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Decorating & setting up a room for your child
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Decorating and setting up a child's room is one of the most fun and challenging tasks for a parent. Depending on the age of your child, this could really be a teamwork effort -- or a cause of major disputes. Here are some basic guidelines to get the job done with a little less stress, and looking great.

Just don't forget to set down the rules with your kids before you get started!

  • Keep function in mind. This is a room for sleeping, reading, homework, playing, talking on the phone, relaxing, listening to music… And if your child is still quite young, keep in mind that one day (s)he will be doing all these things and more.
  • No matter the age of your child, keep the characters for the accessories rather than as the general theme for the room. Dora the Explorer, Superman, Spongebob, Barbie… will only be appreciated for so long before you're being expected to keep up with what's cool and replace what's no longer "in". The cost of replacing a wallpaper border, a pillow, a lamp, and a clock is much less than the cost of having wallpaper stripped, the walls prepared and repainted, and replacing all bedding and linens along with the rest.
  • Carefully select "reusable" comforters or duvet covers. Look for stripes, plaids, modern-looking florals, geometric or abstract patterns, two- or three-tone simple patterns, and so on, matched with solid colours. These are reusable because they'll still match even when the accessories are replaced.
  • Furniture should be carefully chosen. Inexpensive furniture made of melamine on press-wood tends to have a short lifespan and does not handle even normal "wear and tear" with dignity. At the same time, there is no reason to purchase the most expensive furniture that money can buy. Another option to consider is that children's items are easy to find second hand. A quality bedroom set used for a few years by a child will likely have few, if any, signs of previous ownership, and the price will probably be about 30% lower than if it were new. Avoid furnishings with pictures on them, as your child will quickly outgrow Winnie-the-Pooh or pastel flowers. Opt for white, off-white, wood, or a combination of wood with a colour. There are models available in combinations of two different wood colours, such as natural maple with blue stained wood.
  • If the room will have a desk, significant toy storage, or a television (with or without a small sofa or armchair), locate these items away from the sleeping area.
  • Make sure the lighting can serve each activity to be done in the room. Of course a good general light is required, and a lamp should be located on the night table for bedtime reading, a task lamp on the desk, and a soft, subtle nightlight placed to be functional. Instead of the traditional little nightlights that plug directly into the outlet, look at the "decorative lamps" that are now easily available in all different styles; they cast a soft, warm glow into the room without actually providing any real light.
  • Wall shelves are among the most practical things for a child's room. Perfect for storing some books; decorative items; stuffed animals; photos or artwork; neatly boxed toys or components for toys or arts and crafts…
  • The window(s) cannot be overlooked. Because kids tend to wake easily once some light starts to enter the room, your choice should have some sort of liner or other blackout feature. (For this reason you will also want window treatments that extend about 3 inches beyond each side of the window.) But at the same time, a room with no natural light can be confusing, especially to a young child who can't or doesn't think to read the clock. The most practical solution is to install a simple, neutral coloured blind or shade (such as horizontal blinds, pleated- or roller shades…), then hang a fabric valance, with or without side panels, to give the room a finished look.
  • Rugs, although warms and cozy, tend to be a bit of a problem in kids' rooms. For younger children, you'll want to keep in mind that toy cars, and other rolling toys and vehicles, will not work on a rug. There's also the issue of sand, which, even if shoes are off, tends to stick to socks until there is a nice clean rug for it to transfer itself onto. For the slightly older crowd, there might be concern for food and even eraser bits and pencil sharpener shavings if homework is done nearby. Spilled beverages and the inability to do a puzzle on a rug are concerns too. A good rule of thumb is that if the rug cannot be washed in the washing machine, it is not the right rug for a child's room.
  • Closet organizer systems are a must for any child's room. For younger children, they enable them to reach and put away their own things at an earlier age. For kids of all ages (and grown-ups too!) they provide some organization and order, allowing you to store much more in the same sized space. A two-tiered rod system with a couple of shelves is really all that's needed. If you (or someone you know) are handy, a homemade system can be perfect. Professionally done closet systems tend to be very costly and aren't necessarily beneficial in a child's room where the needs could change a couple of times before adulthood is reached.
  • Most importantly, children should always be given the opportunity to have a say about what will be done to their rooms. For younger children, simply show them two options and let them make the final choice. For older children you can almost sit back and relax while they make the choices with you only offering guidance and controlling the budget. Some children are not able to express or define what they like or want, or they just do not have the experience to even know what they would want. You will have to work a bit backward in this case, and start instead by making a list of what they do not like, then from what's left, ask leading questions like, "Do you prefer blue or green? Plaid or checkerboard?" and so on, until you're both happy.

Many children initially resist change in their bedrooms. This is normal and the best way to help them through it is to make them feel as though they are involved with the project. Reassure them by telling them that once the room is changed they might have room for a couple of their favorite toys (that are now in the playroom) in their room, and that you won't do anything without them knowing first, and so on.

For more on decorating children's rooms, a trip to your local library or bookstore will give you access to many wonderful books on the topic.

 
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