Giving as much careful thought and consideration to our children's rooms as other significant rooms in the house is still a relatively recent phenomenon.
For many centuries, children were considered as nothing more than "small adults". Making "scaled-down" furniture such as cots, chairs and desks was as far as the notion of a particular decorative style for children"s rooms, (or even their clothes), ever went. The Victorian period saw the beginning of the trend that accelerated into the enormous amount of variety and choice available today.
That acceleration means that today"s parents are now faced with a multitude of options in decorating a child"s room. There is now a vast array of modern, young colours, enchanting wallpapers, furnishing fabrics and accessories available all of which have been designed with the world and the eye of the child in mind.
Infancy - It is not surprising that representing new life, innocence and purity, white is traditionally associated with infancy. Its ability to represent cleanliness, health and purity aside, white as the base colour in an infants room has the advantage that you can easily paint over it as the child grows and add warmer pastels or stronger colour themes tailored to age and gender. Modern day babies seem to acquire a great deal of "equipment" during the first few weeks of their life. Many stores now offer full nursery sets comprising changing unit, cot, drawers, cot blankets & buffers, changing mats and childrens curtains. If you purchase them, you might want to make these items the starting point of your decorating scheme, as they may well dictate your base, foreground and accent colours. For those parents wishing not to know the gender of their baby until it is born, pastel shades of yellow, green or lilac are a safe bet as none are specifically associated with boy or girl, as are the traditional blue and pink. Aim to provide your baby with a colour scheme that will provide a sense of security and well-being. New born babies may not be able to focus properly but they do sense the quality of their surroundings, so take the trouble to plan and prepare a nursery in advance of the birth.
Pre-School Children - During this critical period of a child"s growth it is important to engage their interest in the world around them. Insatiably curious, as young children are, there are all sorts of ways in which you can encourage the conscious sense of pattern, shape and colour that they will begin to develop very early on. It is not only with toys and games that you can nurture this developing awareness. As pre-school children spend much of their time at home, their bedrooms are likely to be used as much for playing as for sleeping. An opportunity is created here, to introduce a careful mix of colours and interesting textures with patterned wallpapers, quilts, playmats, curtains or blinds, all of which could provide stimulation for your child"s developing senses. Don"t make the mistake of thinking that the best way to make a child"s room bright and interesting is to overdose on strong, plain primary colours. Very bright colours can agitate the eyes and be counter-active to sleep and relaxation. From a very early age children have quite a sophisticated sense of colour and pattern. Young children enjoy detail and intricacy and don"t forget, they live in close contact with the floor. Carpets rugs and mats with interesting patterns and textures conjure up imaginary roads, rivers or jungles in the vivid imagination of a child. Long curtains or a bedspread down to the floor provide hiding places in which exciting adventures can be born. A room that is interesting, colourful and imaginative will provide far more long term stimulation than one that is vivid and overpowering to the point of being garish.
Primary School Children - For children in this age group, the main decorating concerns from a parent"s point of view will probably be practicality and durability. Hardwearing carpets, wipe clean surfaces and ample storage space for all the "little extras" you seem to be acquiring will be foremost considerations. When they are at primary school, children are starting to stake their own claim on the look of their room. You will probably start to receive a proudly presented stream of various paintings and drawings, which your child will undoubtedly wish to display on his or her walls. At this age, decorating which encourages active play will be most appreciated from a child"s point of view. A bunk or cabin bed which looks like a fortress or princess castle; a wardrobe which doubles as a sentry or telephone box; a single bed which doubles as a boat or car: will delight your child much more than designer paint colours or co-ordinating fabrics. If skill or budget prevent you from obtaining a specially designed bed, consider painting or re-vamping your child"s furniture. You could be creating a treasured family heirloom steeped with memories for generations to come.
Colours for Boys, Colours for Girls - It is said that babies notice primary colours before any others, as it is indeed said that blue is for boys and pink is for girls? You can learn about your child"s colour preferences by playing games that involve choosing or identifying colours. You will soon learn their favourites. For a room that needs to work well for children of both sexes avoid stereotypical pink and blue and overly feminine or masculine fabrics. Abstract patterns, or animal patterns combined with rich or earthy colours are suitably appropriate for both sexes and yellow is always a safe bet as a background colour for a small child"s room. Changing the quilt cover is a simple way of giving the room a new look. But, if you want to avoid the expense of changing curtains or blinds as your children progress in size and age, from cot to bed; avoid themed prints and choose checks or stripes which can be co-ordinated with different furnishings - practical and cost effective.
Teenagers - Decorating can raise so many issues with children of any age, that disagreement and confrontation often lead to the room at issue being left unchanged year after year as it crashes to the bottom of your list of priorities. Their room is probably the only part of your home that your teenager can class as their own. Their space to retreat, to study or read, to shake the foundations of the house with loud music or to entertain and conspire with friends. Teenage years mean adolescence, and that means change and experimentation - with ones self and ones surroundings. Whatever your idea of the perfect teenage bedroom is, you can be sure that your child will have a strong and, more than likely, opposing view on the subject. Try not to let difficulties like your teenage daughter wanting lime green and shocking pink stripes on her walls; or your son wanting his ceiling black and the walls dark purple; push you into opting out altogether and doing nothing. Let them have their say because they will have their own reasons for making those choices. Try to find a simple or alternative solution, (maybe black or shocking pink curtains or a frieze round the top of the room would placate the request?), - as an agreeable compromise will help them to enjoy and appreciate their own space and feel valued and special at home.