Designing Children’s Bedrooms

Homes where the children’s possessions and activities appear to spread through every room give a chaotic impression and can have the effect of limiting adults’ activities. Children themselves are usually happiest when their activity areas are clearly defined

Toddler to teenager

Choosing and planning a room for a child presents a number of problems and the problems will constantly change as the child grows older. In the long run, it will save money and time if parents anticipate the stages of their children’s development in planning furnishings and decoration.

In many cases, a single not very large room in the house has to function both as a bedroom and a playroom during the early years of the child’s life; indeed the toddler may share it with a brother or sister of like age. Later, the same room could become a study area too and, later still, it may grow into a bedsitter where the teenager entertains his friends.

Siting the room

There are several factors to be considered in deciding which room in the house is to be allocated to the children — assuming that you have some choice in the matter.

1 The proximity of the bathroom is an important factor. Children use the bathroom as much as any other member of the household. But door-closing and chain-pulling by the adults late at night can disturb a child’s sleep.

2 Proximity to parents must be considered too. Some children prefer their parents to be close at hand. On the other hand, for the sake of peace and quiet during playtime, some parents prefer to have the children out of earshot, even if this means frequent visits to the children’s room to ensure that all is well. This may present a dilemma.

3 The area immediately outside the child’s or children’s room is another important factor. With a young child, a room which leads immediately to the top of a stairway will almost inevitably be the cause of an accident sooner or later and you may need to consider the erection of a safety gate barring the top of the stairs

4 Landing windows which can be easily opened by the child are a danger point too.

5 Ideally, if the room serves as a play area by day as well as a bedroom at night, there should be as direct access to it as possible from the front door and garden. Boisterous 10-year-olds rampaging in and out of the house are bound to leave untidy traces of their trail if for example, they have to pass through their parents’ bedroom or the study to reach their own room. If the house has the space, a ground floor rumpus room separate from the children’s bedroom could solve the problem.

Planning the layout

Having decided which room in the house the child should occupy, carry out the usual room-planning task of measuring the room exactly and drawing a plan to scale on squared paper. Mark in the windows, door, electrical points and other features.

This is the stage at which you decide what internal alterations can be made to improve the room, such as taking out or putting in shelving, blocking up a fireplace or partitioning a large room into two smaller areas. Again working to scale, draw out shapes to represent beds, chairs, cupboards and juggle them around on the plan to determine how they can be best positioned. Checklist. Planning a child’s room, particularly if it is to serve dually as bedroom and playroom, demands both foresight and different values from those you follow when planning other rooms in the house. Here is a summary of points you should consider before furnishing and equipping the room.

1 An elegant or stylish room, fastidiously projecting the decorative theme of the rest of the house, will prove alien territory for the child. The child’s room should be scaled to the child — robust, flexible and fun: “taste” in adult terms is irrelevant.

2 It must be hard-wearing. This applies equally to surfaces, coverings, fitments and furniture, even allowing that it is sensible to consider much of the contents of the room as fairly rapidly expendable.

3 Desirably it should “grow” with the child. If you fit or buy a wall table for games or homework, think 10 years ahead: then a teenage daughter might accept it as a dressing table.

4 Above all, the child’s room must be safe. Safety precautions go beyond safe lighting, heating and windows — the more obvious ones. They include avoidance of flammable materials, anything that, misused by a child, would have toxic effects and sharp or jagged edges and corners on fitments and furniture.

Furnishing

The new baby. Painted, scaled-down furniture, while often very pretty, is not really a wise buy. The storage space is soon going to be inadequate for the child’s needs and it is unlikely to suit his tastes as he grows older. It is far better to choose full-sized pieces from the outset which have a reasonable chance of being acceptable in the same room for about 10 years or more.

Basically, the only furniture a nursery needs is a cot, a comfortable chair for the mother, a commodious cupboard and perhaps a table which can be used for changing and dressing the baby. The table needs to be good-sized and not too high. It can be moved out once the child is big enough to be dressed on the knee.

Wicker baskets, Moses baskets or carry cots will last the baby for about three months, unless you are able to obtain a really large one, about 4 ft by 2 ft (say 1.2 m by 61 cm). This, if it can be found, will last a baby until he is almost a year old. Wicker baskets on stands are particularly good because they look attractive and are light to carry. They are useful for small homes, where a single bedroom may have to sleep both parents and baby. The basket can be lifted off the stand after the baby is asleep and moved into another room for the night.

However, it may be better to consider buying a good sized drop-sided cot from the outset. One kind has an adjustable and extendable mattress and this will last a child until he is 10 years old.

Beds.

If more than one child is going to share the room, bunk beds are by far the most practical and most children love them. Even for a single child, the second bunk provides an opportunity for a friend to stay the night. Some types of bunks can be dismantled to make normal beds, particularly useful if the child’s room is likely to be used as a spare bedroom some time in the future.

Stacking beds are an alternative to bunk beds. They can be obtained in units of two or three, each one sliding under the other during the day to give additional play space. These, too, will adapt to normal beds if required.

Storage.

Capacious wardrobes can still be obtained fairly cheaply. Once you have stripped and painted them, they will make ideal cupboards for the child’s room. The insides can be partitioned and shelved according to need and altered as the child grows older. Built-in cupboards are better, particularly if there are alcoves because they enable the room to be kept more or less square, freeing open space in the centr’e. Pre-planned units, linked by colour and style, can be purchased for all kinds of built-in furniture and they are easy to erect. Large cupboard units can be built up from two or three single units. Upper sections of cupboards are useful for storing bedding etc. The lower sections can be divided vertically for toys on one side in cubicle shelves with space on the other side for hanging clothes and for open shelves. The arrangement is adaptable as the child grows and needs perhaps more space for clothes and some for sports gear rather than toys. Deep drawer units can be made to fit under beds most conveniently with small castors fitted on the drawers. These are good for storing extra bedclothes or even clothes. Most clothing for children can be stored flat and need not be hung up.

Besides a big cupboard, smaller storage units will usually be required in the child’s room. A play box on wheels is useful; shelves are needed for books; box-shelves will display toys and models. You need little skill to make all these yourself. A desk and chair or a worktop and chair are essential.

Some manufacturers make furniture especially for children in laminated fibreboard or corrugated cardboard. The basic furniture can be painted with bright-coloured paints or decorated with transfers. While it should not be expected to last forever, the furniture will stand up to a great deal of rough wear.

Decoration

Children s rooms need decorating more often than almost any other room in the house. Walls particularly come in for very hard treatment. They will be scribbled upon with ballpoints, felt-tips and crayons; they will have things glued to them, pinned to them and stuck on with Sellotape. They will inevitably be covered in dirty finger marks. Large toys will be banged into the corners and the paintwork of doors and skirting is going to be scarred and chipped.

To anticipate the graffiti, plan for a scribbling area on one wall, from the wainscoting upwards for about 3ft (say 1 metre). Hang a piece of hardboard on battens and paint it with blackboard paint. Plan, too, to build a pinboard at a convenient height and supply it with a number of pins with coloured ball tops. This will encourage the children to pin up their pictures, posters, birthday cards, paintings — and save the walls from depredation. The same pinboard will pro- bably be still in service when the children are older, being used for pin-ups and for school sports schedules. Paint the board a bright colour to match the décor or leave it subdued in hue to show off the items it displays, which are likely to be garish.

The area around the bed can be papered with an attractive wallpaper, either washable or treated with a plasticised spray to give it a longer life, or with an easily washable vinyl wall-covering. Wallpaper designs for children include scenes from favourite stories, animals, villages, trains, spacemen. You might encourage the child to choose his own paper. His taste may not be yours but he will probably like it better if he chose it himself.

The rest of the walls can be painted with emulsion paint or eggshell finish paint. The latter is probably better because, although emulsion is more easily given a clean-up coat, eggshell resists the stains of crayons etc and is more easily washed

Flooring

There is not really a great deal of choice when it comes to choosing floorings for children’s rooms. Ideally, the surface should be warm to the touch, not be too noisy in use, be easy to clean and very hardwearing. Carpet is soft and warm but inevitably it is going to have paint spilled on to it have crayon and plasticine trodden into the pile and generally be a difficult surface to clean. Even corded carpets hardly make the grade in a child’s room. Wood floors may be pleasantly warm to sit on but they must be absolutely splinter-free and you must be prepared for a periodic sanding and sealing. A fair amount of polishing will be required, too, to keep the surface looking good. Wooden floors conduct a lot of noise in a room that will generate more than its fair share. Rugs should never be used in children’s play areas. Not only do they cause accidents, particularly to smaller children, but they are too conveniently to hand for games and become playthings.

Vinyl and cork are probably the best alternative choices for the floor of the child’s room. Both are warm to the touch and hard-wearing and, at the same time, easy to keep clean. A wide range of patterns and colours are available and many of them, if chosen carefully, will last the room until it is being used by a much older child. Vinyl floor-covering will stand up to the spills and messes — and the series of frequent cleanings necessitated — that are inseparable from a baby’s early days.

Heating

Babies need a constant room temperature of between 65-70 deg F (18-21 deg C) for the first few months. If the house is not centrally heated, this is best achieved with an electric thermostatically controlled heater. The same form of heating will suit the room as the child grows older.

Older children do not need as high a room temperature at night as that advisable for babies. Windows which will open wide to admit fresh air are not indispensable. A ventilator set high up into a window pane will provide adequate ventilation and air change. Louvred windows are best if they can be fitted; they provide both safety and adeowiw air supply.

SAFEGUARDS FOR CHILDREN

1 Any floor-level gas or electric fire in a child’s room must have a strong fireguard permanently in position.

2 Radiant or fan heaters must

be fixed high enough to be out of children’s reach.

3 Electric plugs should be flush to the wall and sockets should be fitted with safety covers.

4 If the windows are openable, lock them, fix a grill on their inside or fit them with a special catch that will prevent their being opened too far for safety.

5 Cover any large areas of glass with wire mesh or replace it with clear plastic substance.

6 Remove locks and bolts frr n the inside of the door.

7 Pressures on the family bathroom may lead you to consider installing a washbasin in the children’s room. Postpone this until the children have grown beyond finding water an attractive plaything.

8 Avoid:

  • Trailing flex;
  • Flammable materials;
  • Toxic materials;
  • Slippery surfaces;
  • Sharp or jagged areas on furniture and fitments.

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