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May 1999 Issue
YIKES! Decorating with Tots & Tykes
by Jenny Wojcik
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It seems that when spring comes, I wax poetic, get spring fever and a tad crazy. And in keeping with tradition, I’m going out on a limb by telling you that you should let your kids decorate their own rooms.

Still with me? No, I haven’t lost my reverence for your homes nor have I sniffed too much paint. I’m serious. While I don’t expect you to physically let them decorate (alone), I do advocate involving them in the process. Obviously, some of your children may be too young to voice an opinion, but I assure you that when given an opportunity - even if it’s "no, no, no" or "get real" (which means no, no, and no) - they will provide you with an opinion.

My youngest grandson adores race cars. To him, there is no greater thing on this earth. Approaching the ripe old age of 4, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up he answers without hesitation - "a race car driver." His favorite pajamas, his favorite "big boy" underwear, his favorite toys -- all racecar related. So when it came time to decorate his room, his mom bought him a racecar bedspread. Grandma and her neighbors contributed to the theme with a life-sized standup of a racecar driver and a NASCAR flag or two.

Knowing what I’ve just shared with you, I dare say none of you would ask me why his room is decorated in a racecar theme. And that’s the whole point. He loves it. It’s his room - his space - and things that bring pleasure into his little life surround him. This same little guy started out his life and his room with primary colors. And as he grew and lived and played, his mother simply paid attention. (All I have to talk his mother into now is a red steel "toolbox" to use as a chest of drawers!)

Each child is different -- even identical twins exhibit different preferences. And whenever possible, each child’s space should be as individual as they are. I know it isn’t always cut and dried, but it is easy to watch a toddler’s behavior and see what s/he likes and dislikes.

A "theme" can be created from most anything. As you recall, a collection is 3 or more of the same (type) things: photos, race cars, teapots, whatever. To create a theme, simply decide what your child loves most and then accessorize the room using items that relate to that pastime, character or thing. Keep a playful attitude when it comes to a child’s room, involve them and you may find that you and your child are having great decorating fun.

Here are some themes for kids’ rooms. Maybe one of these will fit your little person to a tee.

  • TRAINS
    Bunk beds are similar to train berths! Walls can be painted in a pin-stripe grayish blue. Hot glue plastic train tracks to a wall (easy to remove by an adult) with toy train cars running along the track. Paint railroad-crossing signs on one wall. Use red kerchiefs/bandanas as curtains. And wooden train pieces make great bookends!

    You might choose to paint a depot or train station on one wall. For those who would prefer to use ready-made "props", you might consider framing some photos of train memorabilia. Frame them with inexpensive standard size and poster frames. "Train tracks" can be easily hand painted as a border around the room -- if you can draw a tic-tac-toe board, you can draw tracks! Need a stencil? They’re out there.

  • BOATS
    Again, bunk beds work great! Add a "mast" at the head of the bed with cardboard tubes from wrapping paper (painted of course) and cut large elongated triangles from either construction paper or foam core for flags that "fly".

    Paint or paper the walls sky-blue complete with white puffy clouds; or darker blue at the bottom to simulate water. (A trick for clouds: paint a straight line first. That’s the bottom of your cloud. Then use a semi-circular motion from the line up and back down to the line. Smooth it out with a dry brush and voila -- realistic clouds.)

    Stretching fabric from the head of the bed to the ceiling and back down to the bottom will create "sails" for your child’s bed/boat. Keep the fabric lightweight, inexpensive and easily washable. A simple cup hook in the ceiling is all the support you’ll need. Accessorize the room with a compass, tugboats, ships and bookshelves shaped like rowboats. Add a lighthouse to the wall opposite the bed, and your child will be sailing safely into dreamland.

  • SPORTS
    The field is wide open! You can use your child’s favorite sport, or combine "equipment". Baseballs and tennis balls make great bookends when hot glued to a wooden base. Use bats instead of curtain rods, cross a couple of tennis rackets above the bed, and add a foot/soccer/tennis/base/basketball beanbag chair. Add a couple of trophies (found at garage sales) frame a few sporting event schedules, add pennants, nets or goal posts and you’re in business.

  • PRIMARY COLORS
    The walls, ceiling, shelves and closet doors are more than ample space to boldly brighten up your child’s life. Brightly colored trays, cubes and crates can be used to organize all those little things that seem to be left on the floor. Giant plastic crayons (some are banks), beanbags, and the new and very hot inflatable furniture all work in a primary room décor. Specialty shaped rugs, flags, chalkboards, balloons and other items are all great additions to the room.

  • PASTELS
    Soft and subtle, cuddly and cute, pastel pieces are readily available in kid’s room size. If pastel colors are your child’s passion, combine pastels rather than using a single color. Faux painting the walls with sponges will add a springtime look to the room. Combine lilac, mint green, pale yellow, pink and pale blue for total versatility. For a girl’s room, accessorize with hat boxes (great for storage) and florals; for a boy’s room add a rocking horse, mount some board games on the walls and use blocks of color; use plaids rather than florals.

  • UNDER THE SEA
    Someone wrote to me recently about painting their child’s room as an underwater adventure. Admittedly, it took creativity, time and talent, but she painted the entire room so that when you stood in the room, it was the view you would have beneath the water! Her "design" included fish and other sea creatures as well as seaweed and coral. Her twin girls used crayons and a coloring book, then cut out their "art" to add (with wallpaper paste) to the walls. Not only did they contribute to their room’s décor, their art added texture to the walls creating a more three dimensional effect!
Hopefully we have your creative juices flowing. Let your children exercise their creativity too. If they love books, surround them with books. Love to paint or draw? Give them a safe, comfortable place to do just that. After all, it’s their space, right? They’ll thank you for making it feel that way. They may even surprise you by keeping it a tidy bit tidier too!

Until next time, you may have questions, creative ideas or some accomplishments of your own that you’d like to share. If you do, I’d love for you to email me!

DÉCOR DATA (NEWS TO USE)

    To decorate a room, start at the beginning! Paint the walls and ceilings with high quality paint. Water-based (latex) is the easiest to use, safest for the environment and soap and water clean up. For a child’s room, use a satin (also called eggshell) finish, which is more "scrubbable" than a flat latex finish. Then add the floor covering, furniture and accessories.


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