Decorate Your Child's Bedroom for Back-to-School
Pixies frolic amongst toadstools. A fairy hovers on the ceiling. While it may be difficult for children to fall asleep with fairy dust in their eyes or to finish homework when their bedrooms are an enchanted forest, themed rooms are nothing short of magical. Fortunately, it doesn't take a magic wand to give your child's bedroom a new back-to-school feel.
Deb Mulvehill, owner of Pitter Patter Designs in Springfield, Ill., says wall murals generally last children seven years, but provide a lifetime of memories. "Make a room into a jungle and your child a part of the safari," she says. "Or have a fairytale castle painted with the words from a children's book to include the name of your child."
Ellen Cantor, an interior designer based in Torrance, Calif., advises parents to pick themes that grow with their children. Start with durable, neutral-colored furniture and add inexpensive accessories or disposable decor items, she says. "The most important thing is involving the child – even if he is 3 years old – with what he wants in the room," says Cantor, who has been in the interior design business for 21 years. "Find out if the child is interested in dinosaurs, the circus or trains. Then evaluate whether this is something he will be interested in for several years."
Play with fabrics, headboard designs and stencil drawings that can be changed as the child makes the transition from preschool to kindergarten.
Don't be seduced by cute decorative themes without thinking about the main purpose of a bedroom: a tranquil place for sleep. In order for children to get up when the alarm clock sounds, they need a restful night's sleep in a cozy bed without distractions. Consider a suspended bed canopy to create a dreamy, private recluse for the child.
Allocate a corner space, away from the bed, for the child to study. An alcove desk can be outfitted with a computer as well as the classic globe, microscope and telescope. Save the video game system for the family room. Children can keep occupied with educational software.
For most children, the bedroom doubles as a playroom. Envision a bedroom that can energize, excite and inspire during the day. When a child is 4 or 5 years old, his or her cognitive abilities are still growing. So don't give away the matchbox car wash with bubble-blower and motorized brushes or the Winnie the Pooh play set yet – these games enhance skills being taught in school.
If space allows, bring a circular table with chairs into the room to encourage social time. Label plastic bins or fabric-covered boxes with modeling clay, craft and painting supplies, puzzles and musical toys and keep the supplies in close reach.
Ready, Set, School!
Much of the back-to-school mindset revolves around routine. Laurie Wirtz of Waukee, Iowa, says her three daughters are always anxious for school to start and eager for it to end. Clearing clutter, streamlining the family routine and teaching her children basic organizational skills are a few of the ways Wirtz has been able to find balance.
Parents can create a paper management system for permission slips, books and papers. Wirtz has a master family calendar she keeps in the kitchen. "If their soccer schedules come home, I write the dates on the master calendar, and I take the roster and put it in their folder," Wirtz says.
Writing on the Wall
From Peter Rabbit and teddy bears to daisies, hearts and stars, the bedroom themes of Hannah, 10, Leah, 13, and 16-year-old Chelsea Wirtz evolved as they grew older. Wirtz hired Mulvehill to personalize the bedrooms.
Mulvehill painted Hawaiian flowers on the walls in Leah's room to match a tropical print comforter. Mulvehill says she finds girls generally like flowers.
Lavender is the most popular color for girls, surpassing even pink in popularity. Shabby chic has also come into style.
Storage is the key to a well-planned child's room. Mulvehill says a lot of items are taking on the look of school lockers. "TV stands, bookcases and general storage are all taking cues from metal school lockers," she says. "The beanbag is also back in style."
A child will be more apt to read a book if he or she can see the illustrations on the front cover, and many kids' bookcases are designed to show the face of books. Cantor suggests making the most of storage under the bed. Rolling bins or drawers that fit under a bed are ideal.
"Bedrooms are small and people don't have enough storage," Cantor says. "Parents should have things down at the level of the child so the child does not always have to ask the parent to get the toy out."