House Proud: Kids Are Decorators Too – Nov. 7, 2008

When I was a little kid, I was all about the colour purple. Sure, now they’re showing purple as the hot hue for fall fashions, but there was a long time, perhaps decades, when purple wasn’t so cool. Back in the day, my babysitter Kathy was a Donny Osmond fan (to put it mildly); Donny loved purple, which begat Kathy’s puppy love for purple, which in turn begat mine.

By the time my parents built a house, I was a babysitter myself, but I still insisted on a purple bedroom. From the shag rug to the wallpaper to the paint, everything was a shade of violet or lavender. My mother was a saint to allow it, and I’ll admit that I never had a single moment when I looked around and thought, Wow, that’s too much purple! I believe I had no regrets because the choices were all mine and it was clear from the outset that I would live a long time with my own decorating decisions.

Redecorating a room for a child is simply more fun if the child is involved in the process. Although a youngster might not be your first choice of companion for sorting through paint chips, finding out what makes them tick is never a waste of time. And there’s always the hope that they’ll develop a sense of pride about keeping their room clean after they have a hand in beautifying it. Step one: determine what makes them happy. Don’t be afraid if wee Cindy is going through a Little Mermaid phase. If her tiny heels are dug in, there is no sense trying to get her to understand that she may want a change of scenery in a few months, because she has no frame of reference for that. Go with the flow. Opt for wall stickers instead of wallpaper. When the time comes and she decides she’s had enough of Ariel and her underwater friends, it will be easier to make the transition into whatever or whoever she is freshly obsessed with.

Maybe your son has a thing for castles and moats. Paint is easy to apply and almost as easy to cover up. You don’t have to be Michelangelo to be able to create a ceiling or wall that will make the little guy happy. Use his favourite picture book or a scene from a movie for a guide and take your time.

Babies tend to be far less vocal about their likes and dislikes – although they all seem to become nauseated by the sight of a clean shirt or blouse. However, that’s not necessarily a commentary on the colour of the garment. So when you’re preparing a baby’s room, you’ve really got to use your imagination. Get as cutesy as you like! You may want to begin by thinking about the atmosphere you want to create. The fabulous Debbie Travis has categorized her 300-plus paint colours at Canadian Tire by mood. You can choose from dramatic, nostalgic, calm or cheerful shades. all chosen and sorted by Debbie herself. The hard work is done for you. All you have to do is choose what you like – and the line even includes tester sizes so you can see if the colour you want works in the light of the room. It’s virtually foolproof.

As the children get older and their needs and wants change, they can make the decisions and do a lot of the labour. Painting can be harder than it looks, though, especially around ceilings and baseboards, so be prepared to lend a hand. However you choose to do it, make it fun and develop in your child a sense of imagination and responsibility about the part of your home that they call “mine.”