x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Big ideas for little ones

When it comes to children's tastes, the only constant is change, but there are simple and inexpensive ways to create fun, comfortable, safe spaces for your children to thrive in, writes Rin Hamburgh.

Illustration by Sarah Lazorovic
Illustration by Sarah Lazorovic

You might think that a few primary colours and a small bed are enough to define a child’s room, but it will actually require a lot more thought than that if you want to create a place where your young ones will be able to work, rest and play in comfort, safety and style.

A question of colour

Many parents automatically slot into the “pink for girls, blue for boys” tradition, but do you really want to gender stereotype your child when there are so many other fantastic options available? Bold, contrasting colours work particularly well for babies who haven’t yet developed keen eyesight – but steer clear of yellow, which studies have shown makes infants cry more. If you want to avoid constant repainting, leave walls neutral and instead add colour in your textiles and accessories. Instead, brighten up the walls using stickers, which are a great option for adding interest as they can be peeled off once they’re no longer en vogue. Likewise, blackboard paint can turn one section of a wall into a noticeboard or art space that can be updated daily and very personally.

Style matters

Whether your child likes rockets, butterflies, lorries or farmyard animals, it’s tempting to create a shrine to their favourite things. But remember that children’s tastes change rapidly, and what’s in today may well be out tomorrow. That’s not to say you can’t theme – just make sure the more expensive items are classic in style, and use inexpensive accessories such as posters, ornaments or cushions to bring in the theme. Textiles such as bedding and curtains are another place where your children can express their taste, but again, if you’re going for something very themed, don’t spend too much on it – it might not be there long.

Don’t forget the floor

It’s not something that people often consider when it comes to kids’ rooms, but flooring is incredibly important. While carpet may be soft and welcoming, it also gets dirty and damaged very quickly. Hard-wearing and stain-proof should be your watchwords when making flooring choices: wood or vinyl/lino with a comfy (and, more importantly, washable) rug is a good compromise, but make sure it has a non-skid backing. Or you can choose a more modern material such as rubber, which is both soft and tough. Cork is another good option, and will make an excellent underlay if you want to lay carpet later on. If you do want to stick to carpet, choose a tight weave in a dark colour or something speckled, as these won’t show the dirt quite as much.

Choosing the right bed

Beds are naturally an important component of any bedroom, and particularly for a child’s space – after all, you don’t need any more arguments about going to sleep. Chose a sturdy bed that will stand up to a boisterous little one, and go for the best possible mattress quality you can afford. If your toddler is about to graduate from a cot, there’s no reason why he or she shouldn’t go straight into an adult single rather than a toddler’s bed – it will save you money in the long run. Bed guards will help both of you feel more secure. If you want to make the most of floor space, why not consider a raised bed with a study area or even cupboards below? Bunk beds are great when there are two in a room, or if your child enjoys lots of sleepovers.

Furniture for the future

As with beds, it’s tempting to get “child-sized” wardrobes, chest of drawers and so on, but why invest in something that will be redundant in a couple of years? While certain items may need to be tailored to your little one’s size, for others it’s really not necessary. By choosing the larger size, you’re free to buy the best quality you can afford, knowing it could last until your offspring heads off to college. On that same theme, wooden furniture is useful, not only because it is sturdy but also because it can be painted and repainted to accommodate changing tastes.

Don’t scrimp on storage

There is only one rule when it comes to storage in children’s rooms: there’s no such thing as too much. Think of all those toys, clothes, books and school equipment, then factor in that children tend to err on the side of messy, and you’ll agree that putting everything in its place needs to be as easy as possible. If you dislike clutter, choose drawers and cupboards over open shelving, as the mess can be shut away, or at least use colourful storage boxes. It doesn’t matter if the room is relatively small; there are all sorts of clever options available. Under-bed drawers are particularly good, as they make the most of otherwise “dead” space. And don’t forget a few hooks, for hanging up stray items.

Tips for safety

Don’t forget to ensure that your child’s room is safe as well as stylish. Windows should have locks, for example, while doors should not. Fit covers on electrical sockets, and ensure any trailing wires are tucked out of the way where they can’t be tripped over. Bed guards are useful – essential on bunks – while some furniture may need to be screwed to the wall or floor if it’s likely to topple should a child clamber up on it. It’s also worth thinking about toxicity, for example in any paint you might use. Your safest bet is to choose an organic based paint with no volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde.

Get them involved

Although you, as the adult, do need to have final say – certainly in terms of quality, price and so on – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t let your little one have a hand in decorating his or her space. This will give them a sense of belonging and ownership, and who knows, maybe it will even help get them to bed at night. To make things easier, you could select three or four options that you’re satisfied with, and let them choose from those. Or you choose the furniture and let them have their way with the bedding, within a certain budget. Remember, the idea is to create an environment that is comfortable for them, and even though they’re little, they probably already have an opinion on how best to achieve this.