A colourful chalkboard wall from Benjamin Moore helps keep track of busy family schedules.
Writable laminate from Formica offers a smooth, easy to clean surface for children’s rooms.

Dear Debbie;

We would like to put a writable surface on one of the walls in our child’s bedroom. We’ve heard about a laminate that works. Would that be better than the chalkboard paint? Thanks for your help.
— Miranda

Dear Miranda;

Children do love to be able to write on walls and if they understand that they can only write on the designated space that has a special writing surface it’s a fun way to go. The biggest complaint I hear about is that the surface doesn’t erase cleanly, and this is due to not using the proper writing tool. Always check the manufacturer’s directions. Chalkboard paint is readily available; go with good quality and apply one or two coats as recommended. Benjamin Moore shows how helpful an oversized chalkboard calendar can be in the entranceway of a family home. You can choose chalkboard paint in any of the thousands of their designer colours and create your own shapes. Have your child think up a cool shape to paint on the wall and you’ll have inspiring artwork inside his or her personal writing space.

A writable laminate surface is a good option, but more difficult to apply. The child’s bedroom wall shown here is from Formica.com, a helpful site that has detailed videos of how to apply the laminate. They recommend that it not be applied directly to the wall, but to MDF (medium density fiberboard) panels. The laminated panels are then attached to the wall. That’s a lot more work, but the finished surface is smooth and easy to clean.

Both paint and laminate choices can transform cabinet doors, tabletops and storage spaces. Not just for kids, we can all get inspired to do a little drawing. And these surfaces are handy at home or in the office for making lists and doodling ideas. Whichever way you go, be sure to ask specifically what writing tool to use and how to erase or clean.

Dear Debbie;

Any ideas for kid-friendly displays and storage? We have 5-year-old twin boys in one bedroom and are hoping there is a way to make it even half-way tidy. I am fairly handy with DIY stuff.
— Winston

Dear Winston:

I do have some experience with young boys as I have two of my own and entering their room when they were young was often risky. I did discover that a partial solution was to build a shelf at their height around the room. This gives them an additional place to play with their toys about two feet above the floor. You could even build two shelves, the lower one wider than the top shelf, but still within easy reach. The shelves do dual service as a display and play area. If space allows set up a two-sided easel and row of art supplies that can sit on one of the shelves. Easy access means easy cleanup.

Books and reading materials should be close to hand. Why not make a cubby for each boy that sits beside their bed? When it’s time for bed, teach them that there is a place for everything. Help them tidy up first and then they can each pick a story or two. They will have favourite stories and toys that change every few months (or years). Edit out items that are no longer used and either move them to a high display shelf or recycle with friends or at jumble sales. Good luck. And don’t expect miracles.