in her child’s bedroom, asking other mums:

“Wood or carpet? The carpet that is currently in there needs replacing anyway, so we are definitely changing it.

“I love a carpet for cosiness, but am contemplating whether wood would be better for ease of cleaning up all of the mess that babies bring?” 

In a nursery or child’s bedroom, though, Sarah says she would strongly recommend carpet. If someone is having a screaming fit, the whole house will know about it if there are bare Scandi-style floorboards.

“For me acoustics are very important,” she confirms. “I am a fan of carpet but I wouldn’t go with a deeper pile because of all the muck that goes in them.

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“I would have a short pile or a loop pile carpet which would be good acoustically, softer underfoot and if you wanted to, you could add a rug. As they grow you can change things with the rug.”

What’s the best colour flooring for children’s bedrooms?

As for the colour – now that’s another thing to consider – as what you might like and what’s practical might not be the same thing.

Forum user Pinkymumdrum went for a darker speckled brown carpet for her son’s room – and, although she wasn’t sure about the colour at first – found she was pleased with the practical element.

“Initially I thought it was too dark when it went down,” she comments. “But (I) soon got used to it and it will hide a multitude of sins!”

Sarah, who’s a member of the British Institute of Interior Design – says if you don’t want all-dark flooring, a lighter or brightly coloured rug can be shown off really well on a darker carpet.

“I am not frightened of dark carpets,” she laughs. “If you are a bit stuck, think of outdoors – most of the ground outdoors is dark, the soil is dark, and the sky is light.

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And if you don’t go for darks, go for brights, says Sarah: “Children want colour to stimulate them. That’s the reason for the colour explosion! I would never put oatmeal in a child’s nursery. They love bright colours when they’re younger.”

And – as we’ve mentioned – to help your nursery carpet last longer – don’t skip the underlay step there either.

Scott reminds us that carpets with good quality underlay should last from a minimum of 7 years and up to 15 to 20 years – so will definitely see you through the baby, toddler and child phases nicely, whichever room you use it in ?

Carpetright offers range of family-friendly flooringcheck out its website for more information and to find a store near you

Pics: Getty

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