Thomas the Train

By Christine Brun

November 13, 2013 5 min read

Too many toys, not enough room. This is a common problem that many grandparents face as the winter holidays come around the corner. What to do? You loathe sending more junk. The kids don't really need more clothes, even though it is a blast to buy adorable outfits for both toddler boys and tiny little girls. Just how many cute clothes does one kid need anyway? How many art supplies, puzzles or books can they absorb? It makes you think about what is the best way to bring joy to your grandkids or even to get them to notice anything.

It could be useful this year to think of ways to help organize and enhance your adult children's home instead of adding to the pile of stuff. Think in terms of asking them what might be most helpful to improve your grandchild's bedroom or playroom. Do they need some sort of cubby unit to assist in bringing order to a mix of toys, sports equipment or books? Is it a visit from a local closet organizer company that might help most? Is it time for a more grown-up dresser? Would a high shelf rimming the room help to lift some of their stuff off the floor?

While paying for such improvements might not be as much fun as buying toys, it very likely could produce the most positive result in the household. There is no doubt that if you have a good storage space, the clutter will be reduced. Many young parents struggle today between having a stay-at-home parent and foregoing a move to a larger home. They can really use a boost from grandparents with a bit more money to spend in an effort to maximize function. If you collaborate with other grandparents, you might be able to really make a huge difference.

I'm a huge fan of murals because they take up no extra space and for under $300 or so deliver an enormous impact in a tiny room. The Internet is loaded with resources for full-wall coverage, shown here, or individual items that can be applied wherever you want on a wall. What little boy wouldn't adore having Thomas the Train in his bedroom? And what precious little girl wouldn't love having a Disney Princess theme complete with a lavender castle? If you live in the same city, what could be more fun than bringing the gift over and installing it yourself with your grandchild watching? This is stuff makes memories on a grand scale! You can attach Cinderella, Snow White or Batman for under $40. And know that the decals go on and come off with great ease.

If you are a handy grandpa with hammer and nails, maybe you can make a thematic bed or dresser. If you are less blessed in carpentry skills, lend a hand at painting the bedroom or playroom yourself. Not that much for physical labor? Then pay for it to be done by a local pro. Ask if they could use fresh bedding in the baby's room or maybe a new area rug would be welcome to replace a stained and worn one. The key to success, in my opinion, is to ask first. Float around a couple of ideas and see if one takes hold. Remember, it is not your home and nothing should be attempted without the blessing of parents. Do not go out and buy something that cannot be returned.

The real art of gift giving is to carefully and thoughtfully put yourself inside the head of the recipient. You love red and black, but your daughter-in-law is partial to soft pastels. BUY THE SOFTER COLOR! If you buy gifts that you would like for yourself, you are not being sensitive, and your gift probably won't be as appreciated as you imagine it should. A mature and truly loving grandparent will consider first the needs of others over the fun of buying something really unnecessary.

Photo Credit: Room Mates

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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