How to Finally Pick the Right Colour for Your Kid’s Room

I have a treat for you today! My friend Barbara from YES Spaces is here to share on a topic I haven’t covered before: choosing the right colours for kids’ rooms. Barbara took my Specify Colour with Confidence course several weeks ago, she also has five kids of her own, and along with her passion for designing rooms for kids she’s also been working on a very cool project called 52 weeks for less than $52 this year on her YouTube channel. 

Here’s her guest post:

When you’re painting your child’s room, where do you start?

nursery-blue-sized{source}

If you’re like most parents, you’ll start at your local paint store, right in front of that colourful wall of possibilities. Buried in a sea of samples, you may find yourself looking for any expert guidance you can get about what colours are right for children.

Those bright and saturated just-for-kids colour palettes are a popular solution for many families, but they are not at all as foolproof as you might think. Selecting blindly from them without understanding how they work is a really good way to end up unhappy with your child’s room.

*record scratch* 

What?

DON’T USE KID COLOURS IN KIDS’ ROOMS

 

Paint colours designed for children’s rooms are often very heavily saturated. They are bright and vivid to attract young eyes, which is exactly what makes them completely inappropriate for bedrooms. Why? Three reasons:

1) They don’t play nicely together.

Many parents will good-naturedly allow their kids to pick any combination of favourite colours from the available children’s samples. When too many vivid colors are combined in a room (“Julia just loves hot pink and neon yellow!”), the resulting visual chaos is overwhelming for everyone. Children and adults both need a little variation in intensity and hue so that the eyes have places to rest.

Take a look at the two examples below. Bright, rich colours work well as accents, or in combination with lighter, less powerful hues. Notice how the brighter colours look like intentional features, and how you can easily look away from them to find calm.

purple girls room{source}

boys tans and blues{via Pinterest}

2) They encourage activity.

Once you introduce a saturated colour into your child’s room, you’ll find it difficult to create a restful colour scheme. Strong colours will tempt your sleep-fighting toddler to get out of bed and play, especially if she sees those same colours on the walls at daycare, in school, or during extracurricular activities.

Bold colours are active colours. Bright red, as in the room below, demands attention, which is why we use it on stop signs. Bold hues are are also used in toys and on cartoon characters to draw and keep children’s attention.

red boys room{source}

3) They are agitating.

Colours have a psychological effect on us, whether we know it or not, and the more saturated a colour is, the more its effect is magnified. Yellow, for example, is a “happy-making” colour, and it’s a great choice for learning spaces because it can actually boost memory retention. Taken to the extreme, however, very bright yellow can start to cause anxiety and even aggressive behaviour. (This isn’t pseudoscience, by the way; numerous scientific studies and papers back up the psychological effect of colours.) Just look around you to see how well colours are used to shape how you feel!

color-effects


So, if you can’t rely on the widely available kids’ colours, where can you turn? It’s time to tap into your inner colour expert.


WHAT MAKES A GOOD COLOUR PALETTE FOR KIDS’ ROOMS

 

Start decorating your child’s room just like you would any other space in your house. The colours in the space should relate to something else in your home. You can use brighter, more fun versions of the colours as accents in your child’s room, but make sure they tie into your overall colour scheme.

Then look for your inspiration piece. Maybe you found some bedding you love, or maybe you have a piece of art that has family history. Maybe it’s just a great inspiration image from Pinterest. It doesn’t matter where you draw your inspiration; just find something that appeals to you and works with the rest of your home’s décor.

If you are decorating an older child’s room, be sure you include him in this planning phase. Never surprise a child with a new room if you have not discussed what he wants. Your child’s bedroom is his sanctuary in your home; it is the one place where he has control over his environment, so don’t take that away from him. At the other end of the spectrum, don’t let him pick any colour he wants! There is always a way to take his input and put it into a well-designed room. Even crazy sports team colors can be balanced with neutrals. You can make it work!

best gray orange{via Pinterest}

Once you have your inspiration, follow the 123 Formula for a Perfect Room:

123-formula
Children’s rooms should be appealing, and they should be inviting for your child. They can be fun, but they have to meet the most important function of the space first, which is to provide a place for your child to retreat to and and rest.

brown maps{via Pinterest}

Allow your child a little room in your design to personalize his own space. This could be a cork board area over a desk, an entire chalkboard wall, or white board shapes for messages from friends. Be creative by including something that allows him to take some ownership of his room.

If you have children sharing a bedroom, providing space for retreat and ownership is even more important. You have to work with your children to create distinct and separate parts of the room that they each control. The different parts of the room should reflect the children’s individual personalities and create some sense of privacy.

green bunk beds{via Pinterest}

jack headboard{via Pinterest}

Thanks again, Barbara! To find out more about kids’ spaces, visit Barbara at YES Spaces.

Related posts:

An Open Letter To All Paint Companies

Best Ideas for Creative Kids Rooms

Best Paint Colours for Kids Bedrooms

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

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  1. Hi Maria,

    I love your blog and read it often. It’s one of the first I read, whenever there’s a new post. A lot of times I don’t agree with you, but that’s also great. I love your insights, and the opportunity it gives me to evaluate my own against them. In a lot of ways we have a similar aesthetic, while in a lot of others we’re completely different. I don’t like yellow for one. But I do like the concept of the simple finishes, the non-competitive backsplashes / counter / floor combinations.

    I’ve been wondering for a while, why you use the “jump” feature in your posts. I use Feedly to read your blog, and your posts are always cut in the middle, and require me to navigate to your website to read them. On my phone, that leads to delays and long loading times. Is there a reason you like this feature?

    • Because the platform that I use to send out emails doesn’t give me the option to include the entire email in the post. Sorry about that. Maria

  2. I totally agree about how colour affects you. When we bought our house there was a lot of yellow in it, both pale and bright (along with an array of many other deep oppressive colours). I had to repaint immediately as it made me feel anxious, angry and actually physically nauseous. It is now pale muted colours and it has a sense of calm.

  3. I ran into a friend & her tween daughter at the local paint store. After we exchanged greetings, they explained they were looking for paint colors for the daughter’s room. Her favorite color was purple so that’s what she wanted on her walls. And of course she wanted the boldest shade she could get. I pulled her mother aside & told her a lot of what Barbara just explained. I haven’t seen them since but since she tends to let her daughter have whatever she wants, I have a feeling her room is painted bright purple.
    Oh well. It’s not my house.

  4. Great reminder about the effects of color. As I sit here drinking my coffee and looking outside my big LR window, I’m reminded that I love the green grass and the ton of green leaves on the grapefruit tree OUTSIDE my window, but that’s not the shade of green I’d ever choose for INSIDE my home. Inside, it’s yellow greens and more muted yellows that make me happy.

  5. Great compromise so that kids can still inject their personalities into their rooms without bringing down your property value 😉 And I love the simplicity of the 1-2-3 formula. Will definitely try it next time we paint.

  6. Great post, Barbara, and excellent advice. When I was a kid, my family made the mistake of letting me choose some of my own colors for furniture in my room. Good grief! That awful yellow! (I thought it would be cheery.) I remember it because the dresser is still in my basement, waiting for me to “someday* refinish it. 🙂

  7. Hey Maria, Did you by any chance dig up that book I sent you eons ago called “In My Room”, by a artistic psychologist/designer? Sorry can’t think of his/her name I think it was by Ro Lagrippo or something like that. Wow, I can’t remember appointments, but how I came up with that in my brain, i have no clue. Anyway…that book also has a unique way of working with the child to work out a floor plan and colors. I really liked this post, though I’m not doing any kid’s rooms, I’ll bet you’ll get huge appreciation from all directions! Well done! Love the bunk bed/study area, which to me could be adapted for vacation houses!

  8. Barbara,
    Then there are the stories of the home buyers who had to paint over eye-popping colors in kids rooms to reclaim the spaces. I was lucky when I moved into this house — my landlord willingly accepted my request to paint over bright purple walls, striped purple-lavender wallpaper and replace the water-stained purple carpet in his daughter’s former bedroom. He even took down the purple bead curtain at the entrance to the bedroom! It’s now a cream and turquoise guest room, with the turquoise confined to a chest, small side table, pillows and borders on the comforters. Even men comment what a great room it is. Thanks for the delightful guidance!

  9. “Less is more” goes a long way when it comes to wall paint… I mean you want to still be able to touch up and refresh the room after a while without having to do another major paintjob. I totally agree: Keep the bright to the accessories!

  10. Love how this clarifies for me why Ive not liked some rooms which have my favourite colours in them! Thanks for the great images too.

  11. Hi Barbara. Love your article. When my son was a baby, I choose the colours according to Feng Shui: light blue, and light yellow. But now at 12 years old, he made another choice: the walls are covered with posters of hockey players 🙂

  12. OMG! Where were you when I was a kid! These are great ideas and colors!

    I’d like to have some of these rooms even now!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. What an informative post! I love Barbara’s advice on choosing color and totally agree! So fun!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto Finishes

  14. Barbara, this is a great post. You have given so much consideration to choosing the colors for kids. I wish I had known about these ideas when my kids were small. Thank you!
    Carol

  15. What a great article. When we bought the house the kids rooms were painted in purple, we haven’t had time to repaint the rooms.It makes sense why It’s overwhelming to stare purple walls.

  16. This hits home on so many levels. I’ve painted many kid’s rooms using the “kid colors” and less stimulating colors. I tend to favor the latter. Thanks for providing such a cool guide and example color palettes. I love it! Write more!!!

  17. Thanks for this thoughtful article Barbara. I am a big fan of calm and restful bedrooms. And I agree this should apply to kids’ rooms too. 🙂

  18. Great post Barbara and so nice to see you here on Maria’s fabulous blog!

    And I couldn’t agree with you more! I’m always saying that babies don’t need wimpy colors just because they’re babies and children don’t need overly bright colors because they are young. It depends on the client, but I often use pretty much the same colors that I use for adult rooms for the kids and everyone is happy! xo, Laurel

  19. Lovely post Barbara! Such good advice to go for a restful color scheme – I know from experience how important this is. When the three of us moved into our first house we painted the walls red as we loved bright ‘saturated’ colors. After a couple of months we had to repaint as we found we were unrested and agitated ! And for a child, the effect is even worse.

  20. Barbara, you’ve included so many great points and ideas in this post. I love that you’ve put how colors could affect a child’s mood, sleep, learning etc high up the list but equally included some excellent suggestions to allow their creativity to be very much part of the room project – super. My parents thoughtfully allowed my sister and I to choose the color scheme for our shared bedroom when we only 6 and 9… oh dear – lime green and deepest purple everything!
    Thanks Maria for including Barbara’s great post.

  21. I’ve read many articles about the affect of color on mood, mostly targeting adults and how to create calm spaces. It makes perfect sense that the same would be true for children. The “popping” colors might look fun, like a fantasy room that a kid would want to spend all of his/her time in, if it’s not a space that’s calming, something important is missing. Thanks for a great article.

  22. Barbara,
    I wish my parents read this article back in the day! This reminds me of the time when I convinced them to paint one of my bedroom walls this bright royal blue. Now when I visit home, I regret how much I pushed them to say yes. I’ll apply your 123 formula in the future 🙂

  23. What a great post Barbara/Maria! I can’t tell you how many room colours have been chosen by children and teens that are so ghastly, I cringe. As you so aptly put, there’s more to a room than 1 paint colour.