YOU’RE considering a cool Christmas gift for your children — a themed bedroom inspired by their interests.
You’re thinking a Frozen theme for your little girl and a Minecraft one for your 10-year-old son.
Reconsider before proceeding,says TV architect, Dermot Bannon. The presenter of Room To Improve and author of a new book, Love Your Home, says parents should think about what a bedroom means to a child.
“Their bedroom can be their whole world — space to be themselves. It can become their own domain, over which they have control, in a way they don’t over anywhere else in the house,” he says.
Bannon, who recently launched the Barnardos guide-book, Spaces To Be Me — which provides tips and ideas for equipping children’s rooms and play areas — says parents often impose their own design on a child’s bedroom. “Many parents today are very proud of what they’ve done with a child’s room, but they’ve decorated it more as a reflection of themselves — they’ve created what they think the child will like.
“So you get a girl’s bedroom that’s a pink-princess design. There’s this whole, themed approach, where parents go out and buy all the gear, with bedclothes and curtains to match.”
This, he says, can stifle children’s creativity — plus, children are fickle in their tastes. In two years’ time,the movie Frozen might be forgotten — your daughter, who wanted to be a princess when she was aged four, is a tomboy aged six and pink doesn’t do it for her anymore. Instead of creating a miniature-adult version of the room that you, the parent, want, allow your child the freedom to be creative with their own space. For the parent, this means holding back, allowing for flexibility, and being a guide rather than a design-controller.
Bannon suggests you create a plain, neutral backdrop and keep furniture to a minimum — bed, desk, chair and wardrobe.
“Avoid buying miniature furniture. Once the child is out of the cot, get them a full-sized single bed. Even if they look tiny in it, at the start, they’ll still have it when they’re a teenager. Buy an adjustable desk and chair, so the child can use it as they get older,” he says. This is one way of letting your child’s bedroom grow with them.
Let your child choose a big rug — perhaps steer them away from a pink one that has images of fairies on it in favour of a colour/pattern combination that will still be acceptable when they’re a teen. Let them have bean-bags and coloured boxes. Get them tons of storage. “Kids are hoarders — go for open shelving and notice boards,” Bannon says. Consider painting one wall with blackboard paint — it has a matt finish, which will allow the child to draw or write on it.
“Let children explore with colour, stickers, posters, shapes. My own kids make their own posters and artwork — my son has them arranged in a massive, big car crash,” says Bannon. “All the age-appropriate stuff can be there in posters and stickers — in a temporary way that can come down.”
The dad-of-three says the children should have zones within their bedroom. Placing cushions on a window ledge, and a stack of books beside it, can become a reading area. A bean bag, in a corner, can be where the child listens to music. Which is good, says Bannon, if you don’t want your child listening to music on his iPod when he’s supposed to be sleeping. “With kids, it’s all about routine. A child will appreciate having structure and order, even in a very subliminal way. If music is listened to on the other side of the room, they’re not likely to be listening to it in bed.”
Children can learn in their bedroom, without realising. Let them paint a metre rule on their wall, so that, unconsciously, they’re learning about dimension; allow them put numbers, or a big world map, on the wall, or tricky words on a notice-board.
Above all, Bannon advises against the ‘that’ll do grand’ attitude when deciding which room will be your child’s bedroom. Steer clear of thinking ‘I know it’s the box room, but sure it’s just the child’s room’. Make it the best that you can — and then give the designer in your child the freedom to create.
n Spaces to Be Me is a guide-book, published by Barnardos, on how to structure and equip children’s spaces to stimulate learning and development through play and exploration. It’s written for people who work in an early-years setting with children aged under six, but will be of interest to parents who are designing spaces for children. Available from Barnardos at €25, plus post and packaging — www.barnardos.ie.
Tips from Spaces To Be Me:
* When babies are lying down to rest, too many dangling items can be confusing to their senses. Simple shadows on ceiling and walls with dappled sunlight are interesting and soothing.
* Consider fabric panels on walls or soft fabric hanging from high ceilings and in corners. Using different fabrics imaginatively will let children experience various textures. It will allow them to hide behind the fabric, giving them the feeling of being somewhere separate.
* Use large rugs or a soft throw on a couch in a quiet corner— this could be the book area.
* Create interesting features such as varied heights — use platforms and steps.
* Outside: Place gro-bags and hanging baskets on walls and near windows — strawberries, for example, can be grown in a hanging basket.
Hang old frying pans of different sizes on the wall with small banging tools nearby.
Include outdoor seating where children can sit and chat — these could be tree stumps.
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