The kids’ table rocks

Jun 26, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. ET

It’s crucial for your kids to have autonomy at home, and child-sized furniture and activities that your children can do independently give them a sense of purpose (and you a break).

You may think another set of table and chairs (no matter how pint-sized) is just more clutter among all your child’s “stuff,” but this designated kid area is important for the little one in your home. “Children thrive when they feel they have ownership of some space in the house,” says Meghan Leahy, parent coach. “The right furniture can help eliminate whining, foster independent play and cultivate greater creativity.”

Let me imitate you

Your little one needs that tiny table and chairs for reasons greater than tea parties and coloring sessions. “Children already want to be independent and do things themselves. We just have to learn how to get out of the way and allow them to learn and strive as they are naturally designed to,” says Shelly Birger Phillips, conscious parenting expert.

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Independent is as independent does

How can a simple table and chairs create autonomy in children? “Furniture that is sized appropriately to a child fosters independence and limits frustrations,” explains Leahy. “When the child is able to easily sit and get up from the table, the parent doesn’t need to hover or fetch items.” While you should feel welcome to occasionally set your little one up with specific projects at their kids table, this space also empowers a child to make decisions and do things for himself, like choose between playing with a puzzle or stickers, crayons or blocks.

“And the benefit to parents is that children will happily sit at their table and do activities while adults cook dinner or do other adult activities,” says Phillips, adding that, with some encouragement and repetition, you’ll soon have a young child who can get out and put away their toys or activities, and who knows how to entertain himself without turning on the television!

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Introducing the new décor

Your child will certainly notice the new addition to your house when you bring in a kids table and chairs, but they may not feel the need to claim it as their own! Make a point to introduce this new furniture to your child so they see it as their own “space.”

Not sure how to word it? Phillips suggests the following: “‘Look, Colin! Daddy and I purchased a very special gift for you. It's a table and chairs just for you! See how it fits your body? You can come and sit here and do your work whenever you like! You can use it to do puzzles, eat a snack, color a picture or whatever you want! The only rules are...’ and then share whatever your rules are, such as no standing on the table or chair, always putting your work away or wiping off the table when you're finished.”

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Don’t put Baby in the corner

You’re not introducing pint-sized furniture to your child only to relegate him to a distant corner of the house. “A child-sized table and chair work best in an area of your home where a lot of time is spent like the kitchen or living room,” says Phillips.

Leahy recommends situating the furniture where there is easy access to arts, crafts, toys and puzzles; where an adult can easily supervise the play; and where clean-up under the table will be easy (splash mat highly recommended if you’re not going to be placing the furniture on hardwood or laminate). Near or in the kitchen is also a good idea as your child can learn about helping with food preparation or be close to the ideal area at snack time!

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