As stylish as a minimalist design theme might look, it's just not right for kids bedrooms. Bedrooms — and the play and sleep that happen in them — are essential for a child's development, and these spaces should reflect that importance.
In our recent Parents' Guide to Better Sleep, we discussed ways to help get the kids off to bed, from planning a routine to dealing with excuses — and we touched on the importance of creating the ideal space. In this guide, we'll expand on the best way to create a child's bedroom that is both fun and functional, and aids development too.
Adaptable and space-conscious
Think of a child's bedroom in the same way you might think of their clothes — their tastes will change by the day, and they'll readily outgrow anything you buy them! Kids are also hyperactive by nature, readily hopping from one activity to the next before discovering the engrossing subject that will occupy them for the rest of the day.
A bedroom needs to reflect this, so consider décor and furnishings that can adapt to a child's needs. However, children's bedrooms often have to fit into a home's smaller rooms, so this furniture needs to be space-saving too.
Cabin beds and high sleepers, with storage underneath for toys, or the potential for pull-out desks and extendable sections for sleepovers are a great way to ensure your child's room can transform to meet their needs. Add canopies and covers to provide safe zones to hide out and be alone in — alone time is very important for kids — or the option for some den-building fun! Under-bed storage is an ideal way to ensure kids still have plenty of floor space to stretch out and play in, too.
As Thomas David and Carol Weinstein write in Spaces for Children: The Built Environment and Child Development environments have direct impacts on children in many ways, and a key one is in the way they facilitate some activities, and obstruct others. A bedroom that is too cramped, or unable to accommodate the ways a child wants to play because of the furniture chosen, can be limiting.
Detox from tech
Children today have access to a much wider range of technology than previous generations, and it can be tempting to kit your kids out with the latest gadgets for their rooms. Whether it's a TV with a Wii U underneath, a laptop for school work, or even a smart phone, many parents use gadgets as a sign of trust, a birthday gift, or perhaps a reward for doing well in school. As technology becomes more ubiquitous, and essential to both education and future careers, it's important that children learn to use it well from a young age.
However, both research psychologists and the NHS say that too much tech in the bedroom can be harmful, as the light from screens and gadgets delays the sleepy hormone melatonin. So in addition to distracting kids from going to bed, screens can also keep them awake long after they've switched off. lt's true for adults as well as children, but the important role sleep plays in child development means that kids need time away from screens all the more. And, of course, if TVs, computers and phones are kept out of the bedroom, their usage can be monitored a little more closely.
Colour psychology isn't a new idea at a — researchers have been looking at the effects colour can have on children's behaviour since the 1980s. Sort of scarily, as this New York Times article from 1982 suggests, research started in child detention centres — but the implications spread far wider, leading to a reconsidering of colour schemes in hospitals and schools across the US.
Even as adults, the effects of colour are obvious. We find certain shades calming or peaceful, and other colours conjure up different feelings — red for anger is the most common example, but depending on the shade and context it is also associated with love, warmth and comfort.
Pink has generally been found to be calming, as has blue — although blue can also create feelings of sadness. Many parents seeking to avoid the typical gender stereotypes of pink and blue often choose yellow as a more neutral choice but, as Kendra Cherry writes for About.com due to the amount of light yellow reflects, it can actually be tiring for our eyes to look at. Babies supposedly cry more in yellow rooms, so perhaps it's not the best choice for a nursery after all.
Green on the other hand, can be a peaceful, calming colour thanks to its nature associations, and has also been shown to aid reading ability.
A good mix of colours — perhaps different areas decorated in contrasting shades — could be the best way to ensure your kids are surrounded by colours that will inspire and suit any mood.
Some may argue that a child's bedroom should be a place for sleeping, free of distractions, and that play should happen in a separate space. Associating a room with sleep will naturally make a child more ready to sleep when they enter it. However, many homes don't have the space required for a separate playroom and bedroom. One answer for families with multiple children is to have a shared bedroom and separate playroom, but advice from paediatricians suggests that shared bedrooms aren't always the best idea as children of different ages will have different sleep cycles, and may disturb each other. Similarly, it is also harder for children to assert their ndependence if they don't have a space that is purely their own.
Still if you do have the space for a separate playroom, it's essential to keep it organised. The Child Development Institute is keen to highlight the importance of not letting clutter get out of hand. It's safer for children, and also sets up good habits for later in life.
The child-centred approach, always
The most important thing to think of when designing a child's bedroom is always their needs. You may have a keen eye for décor, but at the end of the day, a child's bedroom is their space — probably the only space in the whole home that is just for them — and it i s essential for them to feel like they have some control over it. Make sure you discuss what your child wants out of their bedroom with them — you may have to reign in some more lavish ideas (not every home can handle a pirate ship bed), but making sure your children's desires are heard will lead to happier play, happier sleeping, and a happier home.