x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Safe, easy-to-clean flooring options for baby's room

Instead of ceramic, rubber, cork and foam mats can provide a springy surface to help soften the inevitable tumbles.

My three-month-old son is moving into his own room, which has ceramic flooring that I'm not too keen on. What are my other options?

Exciting times ahead. Your baby is about to learn how to roll over, crawl and walk. But first there will be plenty of failed attempts and tumbles, so lay down a surface to soften the blow.

In general, the floor should keep your child safe and be easy to clean. Most soft play areas and childcare centres use cushioned surfaces that can be wiped down at the end of the day. Linoleum, rubber and foam mats are all popular, and can be used just as easily at home.

Rubber is a great natural material. It is slip resistant and will help your son to grip and keep his balance - and when he does tumble it will be on a soft and springy surface. Rubber is also durable, easy to clean and doesn't contain nasty chemicals such as formaldehyde. The downside is the cost. Specialist flooring suppliers such as MTE (www.mtedubai.com) stock high quality flooring products such as Nora rubber flooring, which comes in a range of colours. It costs Dh200 per square metre, or about Dh4,000 for an average size bedroom.

For a more natural look, try cork. Like rubber, it is soft, safe and stain resistant, while its wooden look can be warmer and more homely. It is, however, more expensive than rubber, at between Dh200 and Dh300 per square metre (www.rosetta.ae).

Whether you use cork or rubber, think about buying tiles rather than having the floor fitted, especially if you're renting. That way you can take them with you when you move.

As a less expensive option, interlocking foam play mats are popular. Cheap and cheerful, they have many of the qualities of rubber at a fraction of the cost. Ace Hardware has a range of colours at Dh55 per tile, or about Dh1,000 for the average bedroom.

However, Belgium banned these mats in 2010 after university tests found most contained chemicals such as formaldehyde that give off toxic gases. Ace Hardware play mats are tested to meet European Safety standards by SGS, a recognised testing lab.

Other options include linoleum, which will do the job if you're on a budget, but can look and feel cheap. Avoid carpet, which absorbs dust and mites that can trigger asthma and other allergies. If you really want that soft, carpet-like feel under your feet, rugs are a safer bet because they're easier to steam clean. Pottery Barn and Just Kidding both have a good selection.

Pallavi Dean is an award-winning independent design consultant who practises in the UAE. If you have a question for her, email homes@thenational.ae