Designing for Children

A child's room is a special place—a refuge from the adult world, where hopes, dreams and fantasies can have free reign.No wonder so much thought goes into creating just the right look.It not only serves as a haven for the child, but will provide cherished memories long after he or she has grown.

As important as the look may be, many other factors need consideration when designing for children.Foremost of these is safety.When selecting furniture, fabrics, accessories and other items, be sure that all surfaces and materials are non-toxic and suitable for the age of the child. Objects with sharp or ragged edges, or with small pieces that could break off and be swallowed, that give off excessive heat, or that require cords or ties of some kind, should be avoided or kept well out of the child's reach. Keep chairs, stools and benches away from windows and shelves.

Health is another critical consideration.Some carpeting, drapery, upholstery or wallcoverings can release gasses or fibers into the air that may irritate young lungs and air passages. Proper circulation, ventilation and filtration are important as well. Surfaces should be easy to keep clean, without the use of harsh chemical cleaners. Look for products that minimize the presence or spread of germs and other microbes.

Furniture should be properly sized for the child.For example, the child should be able to sit comfortably in a chair without hanging off the edge or dangling their feet in the air. Tables or desks should be at a height that the child does not have to stretch up or hunch over to work comfortably. Make sure the furniture will not collapse or tip over if the child stands on it.

Natural light, plants and bright colors will help create a positive environment for your child and have been found to improve learning. Care should be taken that plants and colors are appropriate for your child, as different children respond to these environmental factors differently.

Keep in mind that a child's room is a place of exploration and learning, as well as for fun and rest. To the extent it is safe, allow for the child to do as much for him — or herself as possible. Drawers and doors should be easy to open and shut. Store toys, arts and crafts materials, games, and other frequently used items in bins that are easily accessible. Play spaces and work surfaces should be large enough to encourage sharing and interaction, which are key to the child's socialization with peers and siblings.

Children grow and develop quickly.Design with flexibility in mind.Include sufficient storage that anticipates how clothing and personal effects (such as toys, games, books, sports equipment) will change over time. Some bed frames can easily be modified to suit a toddler and later a pre-teen. Modular pieces can be added to or altered as need arises.

All of these design choices can be implemented while creating an environment for your child that is cheerful, fun and welcoming. Planning not just the look but the full design of a child's room will enhance its enjoyment and provide you with peace of mind.

For more information about the design of children's spaces, consult the following:

A qualified interior designer can help you create a space that best suits your child's needs and dreams.To find out how to locate a qualified interior designer in your community, check out ASID's free Designer Referral Service.