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.