Safety Tips for Decorating Kids' Rooms

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©Ken Vaughn A comfortable sleeping area is child's room. pictures of kids decorations.

You may not be able to check off everything on your child's (or your own!) wish list, but there are a few key needs for each age-group that you should focus on.

Safety is an important issue to consid­er when decorating your child’s room. Therefore you should examine furniture, toys, paints, and fabrics before using them to decorate. Even the placement of your child’s bed in relation to the doorway is a decision in which safety comes into play.

The next few pages go into detail about what kind of precautions you should take when decorating your child’s room. These pages can be found here:

Safety Tips for a Baby's Nursery

Safety should be a main concern when decorating baby's first room. Learn decorating tips that keep your baby sleeping safe and sound.

Safety Tips for a Toddler's Room

Parents must watch out for those "terrible twos," when safety is a constant issue. Get decorating ideas that specifically cater to a toddler's needs.

Safety Tips for a Preschooler's Room

Safety Tips for a Grade-Schooler's Room

Safety Tips for a Preteen's Room

Safety Tips for a Teenager's Room

Decorating your teen's room is something you and your child can do together. Learn decorating ideas that accommodate your teen's sense of style and your need for a safe space.

On the next page, you'll find safety tips for your baby's nursery.

To get more decorating ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Baby's Nursery

A rocking chair makes it easier to spend more time with your baby, with is better for both the baby and you.

Babies' needs are crucial but simple: a safe nest to sleep in, a safe place to have diapers changed, and a comfortable spot for you to sit while feeding, cuddling, and rocking him or her. In fact, a comfy rocking or gliding chair is as important as a bed and changing table. Scientific research has shown that babies actually need a lot of cuddling in order to thrive, physically as well as mentally. If you are a new parent, you'll probably be tired and stressed, so make it as easy as possible to spend cheek-to-cheek time with your baby. You'll both be healthier!

Babies sleep most of the time, so a comfortable bed is a must. A bassinet or cradle may be charming, but it's only safe for a few months before babies start moving and rolling. If you do use a bassinet, be sure it's on a sturdy base that won't move. If you're using a cradle, make sure the cradle won't rock more than a few inches either way so that baby and all don't fall. A more practical solution may be a well-made crib; you can swaddle a young infant to give him or her the comforting sense of being in a smaller enclosure. (Don't fill the bed with stuffed animals and pillows, though. Except at playtime, confine the soft stuff to securely tied bumper pads and relatively thin blankets that won't pose a smothering hazard. Babies can often get themselves into situations they can't get out of!)

A changing table will get a lot of use, so be sure to get a good one. You can make a changing table out of a waist-high chest of drawers, but be sure you add a top with a low guardrail as well as a waterproof pad. A chest may be more versatile later, but it generally is not as safe and, therefore, not recommended. In addition, diapers and clothes will be easier to reach if you opt for a changing table with open shelves below. Choose a unit with a safety strap to go across baby's middle, or make sure you can get at things you need with one hand while keeping the other on your little wiggly worm at all times.

To aid with midnight feedings and diaper changing, use an overhead light on a dimmer that you can switch on from the door for your safety's sake. Choose a room-darkening shade to facilitate daytime naps.

When it's time to decorate walls, remember that, until they're between six and nine months old, babies can't see subtle colors and details. Black-and-white and other strongly contrasting colors work better as do simple patterns. A proven favorite is two dots and a curve within a circle that suggests human eyes and smiling mouth.

If you don't care for vivid color schemes, choose a pastel you'd like to use longer term and pair it with a dark or bright accent hue you can change when your child gets a bit older. Another option is simply to stick with more restful pastel hues throughout the room and provide visual stimulation with age-appropriate toys.

Although newborn babies' sight may be lacking, their hearing and sense of touch are almost fully developed at birth. Indulge them with safe toys in a variety of textures and soft melodic sounds. Crib toys and mobiles that move or play music will appeal to most babies as well as add attractive color and pattern to the room. Just make sure that any hanging toys your baby can reach are safe and that they do not have small detachable parts.

At toddler age, your child's reach will have increased a great deal. The next page explains decorating ideas that keep your toddler safe.

To get more decorating ­ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Toddler's Room

Lower shelves can stash toys where toddlers can easily reach them without climbing. Stylist: Amy Leonard. Manufacturer: The Glidden Company

Babies who are old enough to crawl, let alone toddle, are at their most challenging in terms of safety. At this stage they can perceive colors better than infants, but they still lack the ability to understand, say, a storybook scene on a wall.

Keep decorating ideas simple for awhile yet, and concentrate on making sure every square inch is clean and safe. For example, no hanging tablecloths, no exposed electrical outlets, no breakable or heavy items on tables and shelves, and no sharp corners on any furniture.

Tots making the transition from crawling to toddling will use any available vertical item to pull themselves up, so choose furniture pieces that are sturdy and stable.

For the inevitable tumbles, make sure floors are clean and resilient or softly covered with carpeting or rugs. If you don't have wall-to-wall carpeting, use slip-proof pads under every rug. Vinyl resilient tiles and wood flooring are more forgiving than ceramic tile or stone, but nonslip rugs can make a real difference on any floor.

Depending on how active or how tall your child is, you may want to make the transition to a low youth bed now. If there's even a chance your child can climb out of the crib, it's time to move on.

The next page provide­s safe decorating tips for when your child moves on to the preschool years.

To get more decorating ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Preschooler's Room

Storage space is essential to keep toys and clothes off the floor, and a fun furnishing like this chest will make putting things away child's play. Manufacturer: Straight Line Designs Inc.

Somewhere around age two, children start perceiving colors and details more and their ability to move around and explore is up and running full tilt. At this point, you can indulge yourself and your little one in decorations that feature storybook or cartoon characters, but don't invest a lot unless your budget is ample, as tastes change often at this age. Keep safety in mind, and avoid decorative items with small parts -- anything reachable will be subjected to a taste test!

If your child hasn't left the crib yet, now's probably the time. Youth beds are available in a variety of amusing forms, from sports cars to rocket ships, but their appeal may be limited and their quality is often questionable. If you don't like faddish toddler beds but are worried about putting your child into a full-height twin bed, a practical alternative is to simply put a good-quality twin box spring and mattress on the floor. For the year or two you'll be using it, this interim solution may be easiest. A colorful, washable comforter and bed linens make the look complete.

Toy storage is paramount at this age. Kids accumulate lots of playthings but are easily overwhelmed by even simple cleanup efforts. Make things easier on yourself and on them with lots of low, open storage bins, baskets, and shelves. Choose pieces with smooth surfaces and rounded corners for safety's sake. Under-the-bed storage drawers on wheels are another practical option to help keep less-used items available but not underfoot. A classic toy chest with a flat top can provide ample storage plus an extra play surface. (Just make sure to reinforce hinges and remove lock.) A low chest of drawers is usually sufficient for storing young children's clothes, but you may also want to provide a few low, rounded pegs to make quick work of hanging jackets, overalls, and robes. Hangers are a hassle for youngsters, so plan to hang dressy outfits yourself or provide extra pegs so kids can help.

At this age, children want to play wherever you are, so have some good-looking, easily accessible baskets for collecting toys that tend to end up all over the house. If you have the space, dedicate some low shelves for toys in the family room. If space is too limited, a couple of large handsome baskets stationed in the family room can make short work of cleanup.

In the family room or in their own rooms, children this age will happily play on the floor, so make sure it's still as clean and comfortable as when they were crawling and falling. Wall-to-wall carpeting offers great comfort but can take a beating with craft projects. Consider layering a washable rug or two, or use nonslip rugs on top of easy-to-clean resilient or wood flooring. (Don't use carpeting remnants over carpets or rugs; the rough burlap backing will damage the underlying carpet.) Avoid very dark or very light solid color rugs and carpets that show every spill and stain; opt for midtone hues with some gray, brown, or taupe undertones. For example, choose olive green instead of lime green, royal blue instead of baby blue, teal instead of turquoise blue, burgundy instead of bright red, and mauve or antique rose instead of pink. A strongly patterned rug in midrange jewel tones, including just about any Oriental rug, will hide stains even better and add timeless style.

A child-size table and chairs come into their own for this age-group. Charming affordable sets abound at ready-to- finish furniture shops, and pieces you customize now may be treasured for generations. A small table can become a lamp table later; small chairs work as timeless accessories to hold potted plants on the porch or a colorful stack of towels in the bath. If space or budgets are tight, a round-cornered end table and a footstool or ottoman can stand in as pint-size furniture, as long as the seat and table height are right. Let your child try it out: Make sure there's enough table surface to spread out projects and that the child's feet fully touch the floor.

To complete the room, station a small additional table at bedside to hold a lamp and storybook. A floor lamp is an alternative if space is tight, but be sure it has a heavyweight base to keep it from tipping over during boisterous play, and don't use halogen lights where children can reach them (they are dangerously hot).

Children ages two to five are mentally developed enough to have scary thoughts and feelings, but most still don't have the ability to distinguish real from fantasy information. Even if you are vigilant about protecting them from violent or menacing images on television shows and movies, little ones often find nighttime very frightening. To ensure adequate sleep, close closet doors, put on a small night-light, and provide a security blanket or another "lovie" to cuddle with. These usually count more than all the adorable accessories in the world.

Another scary step in your child's li­fe is starting school. The next page offers decorating ideas for a safe grade-schooler's room.

To get more decorating ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Grade-Schooler's Room

Instead of second berth below, the lower space of a loft bed can be used as storage drawers, bins, and shelves. Retailer: Gautier USA, Inc.

In the early grade-school years, roughly ages six to eight, children have more opinions on decorating ideas and can begin to articulate what they like in a way that you can use. The line between reality and fantasy is still blurred at this age, so you'll need to interpret and help them compromise. If your child wants a tree house to sleep in, a bunk bed customized with a trompe l'oeil rendering of leafy trees gives this childhood dream practical expression. The latest movie or cartoon hero plays big at this age, and all you may need is an easily strippable wallpaper border and a coordinating toss pillow to make the grade.

By age six, most kids are able to safely use bunk beds and loft beds, but be sure upper berths have safety rails on both sides and that the mattress sits well below the top of the rail. If space is tight, loft beds with storage and a desk configuration below make a clever solution kids will love. Because they're double-decker, you can usually fit two such structures into even a small shared bedroom.

Sleepovers start becoming important for young grade-schoolers, so consider how you'll accommodate these visitors. A trundle bed is ideal, but an inflatable air mattress or even a sleeping bag on an area rug will often do the trick. (Be sure to have a night-light in the bedroom and bath plus a lighted path to the bathroom for the comfort and safety of young guests.)

By age eight, most kids have outgrown their child-size table and chairs, so if you haven't put a desk and work chair in the room, it's probably time. Even if your child does most homework at the kitchen table or in the family room, he or she needs a dedicated study spot to stash paperwork and start responsible work habits.

Plan for a student desk and chair -- or a full-size desk and a chair that has a seat that can be raised -- plus a two-drawer file cabinet or equivalent storage. If your child will be using the computer anywhere in the house, make sure it's on a desktop that allows for comfortable, strain-free use. Kids have enough challenges sticking to a task without having to cope with premature aches and pains. In addition, good task lighting is essential to prevent eyestrain, so be sure to put a lamp at your child's desk and another at bedside.

Toys of all kinds proliferate more than ever at this age, and, now that the choking danger is past, you can expect to find tiny Lego blocks, Barbie shoes, and other miniature items migrating all over the house. More storage with more cubbyholes, drawers, and compartments really come in handy now, and you can be fairly inventive in your storage solutions. If you want kids to help with picking up, opt for good-looking open storage containers. For clothes as well as toys, systems that require neat stacking and folding may not work as well as those that allow items to be tossed into storage units. You might decide to choose your battles and be satisfied as long as they stash all similar items together -- off the floor.

To further clear out the clutter in a grade-schooler's room, kids this age might be willing to part with some of the toys, clothes, and collections from their younger years, but don't be surprised if they are a bit ambivalent. Giving to children in need may inspire some altruistic youngsters, while other kids will get excited if you hold a garage sale and let them keep the money made from their old toys and clothing. If all else fails, you can transfer your children's outgrown items to the attic or the basement for the time being. Remember: The important thing is to make more room for everyday living -- kid style.

When that transition from everyday kid to everyday preteen takes place, your child's room will likely need a change, as well. Get decorating ideas for a safe preteen space on the next page.

To get more decorating ide­as for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Preteen's Room

A girl who loves vibrant colors and patterns may use calendar pages, posters and photos to express her personal vision. Manufacturer: 3M

Children ages nine to 12 are at a crossroads between childhood and the teenage years. Bedroom decor becomes a major means of self-expression at the same time it becomes a significant way to gain peer approval. While toys are still important, hobbies, collections, electronic equipment, music, and clothes are much more so. Storage for all these items can be a challenge, but they can provide a basis for decorating, too.

Preteens and teens tend t­o want a real hand in decorating their rooms, so encourage them to express their individuality with displays of equipment, trophies, and decorative motifs that symbolize their accomplishments and interests. Just be sure to leave room for the usual celebrity posters and memorabilia, too.

One of the best gifts for a child this age is a large (22x26-inch or more) cork bulletin board, stylishly framed and covered in a kid-friendly fabric. Depending on your child's tastes, fabric depicting everything from rainbows to race cars can be used to cover a corkboard. For a more ageless, chic look, consider a leopard or zebra skin print, jewel-tone stripes, or another funky pattern that works with the room's color scheme.

At this age, bunk beds and other childish structures will probably fall out of favor. A bunk bed set that can be converted into two twin beds or a daybed that has a studio apartment look will probably meet their needs better. Girls may want a dressing table, student desks may be outgrown, and the open-bin storage units from earlier days may no longer handle the job.

If you've already purchased furniture with an eye to the future, a classic twin bed or a daybed with a trundle will do just fine. If not, now may be the time to buy a full-size (double) bed or a more grown-up-looking twin bed. Dressers and chests of drawers gain new importance as do hutches or bookcases with open shelving to display trophies and other treasures.

A full-size desk and an adjustable-height desk chair are essential now, as many preteens start preferring to do homework in their rooms. At this age, unsupervised Internet use can pose a danger, but a computer is likely to be a schoolwork necessity. You may want to designate your child's bedroom desk as the spot for paperwork and simple project typing and leave the Internet-connected computer in the family room. Wherever they work, kids of all ages need good task lighting positioned so that there is ample illumination on pages but no glare on the computer screen.

Preteens don't play on the floor much any more, but they still love to lounge there. If you've got the "no messy snacks in the bedroom" rule down pat, you may want to indulge your youngster in a new carpet now. New rug or not, a few big colorful floor pillows will be an instant hit with the after-school and sleepover crowd.

Most kids at this age are much more interested in clothes than ever before, but, unfortunately, they are seldom more interested in taking care of them. Plenty of drawers and cubbyholes or shelves can make it worth their while to be neater: With everything visible, it's easier and faster to put together outfits on those rushed school mornings. Hooks or pegs will still work better than hangers, but you can start making the switch now by offering some of each.

If you're waiting until your preteen is a little older to redecorate, you'll find safe decorating tips for teen bedrooms on the next page.

To get more decorating ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

Safety Tips for a Teenager's Room

Natural wood in a comtemporary style offers both cool and warm qualities. Retailer: Gautier USA, Inc

If you didn't redecorate your youngster's room during the preteen stage, you will probably want to do so now. Ideally, you and your teen can work together to create a look you're both happy with and one that can last awhile. For starters, new wall paint and a new bed ensemble can be had on most budgets. If the room needs adult-size furniture, good quality hand-me-downs can enjoy a new lease on life with custom refinishing. A computer armoire or a desk/hutch may be the only "new" pieces really needed; if so, ready-to-finish furniture stores offer pieces you can finish to coordinate with existing furniture pieces.

If your teen is the responsible type, new carpeting or area rugs also may be worthwhile now. For practicality's sake, you'll still want to skip the pastel velvety carpets in favor of a more robust variety in a tweedy midtone hue. Oriental-style rugs, with their jewel-tone patterns, give an opulent grown-up look and hide spills, too. For another adult touch, replace floor cushions and beanbag chairs with a small easy chair for a guest. The more the room looks like a hip studio apartment, the better most teens will like it. Not coincidentally, this approach will let the room do double duty throughout the college years, too.

Aside from a dramatic-looking bed, the best investment you can make for your teen, if the budget allows, is a professional closet-organizing system. A walk-in closet is a dream come true for most girls and many boys, but even if the closet is small, a professional system can make the very most of the space. If a closet consultant is outside the budget, check out the do-it-yourself racking and stacking systems available through home storage and organization specialty retailers.

Large framed cork bulletin boa­rds corral posters and other teen treasures; if you provided bulletin boards for your preteen, you may want to change the cover fabric and add an extra board or two. Teens have many of the same hobbies as preteens, but by now, they've also got serious levels of homework and lots of post-high school planning to do. Make it easy for them to build their futures from a safe place, right at home.

More than anything, a bedroom needs to be safe and secure. Keep these tips in mind when you're planning a room for your child, and you'll have both a comfortable kid and your own peace of mind.

To get more decorating ideas for your children's rooms, check out:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mary Wynn Ryan is the author of numerous interior design books including The Ultimate Kitchen, The Ultimate Bath, Cottage Style, Fresh Country Style, and Garden Style. She has written about home furnishings and interior design for various magazines and served as Midwest editor of Design Times magazine.

Heidi Tyline King is an accomplished writer and editor. She has written extensively about America's arts, culture, history, nature-based attractions, and decorating projects, including All About Paint and Wallpaper, Beautiful Wedding Crafts, Pelican Guide to the Florida Panhandle, The Unofficial Guide to the Southeast with Kids, and others.