Mom in living room doing yoga with girl jumping on the couch by a coffee table
Credit: Daniel Kim Photography/Daniel Kim Photography/Stocksy United

11 Pro Picks for Kid-Friendly Coffee Tables, Plus How to Buy One for Your Family

updated Nov 1, 2022
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Before I became a mom, I swore I wouldn’t change my decor for my kid. For the most part, I didn’t, but there was one exception: The coffee table. Pre-kid we had a table from the 1970s with two glass panels inset into the top and sharp corners. As soon as our son started to use the table to pull himself up to stand, we realized we needed something a little more kid-friendly. Finding just the right one took some searching. So when my editor asked if we could write a guide to buying a family-friendly coffee table, I knew we’d be doing a service to readers in helping them find something that was stylish and safe for kids.

My own hunt led to a simple, vintage table that has served my family well for the last five years, but there are dozens of options that can work in those early childhood years and beyond. I called on a group of design professionals who are also parents themselves and asked them for their best advice for buying a coffee table. They also shared some of their favorites. 

Here’s how to buy a family coffee table you’ll love for years.

What are the best materials for a kid-friendly coffee table?

Experts were divided about the merits of upholstered versus solid pieces. Colleen Simonds, an interior designer in Pittsburgh and a mom of two, says she always opts for an upholstered ottoman in family homes. On the other hand, Mary Beth Wagner of Mary Beth Wagner Interiors in Dallas says, “I recommend my clients with young kids select a coffee table that has a solid surface and does not include glass.” Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin in Honolulu, Hawaii agrees, saying, “Never ever buy a table with glass — that’s non-negotiable.” Solid wood is a sound choice, as it is both sturdy and can be refinished at a later date, if needed. “If you’re opting for a wood coffee table, walnut, maple, and mahogany offer the sturdiest construction. White oak is a solid option, if you’re interested in a lighter finish,” says Arthur, who notes pine is the softest wood and should be avoided.  

For something more unexpected, Wagner and several designers point to grasscloth-covered tables as a good choice for families. She says, “I always add a coat of clear poly to grasscloth tables to ensure they are virtually indestructible.” Alternately, Low notes that concrete is having a huge moment in design right now and is a good choice for young kids, if you don’t have to move it often.

What are the best finishes for coffee tables?

“When selecting a coffee table that will outlast life with young children, the most important factor to consider is the finish,” says Lindley Arthur of Lindley Arthur Interiors in Dallas. For example, painted wood, while wipeable, has a tendency to chip. Different wood finishes are more and less forgiving. For example, a rustic, reclaimed wood will hide bumps and scratches, but a hand-oiled finish can look tired fast. Closely reading customer reviews can help you determine if a finish is likely to hold up over time.

What is the best shape for a family coffee table? 

“Pretty much every table I have in my house is rounded,” says North Dakota mom of three Katie Sullivan, the author of the Pretty Domesticated blog. Sharp edges and corners should be avoided for safety, and as Sullivan points out that round and oval tables also look better because they don’t need corner bumpers. Sullivan also likes round tables for their aesthetic: Curved shapes are a welcome foil to other hard-edged pieces. If you’re more drawn to a rectangular table, look for one with curved corners or a waterfall design.

Many designers mentioned storage ottomans as a good choice for families because they offer places to hide clutter and are often upholstered with soft, baby-friendly exteriors.

How can I tell if a coffee table is safe for my baby?

Aside from avoiding sharp corners, you want something sturdy that is unlikely to tip, says Sullivan. Opt for a solid base or a heavy material, so it won’t tip over, says Lina Galvao of Curated Nest in the greater New York City area. Low agrees and suggests, “Sit on it, stand on it yourself, and if it can withstand you, it’s probably durable enough for young kids. Lean on all of the edges and make sure it doesn’t tip,” says Low.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

What’s the best coffee table for a small space?

“I am not a fan of traditional coffee tables in a small space,” says Shamika Lynch, founder of Maximizing Tiny, a small-space design service based in Jersey City, New Jersey. “A table can encroach on precious floor space, so I often opt for multipurpose furniture items or unconventional pieces that can serve as a table like a chest or large lidded basket.” Another of Lynch’s favorites are a pair of poufs in place of a coffee table. “Two poufs together are a friendly option for a living area that serves as a play area by day and an adult area by night. They can act as additional seating when hosting guests, a table surface with the addition of a tray, and an ottoman for kicking your feet up.” 

Several other parents chimed in to say that they’ve opted to go without a coffee table altogether in order to leave their living space open for play. So, if you’ve got your eye on something luxe or fragile, consider holding off on buying anything until the kids are old enough to use it. 

If you do decide you want one now, here are 11 that our experts endorsed:

11 Expert Picks for Kid-Friendly Coffee Tables

Credit: MidCentury55

A not-precious vintage table is a great way to get high quality at an affordable price point. Some of my usual keywords on Etsy are “Danish” and “teak;” this rounded corner one is a dead ringer for my own.

Buy it here: Vintage Teak Coffee Tables, prices vary via Etsy

Credit: Burke Decor

“I love the unexpected blue tone of this Bungalow 5 grasscloth coffee table that would bring a unique sensibility to any living room,” says Wagner. “Its sturdy construction will keep it steady against even the most daring little climber.”

Buy it here: Bungalow 5 Parsons Grasscloth Coffee Table, $1,008 from Kathy Kuo Home

Credit: CB2

To my surprise, multiple parents chimed in to say they love their Lucite tables. Catherine, a mom in Philadelphia, wrote to me to say, “This coffee table is the perfect height and size for activities, games, and hors d’oeuvres. It’s easy to clean and durable. It has even served as a stage, but it does bend under the weight of kids older than four.”

Buy it here: Peekaboo Acrylic Coffee Table, $299 from CB2

“The Blake coffee table is the perfect option for families with children,” says Arthur. “It lends a room texture and it is coated in five coats of spill and marker-proof clear lacquer! The large surface area provides plenty of room for play and the lower shelf could easily be filled with baskets for toy storage.”

Buy it here: Blake Square Coffee Table in Natural, $1,998 from Serena & Lily

Credit: Gracious Home

“I like this particular table, not only because it is rounded, but it’s also sturdy and unlikely to tip,” says Sullivan. Plus, she says it has held up well to the wear and tear from her three kids.

Buy it here: Thomas Bina Olivia Coffee Table, $1,750 from Gracious Style

Credit: Made Goods

“I love the soft edges and cool texture of this Made Goods coffee table,” says Morgan Farrow, the principal of Morgan Farrow Interiors in Dallas. “The rounded corners make it a safe bet for avoiding bumps.” 

Buy it here: Made Goods Hudson Coffee Table, price upon request from Made Goods

Credit: Blu Dot

Years ago stylist Hilary Robertson suggested Blu Dot’s Strut coffee table for a story we were producing about durable decor. It turned out to be the perfect height for coloring — so much so, that the kids got marker all over the loaner table we were shooting, but to my relief, it wiped right off. 

Buy it here: Blu Dot Strut Coffee Table, $549 from Blu Dot

Credit: IKEA

There’s a reason this is one of the most expensive coffee tables IKEA sells: It’s built to last. The oval shape is kid friendly and promotes flow in your living room.

Buy it here: Stockholm table, $249 from IKEA

“Nesting tables give you the best of both worlds,” says Lynch. “You can have a low surface for setting down a beverage and easily shift it out of the way when not in use. Depending on the height, one can even use a nesting table as a desk for resting a laptop.”

Buy it here: Stiles Acacia Triangle Nesting Table, $210 from Crate & Barrel

Credit: West Elm

When my friend Melissa was looking for a baby-friendly option for her apartment, a designer steered her towards West Elm’s upholstered storage base ottomans. “It has soft sides and is easy to move around the room with no risk of my baby crawling underneath,” she told me. “I love it so far!”

Buy it here: Upholstered Storage Ottoman, $449–$649 from West Elm

Credit: West Elm

“Storage, storage, storage, there never seems to be enough,” says Galvao. “Hide toys in this in a pinch.”

Buy it here: Drum Storage Coffee Table, $599 from West Elm