How to make smart flooring choices for babies and toddlers – for the nursery and the play areas
This is a guest post from Debbie Gartner aka The Flooring Girl. She’s an expert when it comes to flooring, so I figured she could help advise all the new moms, expecting moms and moms to be choose the best flooring for the nursery!
The safest and most practical floor options for newborns and young kids
First off, congrats to all the new moms out there – whether you’re a 1st time mom, a mom to be, or been around the block and are adding to your family. It’s a very exciting time, and you want to do what’s best for your new baby. When it comes to flooring choices, it sometimes gets a bit tricky as there are often trade-offs you’ll need to make based on what’s most important to you, and of course your budget.
So, I wanted to walk through the best flooring choices for babies, as well as the ones to avoid.
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Best and safest types of flooring for newborns, babies and toddlers
Before I get started, let me just set the caveat that there is no perfect type of flooring that works for all homes, all needs and all budgets. If you know this going in, it’s makes things easier.
These trade-offs include softness, safety, durability and ease of cleaning. Everyone’s priorities are different, so choose what’s best for you and your budget.
Carpeting has some real advantages over hard surfaces. First, it’s softer, so it’s just safer and it’s much more comfortable for you and your baby. Soon enough, your newborn will be crawling and you’ll both be spending more time on the floor. So make it soft and comfortable for you and your baby. Your butt bone will thank yourself for this.
Next, carpeting is generally your least expensive flooring surface, so it’s a real budget friendly option. And, if you live in a cooler climate, the carpeting will make the room feel warmer due to the added insulation. And, of course, the room will be quieter, so this can really help, especially with night time feedings.
But, carpeting has some drawbacks, too…especially since it’s harder to clean and stains easily. Yes, expect stains. They will happen, and for many reasons including spit up and yes, vomiting. There’s no way around it.
Here are 3 carpets to consider for newborns and babies.
My first choice would be a natural fiber wool carpet. This way, you avoid exposure to most if not all synthetic materials. Wool has natural soil and stain resistance, and it’s color fast. In addition, wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture WITHOUT feeling wet. So, in warmer and humid conditions it absorbs some of the moisture making the room feel cooler, less humid and just more comfortable.
In addition, wool repels dirt and liquids by shielding the innermost part of the fiber. So when you spill something, the liquids tend to remain at the surface and don’t penetrate the fiber as much.
Finally, if allergies or asthma runs in the family, wool carpeting is less likely to cause a problem.
Note: I would avoid most other natural fiber carpets such as sisal and jute as these are harder on your feet, knees and butt. And, they shed more. But worse than that, a newborn or toddler may hurt themselves if they fall or crawl on them. It can hurt their knees and feet (think rope burn).
The only major downside to wool carpet is the price.
Plush flecked carpet
If you’re looking for something soft, then I would recommend getting some sort of flecked carpet as this will camouflage the dirt and the stains. And, I would not go too light…for the same reasons. Soft carpets are nice for babies and toddlers. It’s a great option for babies to learn to crawl and for you and your baby to play on (your butt bone will thank you for this).
Of course these carpets are harder to clean and trap dirt a bit more. But, they also keep the space warmer and quieter.
In terms of carpet fiber, this is up to you…knowing that this carpet probably won’t last that long and will need to be replaced. Generally, for most of my customers, I recommend nylons as these are more durable. They also tend to be softer and look nicer. But, as I said before, no matter what, expect your carpet to get dirty, so durability is not a main concern. Polyesters are more colorfast and generally cost a bit less. Technologies have come a long way, so now some of these carpets are much softer than they were 5 to 10 years ago.
Avoid being mislead by the false claims on smart strand. It is simply a glorified polyester that is overpriced. Feel free to buy it if you like it and the way if feels (many varieties are soft), but don’t think that it’s stain resistant. It ISN’T. They are just excellent marketers.
These are looped carpets that are generally flecked or multi-tonal, so they help camouflage the dirt. These are popular in some parts of the country, and I tend to find some customers love these, and others hate them. The big benefit here is that they are easier to clean and vacuum (and hide stains more). But, these carpets are not as soft as cut carpets.
If you choose carpet, it’s ideal to have it installed before your baby arrives, so you can allow a couple of weeks for it to air out. Also, if you have it installed after you give birth, realize that it is loud and disruptive, and it’s not a real pleasant experience if you’re tired and lacking sleep and trying to get a newborn to take a nap.
Also, if you currently have carpet, please realize that when they remove the existing carpet, there will be a lot of dust from that. Again, not so wonderful when you have a newborn who hasn’t developed a strong resistance yet.
Some new parents invest more in their carpet as they want the best for their baby. Others have a limited budget at this stage of their life and figure that the carpet will get ruined soon, so they choose less expensive options, with the intent to replace it with a better carpet later.
And, of course area rugs are also an amazing alternative to carpet. I will discuss this in the next section.
2. Hardwood flooring + area rug
If you live in a cooler climate, hardwood is the most preferred flooring type for the home. It’s stylish, timeless, incredibly durable (can last 100+ years), super easy to clean, and good for those with allergies. And, hardwood improves the value of your home. In fact in many homes, especially in the northeast and mid Atlantic, you will often find homes that already have hardwood flooring. So, you might as well leverage that asset.
BUT, hardwood by itself is often not the best solution with a newborn, as it’s hard (as the name implies). And, of course if your home is older, sometimes the floors creak. (and believe me, you’ll notice this even more during those late night feedings). So, while I love love love hardwood floors (yes, I’m The Flooring Girl), I would highly recommend that you get an area rug to put on top of the floor.
The area rug will make things safer and more comfortable for you and your baby. You can get a large one or small one, pending on the size and layout of the room. Area rugs can add style and decor to your room. But, more importantly, they are a soft surface to sit and walk on (and they will keep room warmer and quieter.
I would choose one that has lots of colors and a strong pattern as this will help camouflage the dirt. Unless you have a large budget, I’d gravitate towards something that looks and feels nice but isn’t that expensive as you will want to replace it. (And, yes, I have customers that buy cheap ones and replace them once a year for the first few years.)
Tip: Did you know you can buy area rugs on Amazon? They have a great selection and they are very affordable…and they’ll ship it straight to your door. You can sort by color, size and material.
And, don’t forget to buy an area rug pad. This is super important to protect your hardwood floors AND it helps the area rug last longer, too. Of course, it helps keep the area rug in place, and it makes it softer and warmer.
I would recommend an area rug to go over any hard surface of the home, if it’s a place where babies and toddler play.
3. Cork flooring
Cork is a wonderful option as it’s warmer and safer. It has some give in it, so if someone falls, it’s much safer. The cork also adds some insulation. Cork is eco friendly. You can learn more here and see how cork flooring is made. Organic cork flooring made by reputable manufacturers doesn’t emit any VOCs.
The cork cushions any falls, and it bounces back into shape. It comes in a wide variety of colors and styles.
4. Laminate flooring or Engineered Luxury Vinyl Plank
Laminate would not be my first choice for babies, but it’s certainly a budget friendly option, and it’s very scratch resistant, so it’s good for toys and when kids get a bit older and “run around.” But, be careful with laminate as the super low priced ones are cheap for a reason. They have adhesives which sometimes emit harmful VOCs and many of these are made in China. And, in case you missed the 60 Minutes report, some of the cheaper ones can be laced with formaldehyde.
I would never want my baby or my pet or any member of my family (or me) anywhere near that. So, if you’re going to get a laminate, get a more expensive mid grade one to be safe.
Or better yet, upgrade to a good engineered vinyl plank such as Coretec Plus. These luxury vinyls look way better than laminate (in fact many look very similar to hardwood floors) and they are WATERPROOF so very easy to clean. They are much quieter, too. And, they are softer as they have a cork underlayment. This provides some give in the floor and a bit of insulation as well.
You can find samples of Coretec Plus here. They are available in a wide variety of colors.
I would also buy an area rug to go on top of either of these options (for all the reasons discussed above).
Cork, laminate and engineered vinyl planks are all clickable floating floors. So, if you are very handy, you can save some money by installing them yourself. Out of these 3 options, cork is the healthiest, safest and most eco-friendly. Engineered Vinyl planks are the most stylish and have the widest array of colors and styles.
5. Soft rubber foam interlocking tiles
These are a must have for play areas, especially if you have hardwood flooring (or other hard surfaces) in the rest of the house. These are super soft and colorful. They protect your hardwood floors from scratches and they give your baby a soft place to play. Plus, they are super colorful and fun.
These are super easy to clean and they come in a variety of styles (with and without the letters and numbers, mats and individual colors where you can choose the colors you prefer. Obviously this can also help later with learning the alphabet and numbers and kids have fun creating their own patterns.
Check out some of the options here.
Flooring choices to avoid with newborns
1. Tile flooring
I think this is pretty obvious. This can be super dangerous for babies and toddlers as the surface is so hard. Toddlers, especially, can fall and hurt themselves. And, of course this is not a comfortable surface to sit and play on.
While most people in cooler climates do not have tile in bedrooms nor main areas of the house, tile flooring can be very common in warmer climates. If you have tile flooring, I’d strongly recommend that you cover it up (e.g. with a carpet, area rug, soft rubber foam tiles, or a floating floor (such as cork, engineered luxury vinyl, laminate, engineered hardwood).
This one is not so obvious, especially as some websites recommend this product. But, I would never recommend this product, especially for newborns and toddlers. Why? First, it does not hold up well at all. It scratches so easily and it shows the scratches way more than hardwood does.
The bamboo manufacturers have done an awesome marketing job and I’m sorry to say they have really mislead the public. Bamboo is very soft (and contrary to their claims, bamboo is NOT harder than oak as the bamboo places claim it is…it is much softer). Further, bamboo does not hold up well to water, so if you end up with spills, you’re in trouble. Let’s not even talk about the other fluids that come along with babies.
And, you should know that it is very difficult (and sometimes impossible) to sand and refinish it. So when it gets ruined you’ll need to rip it up and replace it.
The main attractiveness of bamboo is that it’s cheaper than real hardwood. And, this is great example of you get what you pay for. Solid hardwood will usually last 100+ years whereas bamboo usually lasts 10 years at the most.
We stopped installing bamboo 5 or 6 years ago after seeing so many problems with it. We kept getting calls to fix bamboo, especially from minor water leaks by windows and spills in the kitchen from dog’s water bowls.
Finally, I have to caution you about the supposed claims that it is an eco-friendly product. While it is true that bamboo grows incredibly fast and replenishes every 5 to 7 years, you should know that most is grown and manufactured in China, so think about the carbon foot print for travel.
AND, very importantly, there is TONS of adhesive used in bamboo and this is not so hot for your newborn or toddler (due to the VOCs (volatile organic compounds), especially when they are crawling around on the floor. And, finally you should know that a lot of this adhesive is laced with formaldehyde. Again, something I would never want to have anywhere near my baby (or pets…or me).
As you can see, there are several safe, comfortable and practical flooring options for newborns and toddlers. Your choice may differ based on the where you live, what you currently have on the floors now and your budget. If you decide to go with a hard surface for your base, be sure to get a soft area rug and/or soft foam rubber tiles for softness, safety and also to protect your hardwood floors.
Related: How to Create a Beautiful Nursery in a Small Space
Related: DIY Nursery Room Decor
Related: New Baby Necessities
Related: Bringing Baby Home – Secrets for Enjoying the First Week With a Newborn
Choosing the best flooring options for babies and toddlers