Humans are naturally territorial and we want control over our belongings and our own space. We typically love to nest.
Nesting begins at around two years of age when toddlers begin to learn the concept of “mine!”. Three year olds don’t have as many belongings or privacy issues as a preteen but they still need a bit of space. Each child can have their own space in a house – perhaps “their” shelf in a bathroom, or their cupboard or drawer in the kitchen. A corner to themselves if they have to share a room, or a special area of the family or living room that is totally theirs to control.
Many children under age twelve share rooms. There are a lot of upsides to sharing..... Room sharing helps kids sleep when they are experiencing anxiety or if they are scared of the dark. Having someone else is often comforting. It facilitates play as they can share toys and games and it obviously saves space. Toy clean-up is easier if toys are taken to one room. The downside of room sharing is that kids are harder to settle down for bedtime as they want to play, talk or wind each other up with a game of the sillies. One child may want to read while the other wants to go to sleep. Noise, light and activity such as sleepovers are all sources of conflict and problem-solving. One child might be messy and the other neat. Children can have separate shelves, areas for storage, and even a special pinboard of their own! Obviously, the bed and space underneath can be personal space, but bookcases and wall space can be designated as their own housing their favourite books and personal collections.
Boundaries should be discussed among children so that each knows what area is off limits and what is communal space. Have a rule that permission must be received before a sibling (or sibling’s friend) touches or uses items in the boundary space. This also includes computers and video game consoles. Does drawing a territorial line in the room or dividing the room in half so each child has a half of the room make sense? If kids are fighting over space, a line may help at first, to establish boundaries and may be removed later.
Bunk beds are a great idea for saving space. They allow for the children to have more essential floor space to play. They can be used as a puppet theatre with sheets around the bottom. Also if the one child wants to read on top, the other one can have dark by hanging sheets under the top mattress. It's a good idea to install little reading lights to ensure practical light control in shared rooms.
A common question is when should siblings move to a separate room. The answer is when they want to or when there is available space for them. Many teens naturally want more privacy at age 13 away from parents and siblings, but sometimes due to small space, they still have to share a room. That’s okay. It will do them no harm unless boundaries are not respected. Many teens are okay sharing a room until they leave home, depending on the size of the room and space limitations.