Toddler Bedroom Decorating Ideas

Bill Matthews These pretty, white-painted pieces evoke the romance of a Victorian porch at teatime. Seat cushions with big bows add the perfect finish. Retailer: Lauren Alexandra.

Little ones who are past the baby stage but not yet grade-school age are what many parents find the most delightful and challenging time of childhood. At this stage, they're mobile, but they aren't aware of dangers. Even if you tell them a dozen times, they have to be on the older side of this age group to remember safety rules.

Toddlers and preschool­ers are fully engaged with exploring the real world, but the border between what's real and what's imaginary is often blurred in their minds. Their perceptions are developing at warp speed, so they're often more easily frightened as well as more easily delighted than younger children are. The best rooms for toddlers and preschoolers celebrate the delightful aspects of this magical age. At the same time, they keep up with the challenges posed by curious, active little ones.


Toddlers and preschoolers have a lot in common -- especially their energy levels. But there are differences. One of the most important is that toddlers are not really able to appreciate complex visuals. If you have your heart set on elaborate wall murals or other detailed artwork, know up front that you will probably enjoy them well before your little one will. You may opt to wait until your child is a preschooler or even a bit older. On the other hand, you'll be spending a lot of time in your son or daughter's room, so if the decorating scheme makes you happy, that feeling will be communicated to your child.

If you decide to wait until your child is three or four, you can go all out with a favorite storybook theme both of you can enjoy, but you may still want to use a bit of caution. Expensive trompe l'oeil hand-painting rendered on a canvas or board and protected with polyurethane can be enjoyed for awhile and, when it's outgrown, saved for the next generation. If your youngster clamors for some cartoon image you expect will be a temporary thing, you may opt for posters and low-cost pictures. Tape up a few, or spring for colorful, inexpensive frames with clear acrylic instead of glass.

Whether you use hand-painted artworks or low-cost posters, do keep in mind that kids at this age don't know for sure what's real and what's imaginary. Stick with the happy, gentle aspects of classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and exercise even more caution with today's cartoon and movie characters. What may be exciting or merely interesting to a bigger child can be very frightening to a little one, especially if it's on view at bedtime.

Unless you and your child are truly smitten with some motif, you may find, as many parents do, that a design that merely suggests a theme may prove more appealing, longer. A forest, a beach, or another nature scheme is a surefire winner with both girls and boys and can serve as a background for a great variety of imaginative scenarios.

Bill Matthews Full-length curtains get extra punch from contrast-edging and trims. A chaise lounge in four fabrics is as artful as the painted floorcloth underfoot.

Even more versatile is a room scheme based simply on cheerful color combinations and patterns. With this approach, tomorrow's favorite toys and collectibles will fit in as easily as today's. In fact, since most kids don't make a clean break from one phase to the next, an easygoing design based on color will let several eras and enthusiasms coexist peacefully.

We're all more comfortable when a room physically fits the way we function, but when the occupant is a toddler or preschooler, the stakes are much higher. Because they're hardwired to learn about (that is, explore) their world as fast as possible, little ones can be in danger wherever their curiosity takes them, even at home. It's a good idea to accept that physical safety is up for grabs just about all the time with most toddlers, and things only get relatively easier with preschoolers.

You can hire a service to come to your home and childproof it or do a little research on your own to learn basic safety precautions. This article lists many of these precautions, but you may also want to "walk through" your space and put yourself at your child's level -- literally.

Admittedly, "kidproofing" isn't as much fun as decorating. But the bonus of making your home safe for a toddler or preschooler is that the rest of the family is likely to be safer, too. After all, antiscald devices in showers, nonslip rug pads and other common-sense tips make sense for everybody, don't they?

But form can follow function and still be fantastic, as you'll see in the delightful decorating ideas on the following pages.

Fabric Fair Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Once you've got all the elements of a room, this idea shows you how to tie them together.

Castle Keep Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

This idea will make your young boy feel like a king, in his castle furniture.

Feminine Charms Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Use this idea to make your girl feel at home in her room through her toddler years and far beyond.

Step Right Up Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Children's imaginations can transport them to the circus with a little help from this idea.

Garden Bright Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

This idea blooms into a decor that goes far beyond mere flowers.

Girlhood Charm Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Your active young daughter can stay connected to her feminine side thanks to this idea.

Princess in Residence Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

This idea blurs the lines between furniture and theater for your little girl.

Fairy-Tale Forest Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Your child can step out of bed and into an enchanted forest with this idea.

Raring to Go Toddler Bedroom Decorating Idea

Begin on the next page with a design that uses colorful fabrics to create a look that will be loved by a young girl.

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Bill Matthews Layered lightweight cotton print fabrics give a blithe, countrified air to a charming four-poster bed. Designer: Pamela DiCapo. Retailer: Lauren Alexandra.

Pretty, scalloped furniture pieces are the stock in trade of juvenile bedroom groups for girls.

Bill Matthews Details on a little desk are picked out in paint, and a simple wood chair gets comfy with cushions and cheerful bows.

But once you've found the necessary bed, dresser and desk, then what?

This beguiling room shows just how much further you can take a look with the right mix of paint and fabrics. The effect is captivating, thanks to a wonderful color palette and loving attention to dressmaker details.

A scheme of chartreuse, pink, and white creates a lighthearted ambience. Bigger furniture is off-white with pretty lines; small accessories of knotty pine are enhanced with custom-painted treatments.

What's really special is the sprightly mix of simple cotton fabrics and trim. Small-, medium-, and large-scale prints are used lavishly, but they're balanced for visual harmony and united by a shared color scheme.

The result? Springtime, year-round.

To go from springtime to medieval times, check out the castle decorating idea on the next page.

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little boy’s bedroom
little boy’s bedroom
A room-height castle complete with whimsical guards makes this

If your youngster is blessed with a good-size bedroom and you've got a connection with some talented craftspeople, the sky's the limit when it comes to imaginative design.

A castle-style storage unit features lots of kid-size drawers plus cubbyholes for fast work of straightening up.

This lucky youngster's room is a total fantasy environment. It's practical, too: Just about every medieval castle element leads a double life as a storage unit.

To create a similar effect, a go­od understanding of the historical architectural icons that say "castle" is useful. This is, after all, a little boy's room, where bold and simple shapes work best.

Start with a big, kid-friendly idea, plan it out in detail, and you'll have a room memories are made of.

If you're looking for a space designed specifically for girls, check out the Feminine Charms idea on the next page.

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enrich the look
enrich the look
Henry Biber Simple details, such as the whimsical bed skirt and practical door gate,

Wallcoverings and fabrics make it easy to create a lighthearted, girlish look in any bedroom, as these pretty spaces show.

Coordinating wallpaper and fabric patterns lets you celebrate the “bear” essentials throughout your child’s room. Manufacturer: Brewster Wallcovering Co.

Whether you prefer a clean contemporary

palette or a softly antiqued one, pastel florals, stripes and plaids create simple charm.

To give a girlish scheme a little extra

substance, ground it with a piece of interesting furniture with good lines, some eye-catching details and perhaps an heirloom background.

In the rooms shown here, that job is done by

an elaborately scrolled daybed and a

weathered armoire with latticed doors.

Pieces like these have staying power that can last until your girl heads off to college and can be just as charming in a guest room later.

All children love the circus, which is

represented in the decorating idea found

on the next page.

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Barn red, slate blue and tawny brown shades leap from the walls onto the room’s furnishings. Designer: Mark Wilkinson.

The circus has alwa­ys been a popular theme for a child's room, but this interpretation is more dramatic and sophisticated than most.

Simple yet comfortable, this furniture withstands climbing kids in style.

A masterful mural that ranges around the room is an extraordinary piece of art that doesn't rely on bright colors for its drama.

Befitting the rich, relatively quiet palette, the furniture is also something special. A fusion of Craftsman, Asian and modern styles, these pieces are strikingly handsome yet sturdy enough for active kids.

If you appreciate the timeless, resilient appeal of classic wood, metal and cloth toys, you'll find it satisfying to furnish your treasured little one's room with the same kind of heirloom quality.

Years from now, you'll still be glad you did. Your child and grandchild might be glad, too!

Another theme very common to children is the garden. Find out how to bring that concept to your toddler's room on the next page.

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Bradley Olman The floral graphics are fun if subtle, but the pint-size armchairs really give this room its one-of-a-kind flair. Designer: Terri Ervin, INTERIORS by Decorating Den.

Fresh-picked charm abounds in this lively room, thanks to a lime and aqua color scheme that can please your girl for a long time.

With the exception of a few floral graphic treatments, this is not a flowery space. Plaids and checks in frisky tints create a look that's feminine but cool and sporty at the same time.

The room takes a casual tongue-in-cheek approach to garden style, with amusing results. A few giant flowers on the walls and floor, larger-than-life dragonflies at the window, and window boxes filled with whimsical wooden blooms set the stage with charm.

playroom hideaway
playroom hideaway
Bradley Olman This large walk-in closet under the eaves makes a charming

A surprising mix of wicker and leather-upholstered furniture adds punch to this confident, cheerful space.

Active young girls might prefer the strong-but-feminine touches of the Girlhood Charms theme, found on the next page.

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and very clever.
and very clever.
Bill Matthews A house-shape bed with a cubbyhole/dollhouse footboard is charming, cozy

A pastel palette of the lightest greens, pinks, yellows and blues -- all frosted in white -- gives these bedrooms a gentle feminine feeling.

A closer look, however, shows that these spaces have been planned with the needs of active young girls in mind. Furniture is scaled for little ones, beds are free of pointed posts or other dangerous elements, and there's plenty of storage for all her favorite things.

What's more, while the look is undeniably girlish and delicate, it's not overly fragile. Patchwork and checked fabrics, knotty pine that's been painted and distressed, and nostalgic accents all contribute to a sturdy country look.

Bill Matthews Old-fashioned elements such as a daisy-top table, an Adirondack chair, and a ball fringe on the bed skirt help create nostalgic appeal. Designer: Pamela DiCapo. Retailer: Lauren Alexandra.

You'll find cute pieces like these in ready-to-finish furniture stores and resale shops as well as kids' specialty retailers.

Every girl likes to feel like­ a princess. The next page shows you how to make her feel like one in her room.

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Recalling Cinderella’s enchanted pumpkin turned coach, this marvelous little nest cuddles a young lady in comfort and style. Designer: Mark Wilkinson.

Pink ruffled curtains are a familiar sight in little girls' rooms, but that's just the beginning in this marvelous space.

On the walls, murals feature magical ponies and ballroom swags, and the ceiling's rosette is embellished with faux tassels.

A ceiling-height castle is beautifully detailed for maximum charm. Inside, it’s a storage unit for toys and clothes.

Within the room, beautifully made wood furnishings blur the line between furniture and theater. Each piece is thoughtfully designed to evoke fairy tale ideas, but each is also crafted for simplicity and safety.

While white furniture is a popular choice for young girls' rooms, this room shows that's not always necessary to create a feminine feeling. Paired with pink, rosy red and gold, the warmth of natural wood has its own allure. In the right hands, it's downright magical.

Every princess needs ­a fairy tale. Find out how to build one into your toddler's room on the next page.

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A pretty, Gothic-style window gets the royal treatment, but the use of simple checked fabric keeps the mood light. Designer: Mark Wilkinson.

An encha­nted forest figures importantly in many beloved fairy tales, so it's no wonder stepping into this room evokes a magical feeling.

A glorious mural, depicting castles, mountains, wildflower fields and garland-twined trees, runs ceiling to floor around the entire room.

Against this background, an armoire out of Beauty and the Beast, a Goldilocks bed and other charming elements make this space a dream come true for an imaginative youngster.

A cottage-style chair cozies up to a well-made little vanity that’s pretty but not pretentious. A wicker hamper stashes dirty clothes in style.

The room has been decorated to please a girl, but, with a change of bedding, window treatments and rugs, it would work just as well for a budding Robin Hood.

Well-constructed wood furniture is key: It's got the timeless charm you'd expect to find in a storybook cottage, but it's sturdy enough for real life today.

Of course, a young boy also might prefer a classic racetrack theme. Find out how to execute this concept on the next page.

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Adrian Mendoza A wall becomes a play surface when areas are covered in Velcro hook and loop fasteners. Designer: Julia Dutton Haidlen, ASID, J. Haidlen Design Associates. Architect: Scott Meyers, DelValle Homes.

Lots of little guys are crazy for vehicles -- especially race cars. If you've got car-loving kids at home, why not indulge them?

This room's winning formula starts with primary colors plus black and white -- all eye-catching colors with proven kid appeal. Then, it features an array of race car motifs to spark added excitement.

Each area of the room carries the theme to triumph. For example, a ho-hum view didn't stop the action: An over-the-top valance uses bright high-contrast colors and dashing shapes to give kids plenty to look at.

The view outside this bedroom is of a neighbor’s wood fence, but that doesn’t matter a bit when the window valance is this exciting.
The view outside this bedroom is of a neighbor’s wood fence, but that doesn’t matter a bit when the window valance is this exciting.
Adrian Mendoza

An ordinary wall is transformed into fun topography that adds visual interest but actually works as a miniature "roadway." A few big gestures like these makes a dramatic difference in how a room looks.

Toddlers have vivid imaginations. Using the ideas in this article, you'll be able to transport your young boy or girl to a magical play place every time they enter their room.

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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.