“It is not giving children more that spoils them; it is giving them more to avoid confrontation.” John Gray, Children are from Heaven.
Decorating is a very personal experience and, while some people hire professional interior decorators, most of us choose to decorate our homes ourselves. Though you have strong input into most areas of your home’s decorating (save the odd heated discussion over paint colours in the middle of the hardware store), there are some rooms where you need to compromise (at the very least) on how they are decorated. The most notable of these is your children’s bedrooms.
Children are very determined individuals with their own likes and dislikes, and strong opinions about how things should be done. Their bedrooms are very personal spaces where they can play and explore, keep all their favourite things and feel safe. Keeping both of these things in mind, it’s important to give children a lot of say in how their bedrooms are decorated. However, as children, they cannot be allowed to make all the decisions about their décor as they don’t possess the maturity and it is your house, after all.
So the trick is to compromise, creating a room that meets your decorating criteria and suits your home while being somewhere that suits your child’s personality and makes them feel secure and independent.
How much input should a child have?
A child’s age will determine how much say they get in planning their bedroom; obviously, a teenager will want, and deserves, much more input into their bedroom décor than a toddler.
For children younger than school age, you will be making most of the decisions, but don’t disregard their personal preferences. Some children develop a favourite colour by two years of age; others remain undecided until much later. Some don’t have a particular favourite toy, while others become obsessive about items such as dinosaurs, diggers, fairies or puppies.
If your child has a strong preference, accommodate it; otherwise, choose more generic themes that are likely to stay in vogue for longer. Never underestimate the classics, such as primaries or pastels, denims, checks or florals; these can be used very effectively to create a beautiful environment any child will be happy in. Young children cannot make choices without some guidance, so whittle down choices to one or two options you’re happy with and then let them have the final say. This is a win-win situation: you get a finished product you can live with and they’re happy because they got to choose what their new room looks like.
When you’re dealing with tweens or teens, they generally have much stronger opinions about how they want their rooms decorated and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see eye to eye. It’s important you give them a lot of choice but emphasise that you get the final say; if you particularly hate something and don’t want it in your home, that is your prerogative.
With trends and preferences changing frequently at this age, it’s best to encourage them to stick to decorating schemes that can be changed easily, such as paint colours that can be changed and furniture that is relatively neutral and versatile. Accommodating posters and art is a great thing; it’s much easier to take down a poster of Justin Bieber when your daughter is over him than paint over a mural of his face. And black fabric tacked to the ceiling for a night-sky effect is simpler to remove than repainting a black ceiling back to white.
Remember that, for many teens, decorating their room is highly personal and a very creative experience, so when you encourage them to do their own thing, you are also fostering their creativity and individualism. Try not to be afraid to take on a child’s slightly out-there ideas and, if they ask for your help in making things for their room, encourage and assist them as much as you can.
Of course, when decorating a child’s room, as with any space, a budget is critical. And as the parents, you are definitely the ones who should control this. Decide how much you can afford to spend on a bedroom redecoration and how long you expect this to last before you are willing to redecorate this room again. Factor in what is required in the redecoration; if you plan to purchase new furniture, you obviously need to spend more than if the changes are purely cosmetic.
If your child is old enough, tell them exactly how much you’ve got to spend and involve them in the shopping process; it’s a great opportunity to teach them how to budget and you may find they become very frugal and creative in order to make the most out of the allocated money.
Making it last:
Children grow so quickly and their preferences change quickly. This is why you have to set limits on how often you’ll redecorate their bedrooms in their lifetimes.
The biggest consideration in a child’s room is furniture and storage, and it’s worth buying quality items in classic styles that will last. Your child needs a good bed and a place to do homework. They also need somewhere to store books, toys and clothes. If you choose furniture that is well made and versatile, you could feasibly have it last 18 years and one day be handed down to their kids. Avoid furniture they’ll grow out of, such as beds shaped like cars, unless money is no object. While some things, such as tables and chairs, need to be scaled to their size, other items such as bookcases and chests of drawers can last indefinitely.
One way to make a room’s décor last longer is to avoid the latest character trends. For example, while Dora the Explorer may be your three-year-old’s very favourite thing now, she will grow out of it by the time she starts school, so limit its place in your decorating. You can accommodate her tastes with a Dora cushion on a neutral bed linen set and, when she tires of Dora, replace the cushion with something else but keep everything else the same.
Don’t be afraid to use decorator items that can easily be switched around or removed. Removable vinyl wall decals are a great way to brighten up a wall but can be changed when you tire of them. Cushions, sheet sets and floor rugs can be swapped around easily and will totally alter the look of a room for much less cost than replacing furniture.
Finally, don’t feel you have to redecorate a child’s room all at once. It’s perfectly acceptable (and good for the budget) to start with a solid foundation and then let the décor change subtly over time as your child grows. The act of simply switching the baby toys for preschooler toys, picture books for chapter books, pictures of cars or kittens with posters of their favourite pop stars may be enough to keep your child’s room fresh, current and meeting their needs.
Top 10 essentials in children’s rooms:
1. A good bed — essential for the sleep a growing body needs.
2. Floor space — room for essential play.
3. Toys — choose quality over quantity and offer a variety of toys for their developmental stage.
4. Books — a love of literacy comes from early exposure to books.
5. Seating — a comfortable chair, or cushions on the floor, give children a nice place to sit.
6. Colour — make a child’s room interesting and friendly through the use of colour.
7. Curtains — drapes or blinds need to block out light to encourage sleep and be safe for youngsters.
8. Versatile storage — children have a lot of things, so good storage that is easy to manage is essential.
9. Workspace — from a small table and chairs for young children, to a desk for older children, adequate workspace is essential.
10. Friends — be it the human, imaginary or softie variety, children need to be able to invite their friends into their rooms.