Long Island family-friendly homes require specific features for kids

The Barbaro family decided to move out of their one-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a house in Long Beach, so that their son, Cole, who was born in August, would have more room to play and grow, both in the house and neighborhood. Videojournalist: Jeremy Bales (Sept. 10, 2013)

When hunting for a family-friendly house, there are many factors that come into play beyond a bedroom and bathroom count and the overall square footage.

There's the jealousy issue. While it's hard to find a home that has identical room sizes for all kids, child experts suggest considering whether this will be a huge problem and how to remedy the issue. Perhaps giving a child with the smaller room a small extra closet all to himself will help.

Children won't simply stay in their rooms all day, however -- there should be designated playrooms or other interior spaces that can be converted, such as a finished basement, spare bedroom or finished attic, says Stacy Zigman, a Re/Max Central Properties licensed broker associate based in East Meadow.


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The exterior of the home should also be kid-friendly. "Is there ample room to install a swing set, jungle gym or trampoline?" Zigman asks. "Is the yard spacious enough for kids to run around and enjoy their favorite outdoor activities?"

Kelly Maughan could check off all those boxes when she bought her four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot Greenlawn home in July.

Maughan, a 45-year-old chief financial officer for a private equity group, says she was looking for a large house with a spacious backyard so that her 5-year-old twin boys would have room to run and play.

This one has a finished basement, complete with a playroom. The kitchen opens to the living room, so Maughan and her husband, Bobby, can watch them play while they're cooking. Or, if the kids play in the backyard, they can see them through the windows.

But a great family house doesn't exist without a great family street enveloped within a great family neighborhood. This one's got that, too: Maughan's house is on a cul-de-sac.

"I'm not concerned about them being in front of the house because it's in a nice, quiet community," she says.

Jane Spring, 40, a stay-at-home-mother, says she and her husband, Brian, were specifically looking for a beautiful home in a neighborhood where her three daughters would feel safe walking around with their friends when she came upon a historical four-bedroom Victorian with water views in Northport.

They moved into the home in May, and Spring's 11-year-old says she loves being able to walk with her friend to grab pizza and an ice cream.

"She was never able to walk anywhere where she used to live," Spring says. "I loved my old house -- we had a beautiful home. But we moved for the location."

The Barbaro family also moved for their location -- and found their family-friendly home within the perfect Long Beach neighborhood. Tom Barbaro and his wife, Carissa Lopez-Barbaro, chose their three-bedroom home because it is close to the beach, but also close to the Long Island Rail Road, so Tom Barbaro could get quickly to his Manhattan office, where he works in online advertising sales.

They checked out the schools, and say they were pleased, which is important because they just had their first child.

Baby Cole is 2 months old, and the Barbaros say they love that his nursery is next door to the master bedroom. They also say they love that the home can grow with them if they decide to have more children.

"We could build another level if we decide to have a larger family," Carissa Lopez-Barbaro says.

HELP KIDS ADJUST TO THE MOVE

You may be excited about finding the perfect home for your family -- but your kids may not be as enthusiastic. Howard Traub, a Roslyn clinical psychologist, explains how to make this big adjustment a little easier.

How early should you start preparing your child for the move?

I recommend that parents prepare their children for a move very early in the moving process. It will be less confusing and overwhelming for them to understand why they are moving and what they can expect over the coming weeks. It is also important to remember that your child may see a "For Sale" sign on your lawn, in addition to real estate agents and prospective buyers in and out of your home. Parents should also expect that their child may get upset and cry. Showing sadness and crying are appropriate and healthy ways to express emotion. During these times, I recommend that the parent just sit by their child, listen and nurture.

What can you do to get them used to the idea of moving?

Providing information about the process and encouraging the child to ask questions will help them to begin to develop emotional control over what is occurring around them.

Is there anything you can do to make them feel like they're an active part of this move?

Involve the child in picking out some fun new home purchases, like televisions, gaming and music systems, and especially decorative items for their new bedroom. I would recommend letting the child pick out at least one or two new items for their bedroom that are geared specifically toward their interests. This will promote feelings of excitement and a sense of control as they settle into their new room.

Involve the child in the packing process as well. Children feel great pride and accomplishment when they are put in a position of responsibility. Find simple tasks such as letting them help decide what to keep and what to discard. Involving the child in some of the decision-making will again help them to feel in control of the process.

What can you do on moving day to make it less stressful for your children?

Children often like to feel they are grown-up and responsible like their parents. Have the child carry some small objects or boxes that they can bring all by themselves to the moving truck. This helps foster a sense of mastery and esteem for the child. Another important strategy is to keep a box of the child's special and favorite items in a separate and safe place. This box does not go into the moving truck, but goes in the car with the parents when they drive to the new home. This box should be given to the child upon arriving at the new home, so they immediately have some of their favorite and familiar things.

Once you've moved, what can you do to make the adjustment period less difficult?

Priority should be given to setting up the child's bedroom first, as this is their safe place for rest and play. To help the child adjust, a sense of order and structure needs to be re-established quickly. This will also help the child gain control over his feelings of anxiety, which likely will spike in the first few days after the move. A special dinner could be planned for the first dinner in the house. Cook the child's favorite meal or take them out to their favorite restaurant. The idea is to make those first few days feel special for the child.

MAKING HOME COMFY FOR KIDS

If you want a basic outdoor swing set, the Flexible Flyer Fun Fantastic Swing Set with Plays ($300 at amazon.com) may be the one. This has everything your children will ever want -- and it could give you a few minutes of peace and quiet every afternoon.

Just because you have children living in your home doesn't mean you have to turn your fancy living room over to plastic princess chairs. Everyone can feel at home if the kids are sitting in the Magical Harmony Kids Pink Micro Sweet Child Chair ($120 at overstock.com).

Transform your backyard into a magical fairyland with the CedarWorks Serendipity 1 ($25,900 at cedarworks.com) swing set. It almost looks like an addition to a home -- and you may not want to remove it even when the kids outgrow it. All sets are custom-configured, but it is recommended that you have a total of 30 feet front-to-back for the swing area.

KID-FRIENDLY, AND FOR SALE

Kids dream house

Location: Huntington Bay

Listing price: $1,650,000 (more info)

Bedrooms and bathrooms: 6 bedrooms, 6¬Ĺ bathrooms

Kid-friendly details: There are six bedrooms on the second floor, and each bedroom has its own bathroom. It's also a house seemingly tailor-made for playing hide-and-seek. In this European-style villa built in the 1930s, there are three sets of staircases going from the main floor to the second. And there are two staircases to the finished basement. The house also has a pool, and the rolling lawn has got to be great for sledding. The best part: The house has a goldfish pond.

Listing agent: Donna Spinoso-Gelb, Signature Premier Properties, 631-383-9920

Indoor-outdoor nook

Location: East Meadow (more info)

Listing price: $569,000

Bedrooms and bathrooms: 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

Kid-friendly details: On rainy days, the children can play inside the great room -- but when the rainbows appear, they can open the great room's sliding doors and run outside directly into the yard to jump into the pool, which has a waterfall. The house also features a finished basement and five bedrooms, so everyone gets plenty of space.

Listing agent: Stacy Zigman, Re/Max Central Properties, 516-827-7653


A family neighborhood

Location: Southold (more info)

Listing price: $785,000

Bedrooms and bathrooms: 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

Kid-friendly details: Kids can walk to town, a local beach or playground. Inside, there's a large kitchen, four full bathrooms and a large backyard with an in-ground pool.

Listing agent: Marie Beninati or Lee Beninati, Beninati Associates, 631-765-5333

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