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.